With a natural, disarming style and deft comedic timing, Livonia’s own Judy Greer has quickly become one of Hollywood’s rising stars. A graduate of Churchill High School, she studied acting at DePaul University, and just three days after graduation landed a small role in 1998’s Kissing a Fool starring David Schwimmer. The rest is history, including roles in What Women Want, The Wedding Planner, Adaptation, 13 Going on 30, The Village, American Dreamz, and this year’s hit comedy 27 Dresses. Fans have grown increasingly accustomed to finding Judy on television as well, in Arrested Development, Love Monkey and most recently as the charming guidance counselor, Becky Freeley, in ABC’s Miss Guided, executive-produced by Ashton Kutcher.
BMN: How do you think growing up in Michigan impacted your life and career?
JUDY: I would say it made me a lot more down to earth than people I’ve met here (Los Angeles). Coming from Michigan gave me that good Midwestern quality that I used to hate when I was there. I used to wish so badly that I was an east coaster or west coaster because it seemed so much more extreme or interesting or sexy or something, but that Midwestern quality has helped me immeasurably in my career. I think coming from a middle class background from the Midwest is kind of a novelty out here. Certainly as far as my art is concerned, as being an actor is concerned, it has made me accessible. I think people from the Midwest can relate to me and to where I’m from, and how I talk, and my point of view about things, and that I’m a nice person...I also love corn and a lot of people here don’t eat carbs, and I love carbs.
BMN: What advice do you have for Michigan kids who also want a career in the arts?
JUDY: Going to college is really important, not just to get a good job, but if you want to be an artist. You’re going to learn more and be exposed to more and that is so important to being an artist. Take advantage of programs that let you travel, whether it’s a semester abroad or going on a school trip somewhere. I think it’s important to get out of Michigan and to go back to Michigan. It’s important to see the rest of the world and its differences and similarities to where you come from. Learn as much as you can because it makes you a better artist. I went to acting school, and I loved my acting school, but I feel like I would’ve liked to have had a better education, a more well-rounded education, because I think it would have made me a better artist. It would’ve made me smarter and I would’ve had more of a point of view about things. Plus, the state schools in Michigan are really good!
BMN: Aside from your hometown of Livonia, what other places in the state are among your favorites?
JUDY: I haven’t been back for a while, but every time I go back I love going to the art institute downtown (Detroit Institute of Arts). I just love it. I love the courtyard where the Diego Rivera murals are. It’s one of my favorite places to sit. I like going to Royal Oak and going shopping. I also still totally crave a Bates burger, fries, and milkshake (Livonia) as if I had one last week. I miss Olga’s Kitchen where I used to work when I was in high school too.
Outside of the Detroit area, I’ve always loved going to Mackinac Island. I love Petoskey. In the summer we used to go to this town outside Traverse City called Elk Rapids. I have the best memories of Elk Rapids. We used to stay in these little cottages on Elk Lake. On the way driving between Elk Rapids and Traverse City there was a pie stand that, are you kidding me? The pies at this pie stand are UNREAL.
BMN: In addition to all that great food, what do you miss most from your home state now that your career has taken you to L.A. to live?
JUDY: I miss the seasons. And sometimes I miss 12 Oaks Mall (Novi). Oh, and I love a 24-hour middle of the night trip to Meijer.
BMN: In your eyes, what are some things that make Michigan special?
JUDY: I guess I would have to say the people. The people that I met there. The kids I went to school with and family friends. Everyone was very mellow, and maybe it was because I was a kid, but everyone always seemed very happy. It never felt like here where there is such a drive to own more and make more money. It’s not like I felt that Michiganders weren’t driven, but there wasn’t this excess. I like how life felt simple, and the people seemed happy and content.
BMN: What are your thoughts on the Buy Michigan Now campaign and the need to support local businesses?
JUDY: I can’t stress enough how important it is on so many levels. First of all, you’re keeping people in your neighborhood and your community going. You’re keeping their businesses profitable and you’re keeping them there. You’re also supporting the environment by buying locally. If things are kept in town then you avoid shipping and using all that fuel. I also think the quality is much better and it's avoiding this strip mall concept that you see in L.A. and New York where everything is the same. In New York City there’s a Gap on every corner. The sense of community and the sense of neighborhood is being lost. We need to get that back. We need to simplify.
BMN: What new Judy Greer projects we can look forward to?
JUDY: I just finished a movie called Traveling with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart. I play Jennifer’s best friend. It was fun. We shot it in Vancouver. I am currently shooting a movie called Barry Munday. It’s starring Patrick Wilson and like a thousand people. It’s so funny: Chloe Sevigny, Malcolm McDowell, Cybill Shepherd, Billy Dee Williams, I mean it’s crazy. Just looking around at the people on set last night I thought, “This is so awesome”. I'm having such a good time making it.
BMN: What Shout Out do you have for your friends and fans in Michigan?
JUDY: Thank you so much. Thanks for the support and for watching my shows and my movies. Good luck out there!.