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Something Old, Something New

Now appearing in her fifth year on The New Adventures of Old Christine, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is reuniting with the Seinfeld crew for the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. As Elaine would say, "Get out!"

Author Adam K. Raymond Photography Melanie Acevedo

WHEN SHE WAS JUST THREE years old, Julia Louis-Dreyfus strategically placed several raisins in her nose and made two startling discoveries. One: She liked making people laugh. Two: Raisins don’t go in noses. “I sucked them in too hard after making my mom laugh, and we had to go to the emergency room,” she says.

More than 40 years later, Louis-Dreyfus’ comedic technique has matured considerably. Though she’s still a master of slapstick, she’s better known for her indelible portrayals of highly neurotic women—from Elaine Benes, her frantic Upper West Side editor on Seinfeld, to Christine Campbell, the frazzled suburban divorcée she plays on The New Adventures of Old Christine. But this fall, when the cast of Seinfeld reunites on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, she’ll play a more challenging character: herself. She spoke with Hemispheres about her latest adventure.

How is it you’re so good at playing a hapless divorcée when your own life (22-year marriage, two sons, two successful sitcoms) is so perfect?

Well, first of all, nothing’s perfect. In fact, I’m miserable.… I’m kidding! Actually, I’m the product of a divorced family, so I know the world of divorce well.

Do you draw on that to play Christine?

Yes. And the show’s not just about divorce; it’s about being a working mother, which I am. I’m a working mom who’s trying to do the right things and failing very frequently. The anxiety about failing is ever-present, so that’s an easy thing to tap into.

On the show you run into failure quite often.

If things worked out for Christine, we would be in the drama category.

So how will Christine embarrass herself this season?

Well, Barb, played by the sublime Wanda Sykes, is going to be deported to the Bahamas. I try to retrieve her and it turns into a whole mess with lost passports, etc. We also have Eric McCormack guest-starring for a few episodes as my psychiatrist and potential romantic interest. So it’s very conflicted and ugly. Those are just a couple little snippets.

I read that the show’s writers have challenged themselves to cook up something so humiliating that you refuse to do it. Have they succeeded?

Not yet. But we’re about to start shooting the new season, so it’s still possible. They might succeed, but I’m always willing to give something a shot if it gets a laugh.

The idea of the Seinfeld reunion is that it’s actually taking place within the context of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the series based around the life of Seinfeld cocreator Larry David. It’s all a little bit mind-boggling. What else can you tell us about doing that show?

Not much. Larry said he will shoot me, and I take him very seriously. But I can tell you that it was a surreal experience and an enormous amount of fun.

Did you ever think you guys would get back together?

Never. But when Larry called I said, “Oh, well, that makes sense.” The show within the show idea is a cool way of doing it. Any other way, it’s not cool.

Reuniting in the old format would have…

…It would have been depressing! But this, well, I hope it’s not depressing.

Is shooting Curb different from what you’re used to?

Well, it’s improvised. So you go into a scene knowing the beats you have to hit, but beyond that you’re kind of riding bareback.

Is that any easier or harder?

Just different. You have to exercise different muscles in the brain. But I do adore it.

You’re said to be notoriously foulmouthed. Since Curb is on HBO, you can finally let loose, right?

Heck yes, every other word is [a swear word].

Not something CBS is very keen on?

They’re not keen on it, and I’m guessing Hemispheres isn’t very keen on it either.

Let’s abruptly change the subject. What are the biggest differences between Old Christine and Seinfeld.

There’s a lot more work for me to do because it’s my show. Because of that, it’s also more female-oriented. Our executive producer is a woman too, so the point of view and the sensibility are very different from Seinfeld. And having done TV for many, many years, I certainly know more now than I did way back in nineteen-ninetywhatever-it-was.

Long ago.

Yeah! God almighty. When did we start that show? Eighty-nine to ninety-eight, I think that’s what is was.

That would make it 20 years this year.


Even after all that time, do people still call you Elaine?

It’s like sixty-forty Elaine. Christine is catching up, though.

Does it bother you?

Not at all. The truth is, either one is fine because it’s a great gift to be connected to a character that people recognize. It means they’re watching, and I dig that.

That’s a problem you ran into with your last show, Watching Ellie. No one seemed to be watching.

Yeah, but I remain very, very proud of Watching Ellie. Frankly, I think it was ahead of its time. It was a single-camera show before singlecamera shows were popular, and it had a great premise. The idea of doing a show in real time was really a challenge to the writers and actors. It was obviously a big disappointment when it got canceled, but now I’m making Old Christine, which I love totally and completely.

Why do you think this show has been such a success?

A couple reasons. First of all, it’s very well written. When it comes to comedy you can’t fake funny. It’s also a fresh take on the American family—a divorced couple that’s trying to remain civil and raise a child in two different households. People can relate to that.

The New Adventures of Old Christine premiered September 23 on CBS and Curb Your Enthusiasm September 20 on HBO.
ADAM K. RAYMOND will be watching, if he can find the remote.


What else to watch on the go in October

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

This strangely compelling documentary follows the hard-luck life of Anvil, an obscure Canadian heavy metal band that’s shredded in obscurity since the ’70s. Anvil’s members may be balder and pudgier, but that doesn’t stop the headbanging.
On DVD October 6

Astro Boy: The Beginning

When the computeranimated Astro Boy movie comes out this month, we’ll be watching the original Japanese anime instead. With its heartfelt stories of human and robot interaction, it’s easy to see why Astro Boy became the Mickey Mouse of Japan.
On DVD October 6

This Is It

As he moonwalked his way through his final rehearsals, Michael Jackson still danced like it was 1985. Footage of those moves and interviews with his family and friends are given the documentary treatment in this touching eulogy to M.J.
In theaters October 28

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