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Parker Posey on Landing Louie and Almost Playing His Shrink

Parker Posey. Photo: Robin Marchant/Getty Images

[Spoilers ahead.] The final scene of this week’s Louie had us feeling, quite literally, on edge: Would Louie’s date Liz, the bookstore clerk he’d met in last week’s episode, make it off the rooftop alive? Would she jump? Fall? (Crazier deaths have occurred on the show.) She survived, of course. But it was the perfect ending to an episode that was full of emotional highs and lows: Liz agrees to go out with Louie (yay!) … then a bartender refuses to serve her Jagers (awkward) … it’s okay, because she’d rather go for a walk anyway (great!) … then she tells Louie about that time she was diagnosed with carcinoma as a teenager (heavy). Vulture spoke with Parker Posey — who played the part of the manic, melancholic love interest so perfectly that we maybe want her to marry Louie — about how she met Louis C.K., what it was like to fit him into a gold dress, and how she was actually supposed to play his therapist.

How did you get the part? Did Louis call you, or did you audition?
No, I ran into an actor by the name of Frank Whaley, who I’ve known for years. And he was like, “I’m doing this benefit for my kids’ school; we’re doing a reading of the Christopher Durang play Beyond Therapy, and you’re so perfect for the part of” — oh, I forget her name. But I was like, “Sure!” And so I showed up to the benefit reading for the school, and that’s where I met Louis.

Was he there because his kids go to that school or because he was part of the reading?
Both. Marissa Tomei, Nathan Lane, Mario Cantone, me, and Louis did this benefit reading. And it was a great, great time. And the performance was even better than the reading — and afterwards we hung out for little a bit, and Louis and I hit it off and he was like, “I really want you to come on my show and play my therapist.”

Therapist? And, wait, when is this all happening, time-wise?
This was in December. He’s like, “I’m freaking out. I have to write the whole season of Louie. I haven’t even started yet. But I think I know what to do with you.” And, um, within a few nights, he texted me. And I e-mailed him immediately, like, “This has to happen. I love what you’re doing.” It feels like independent film meets television.

So, how did you go from being his possible therapist to his love interest?
Uh, so I e-mailed him and he was in the neighborhood and was like, “Let’s meet at Piadina.” And so we met and we talked for hours. And I could see he was going, What can I do? And he started to kind of mold this part for me. So the holidays came, and right after the holidays, he said, “I did it! Come over and read it.” And I went over to his apartment and read it, and then a few months later I was shooting it. That’s how it came about.

And what was your reaction when you went over and read what he came up with?
I read it with him, and I just was laughing — really, really funny. It just struck me as organic, funny writing. I think [Liz] is kind of a mix of a lot of different archetypes.

Is she an alcoholic? Is she bipolar? What is your take?
What’s the difference between a personality disorder and a personality? You know? That’s what I wanna know! I think all of these behavioral things are open to interpretation: Is she having a manic episode? Does she really need a drink? Does she do this a lot? But mainly I see her as the force that gets Louie to run up the stairs, to not be so stuck in his ways, to be more open. I think she wants to help him.

What is Louis like as a director? Because he’s known for having total creative control over the show. Like, did he let you improv?
No, we stuck very much to [the script]. He’d go, “There’s an and right here,” or, “There’s a no.” “My name is.” You know, “There’s a word there for a reason.” But it’s so naturalistic.

Was it awkward shooting the scene in the vintage shop, where you put him in a gold dress?
Well, the dress didn’t fit, so there was sort of a drama with the dress. [Laughs.] Wardrobe had to fix the zipper and redo it, and we had to go back the next day, if I remember correctly. That was a riot. I think it’s really great right now how Louis and Lena Dunham in Girls are just dying to take their clothes off in front of everybody. [Laughs.] “Here I am!” Right? “I’m naked!” It’s very endearing and liberating and smart of both of them to be doing it.

Was there a scene that was particularly difficult for you?
Um, probably the hardest scene was the last scene [on the roof]. I think the scenes that were sad or painful were probably the hardest — because it’s all about empathy, you know?

Physically, were you on a real roof?
Yeah. And I wanted to stand [on the ledge]. It was a drop-off of, like, 50 feet, I think — and so what they did was they puffed up a big cushion down there for if I fell. But [Louis] didn’t want me to stand.

You sat on it though. Why not stand?
Maybe the stakes were too high. But I thought that would have been really cool. I was a little bummed I couldn’t stand up there.

And on the stairs, before you got to the roof, was it your idea to scream like a drill sergeant?
No, that was in the script. All very scripted.

Did Louis tell you which parts of his stand-up would get cut into your episodes?

So, what did you think of those parts?
I haven’t seen them. I think I’ll watch all of it at once; I’ll wait to watch to the whole season.

Oh, so do you know about the very end of tonight’s episode? There’s this black-and-white footage of you, just sort of smiling and then not smiling.
You know, yeah, I talked to [another] journalist who told me a little bit about it. Are they snapshots or is it moving?

It’s the Super 8 footage, huh?

Yes, exactly.
Oh, cool.

How did that come up?
You know, Louis is big on his lenses and his camera and stuff, so that was his idea.  

Do you think you two will work together again?
Yeah, I hope so. I’d like to come back as his therapist. As a totally different person. I don’t know if he’s into that kind of thing, but I think — I mean, he’s had some interesting ideas with casting before. But to come back as someone else, I think, is a really cool idea. But, we’ll see.

So you don’t come back this season as Liz?
You’ll just have to wait and see!

Okay. You’ve had so many great guest roles on shows. Big C, Good Wife, Bored to Death
Do you think you’re gonna be a guest star the rest of your life? [Laughs.]

Well, no, that’s not what I was going to ask. But would you want your own show again, or did your experience with Return of Jezebel James put you off to the idea?
Oh! I’m out here in Hollywood right now taking meetings to talk about developing stuff with all these people, because I think TV is going more into the vein of, like, Louie, where we watch it as a piece, as an anthology that you can download on iTunes. [And] you have FX giving Louis total control over his voice and what he wants to do. I think they see that that’s a model for a successful show instead of, you know, pleasing a committee of people. I have a few ideas, and I’ve been talking to old friends from college — I went to SUNY Purchase. So I’m thinking, What would my ideal part be? What kind of show would that look like?

You want to be the creator, not just the star?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. 

You mentioned Lena Dunham before. I feel like you should get a guest role on Girls.
I was a guest star! I was a poster in her bedroom.

Oh my God, how did I miss that?
So I don’t even think I can appear as a character.

Well, you can appear as Parker Posey.
I don’t know if I want to appear as myself on TV like that.

Have you talked to Lena about the poster?
No, you know what? I need to reach out to her and have lunch at Barneys.

Parker Posey Was Going to Play Louie’s Shrink