Wilson actress Judy Greer has been consistently working in Hollywood for two decades now. Just like her character Kitty Sanchez on Arrested Development who keeps flashing her boobs “for the last time,” you always know you’ll be seeing her again soon. An unsung hero on the big and small screen, she’s been turning up in huge blockbusters recently such as Ant-Man, Jurassic World and the Planet of the Apes franchise. When she’s not in motion capture playing wife to Andy Serkis’ Caesar, you can find her delivering memorable turns in independent cinema like the bitter ex-girlfriend Olivia in Grandma.
In Craig Johnson’s Wilson, Greer plays dog sitter turned love interest Shelly. The rock in her relationship with Woody Harrelson’s titular character, Shelly’s nurturing and supportive nature help pull him out of his misery. Greer is a delight as the more straight laced character, who’s every bit the opposite of the neurotic and foul mouthed Wilson.
We had the opportunity to sit down with the actress last weekend in New York City during the film’s press day, where we talked all things Wilson, her admiration for Laura Dern, the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes and much more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
I want to start with the style of comedy in Wilson. Most of it comes out of how brutally honest it is.
Judy Greer: I know, I know. I think Wilson has a really great way of saying the things we’re all thinking but not supposed to say out loud. That whole thing of, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That was not taught to Wilson.
Yeah and what that does is within each laugh you have a hidden truth or an important question is brought up. It just makes the material so much more potent.
Judy Greer: Yeah, I mean you laugh in some ways because it’s so uncomfortable. I think this is a movie you have to see twice. The first time I saw it I was laughing so hard. The second time I saw it, I was laughing like two third’s as hard but as I was getting hit with all these beautiful moments that were happening within the laughter. It’s really extremely well written and then there’s Woody. Who else could play this role?
That’s so true.
Judy Greer: Who else can say the things that he does and we still love him? Not many actors are that charismatic and that disarming and lovable.
It’s in the delivery absolutely but it’s in his facial expressions, too. He has that little twinkle in his eye.
Judy Greer: He’s got the shiniest, brightest eyes ever! Also, he’s very healthy. He’s a really good walking advertisement for being a raw vegan. You’re like, “Oh my God, your eyes are so clear and so blue!”
Wilson is a graphic novel adaptation. So for an actor, that’s almost like being given the storyboards. Is that helpful to you or is that like a parentheticals in a script situation where it’s a little too much information?
Judy Greer: I’ve always liked description in scripts and I’ve always liked reading the book if I’m doing something that’s based off a book. I find it’s a little bit like cheating. Like, I get to do a little extra work for free. But my character is different in the movie than in the graphic novel. Like in the script she’s a little softer and more loving and caring. I think, maybe if I was directing the movie the pictures would be helpful but for me personally it’s more the script. I mean, I love the graphic novel. I own it and I’m a huge Daniel Clowes fan but no, when it came to just playing the role I didn’t rely on it to heavily.
Okay, so it’s something you looked at for research and then dropped. It’s not something you went back to.
Judy Greer: Exactly, I read it in the beginning for research and I carried it around hoping I would run into Daniel on set because I wanted him to sign it though I never did. [laughs] I have to get his address. I want him to sign it so bad! But yeah, I just referred to the script.
Another great thing about the film is the way it comments on connection and what it really takes to build a relationship. When Wilson first meets Shelly, that connection is based primarily off of attraction-
Judy Greer: -and a love of dogs.
AND a love of dogs. That initial connection doesn’t grow until, without spoiling anything, a situation dealing with their shared love of dogs happens and also their similar experience of falling in love with people who aren’t right for them.
Judy Greer: Well, I don’t know if you can fall in love with just anyone but I don’t think it’s as magical necessarily as, unfortunately, Hollywood likes to make it seem. I think sometimes it can be as simple as like when I met my husband. We met on a blind date. We had nothing in common. But I found that I just liked being with him. I enjoyed myself when I was with him. I liked the version of me that—I felt so comfortable. Then that just leads to falling into this deep love and I think it’s similar with Wilson and Shelly. They’re both a little lost.
Shelly is a real grounded force in Wilson’s life. I will say that in watching the movie, not as much when I read the script the first time, I was really rooting for Wilson and Pippi even though I knew the outcome. They’re meant to be in love forever. I don’t know if they’re meant to be together forever. I think that in this story, that’s okay. I think Shelly brings out something in Wilson that no one else can which is like a freedom. She doesn’t put him in a box, shut him up, manage him or control him. She’s just allowing him to be him and she does her thing. She’s not codependent at all. I think it’s good for Wilson to be around someone who doesn’t get completely crazy every time he Wilson’s out. You know, they kind of grow up together a little bit.
Speaking of your husband, I love the whole story of how you got involved with Planet of the Apes. There’s a new film coming out.
Judy Greer: Yes there is! [giddy]
What can we expect for Cornelia in War for the Planet of the Apes?
Judy Greer: I can’t say, but she’s there. The movie is a real tour-de-force, I think, for Andy and Matt Reeves. I have not seen it yet. I read the script. We’ve all seen the trailer now. I saw it before you guys did. That was fun to brag to my husband. I was like, “guess what I saw at work today, motherfucker?” [laughs] It’s just going to be epic and amazing. I feel very strongly that if Andy Serkis does not get an Oscar nomination for his role in this I will lose my faith in the system.
It’s got to happen eventually. I mean, how can you not consider that a performance?
Judy Greer: I don’t know what’s going on there. I have opinions. I just don’t get it. When I’m acting on set with him, his connection to that character is amazing. It’s incredible.
Oh yeah, you’re seeing that with your own eyes.
Judy Greer: I’ve had the privilege of working with Woody Harrelson on this role this year and Andy as Ceasar and I am like blown away by these people. I’m so bummed I didn’t have any scenes with Laura Dern. An idol of mine since Citizen Ruth. I saw Citizen Ruth in the theater and I was like, “oh my God, I want to be an actor now.” I was already in acting school but I was like, “I’m never going to make it. Obviously, it’s like impossible.” Then I saw that and I knew I had to at least try. I didn’t even know that kind of role was an option. I didn’t even know that kind of performing was an option and she’s never disappointed in the entirety of her career.
You will never see a bad Laura Dern performance. Never.
Judy Greer: I know! I wonder what she does. I’m going to find out. I’m going to try to get her drunk and make her tell me all of her secrets.
That concludes our interview, but many thanks to Judy Greer for her time. Be sure to check out Wilson, as it’s now playing in theaters everywhere!