Louis-Dreyfus Never Too Old for 'New Adventures'
It's early afternoon, and she has already been on "The Early Show" and "Live With Regis and Kelly" and cooked paella with Rachael Ray. Louis-Dreyfus still has a photo shoot to attend and a Los Angeles-bound flight to catch. But for an hour, she sips cappuccino and talks about her hit show and her boys.
Louis-Dreyfus famously broke the "Seinfeld Curse" by starring in a funny sitcom, "The New Adventures of Old Christine," which just had its one-year anniversary. On the Monday CBS comedy, for which she won an Emmy Award, Louis-Dreyfus plays a divorced woman of a certain age, who remains friends with her ex and is a scattered mom, trying to do it all. She deals with the smug mothers at school, known on the show as the "mean mommies," her unusual love life (Andy Richter plays a character who truly satisfies her even though he's a jerk) and her slacker brother.
Real life is very different. This year, she and Brad Hall, whom she met while they were students at Northwestern, mark their 20th anniversary. They are the only husband and wife who were on "Saturday Night Live." Louis-Dreyfus holds another "SNL" record: She's the only female former cast member to host -- twice, most recently on St. Patrick's Day.
She knew she wanted to do comedy since fourth grade when, in a school play, she got a laugh. The current comedy is a far cry from her "SNL" days, which were all-consuming.
"In this case, everybody really loves it," Louis-Dreyfus says. "It's really, really well written and very well organized from the top down."
Creator Kari Lizer based the show on her own life. When her twins were in preschool, of the 16 students, all but one had married parents. By second grade, 13 of the 15 couples had divorced. "It turned into this whole other deal of being a good divorced parent," Lizer says. "I am not sure what the point of getting divorced was; I spend so much time with him."
As Lizer worked on the concept for this show, Louis-Dreyfus was not on her mind. "Like everyone else, I am a giant fan," Lizer says of the actress. "I wasn't convinced Julia was Christine. I just knew Elaine. We sat down for lunch. She is more Christine to me."
For the record, Louis-Dreyfus was acting, and quite well, as she's nothing like the shallow Elaine. Yes, she says, breaking into a huge smile, she choreographed those ridiculously clumsy movements Elaine called dancing.
Louis-Dreyfus still gets asked to do "The Dance," even while shopping at the supermarket, which, incidentally, is something she loves to do.
"There's always something new out there," she says. "I like to fantasize about delicious meals we will have, and then go home and take a nap."
Louis-Dreyfus quickly puts grocery shopping in perspective. "I am not going twice a week," she says.
Louis-Dreyfus, who grew up a daughter of privilege, is well aware that not everyone is wealthy. She works hard to ensure that her sons, 14 and 9, give back to the world. She volunteers with them to clean up Santa Monica Bay, they give food to the homeless, and she refuses to give them whatever they ask for, even though she can.
To set the record straight, her father is always referred to as a billionaire, but she says he runs a billion-dollar company, not that he is not a billionaire. And whatever is his money is his.
One other family fact that pops up in research is true. Her grandfather, Pierre Louis-Dreyfus, was indeed in the French Resistance serving with Gen. Charles de Gaulle. He is 96.
Finally warm enough, she shrugs off the overcoat to reveal a brown and white print dress. She's wearing Tiffany rings, false eyelashes and heavy makeup, a look Louis-Dreyfus refers to as her costume. The only item she's wearing that's hers are silver pumps with buckles, which she describes as "retro Pilgrim."
At 46, Louis-Dreyfus is in great shape. She runs regularly. During hiatus, she will cook, and therefore eat more and gain weight, which she'll shed before taping resumes.
The show is so organized she is home for dinner and soccer and surfing matches. Though she's home by midafternoon, she doesn't really leave.
"She has a brain that never stops turning, not ever, not ever," Lizer says. "I don't sleep very well myself, and most of my e-mails happen at 5 in the morning. I do yoga twice a week in my house. When she needs me, she really needs me. Sometimes it is a burning question about 'American Idol' or she has to tell me someone she saw at the supermarket. I am doing my yoga, and my home phone rings and I ignore it. Then my cell phone rings, and then click, I hear an e-mail. Then my home phone starts ringing again. The girl can't let me be. Thank goodness I love her the way I do because anyone else I would change my number."
What was so urgent? Louis-Dreyfus couldn't decide who should have her allegiance: Lakisha Jones or Melinda Doolittle on "American Idol."
She's also involved with the other actors. Tricia O'Kelley, who plays Marly, one of the mean mommies, says, "If ever Alex (Kapp Horner, the other mean mommy) and I are struggling on how to make something funny, we always go to Julia first. She has that gift where she can look at something not necessarily funny on the page, and that's something you are born with. Or, if we're unsure about what we are wearing, or if our hair looks good."
Louis-Dreyfus isn't one of those comics who's constantly on. Rather, she pauses to give thoughtful answers. Talking about her goals, Louis-Dreyfus says, "I want to keep doing this show. I would like to do it for a number of years. I want to travel the world with my family. We have a wish list of places we want to hit with the boys. I want to, at some point, move back to New York -- maybe when the boys are much, much older. What else is there?"