Within minutes of sitting down at a Santa Monica coffee shop with her nonfat latte, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is dumping two sugars into the cup. "Yeah," she laughs, "speaking of health. Caffeine and sugar—it's magic. It makes me happy."
And that's not her only reason to smile. She kind of has it all. Take her career: after nailing her previous television roles (Elaine on Seinfeld and Christine on The New Adventures of Old Christine), in the past year, Julia won her third Emmy, this time for playing the hilariously neurotic Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO's Veep. And, as anyone who has watched her rocking Selina's impossibly fitted pencil skirts can attest, she is—at 52—shockingly hot!
Her secret? "Exercise," she says, plain and simple. "I think I'm a little bit addicted to that post-workout high." Plus, all is good at home: Julia has been married for 26 years to former Saturday Night Live co-star Brad Hall. They have two sons, Charlie, who's in high school, and Henry, who's off to college. Oh, and as for what she thinks about women having it all? She gives that one a big ol' "Ha!"
What's the most fun thing about playing Selina Meyer?
"Her ego is in full bloom and that makes it crazy fun! And there's a lot that I bring to it from my experience in the entertainment business in the last 30 years. I've made a career for myself, but there are jobs I didn't get. In this business, you're constantly trying to keep your head above water and get good work. So there's always a feeling of desperation."
If you could do your own career all over again, is there anything you'd do differently?
"No. Because I had children when I was working, there were a lot of things I didn't do because I didn't want to travel. Had I made different choices, my career would have gone another direction, but then I wouldn't have been able to look after my kids in the same way. I feel very lucky, knowing that nothing is perfect. And you can't have it all."
Well, that's a hot topic, since the Sheryl Sandberg book, Lean In, came out.
"Of course you can't have it all. That's absurd! It doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue what you desire. It's not possible to do and have everything all the time. So you have to make choices. And I don't think that's an antifeminist statement. I don't mean you have to sacrifice who you are or cower in a corner because of some stupid-ass glass ceiling. But if you realize that, then I think you can free yourself up to prioritize."
What are you prioritizing now?
"Being home. Getting my work done in time so I'm able to pick up my son after his volleyball practice. I've been gone a lot this year, and it has been hard. And so now I want to be home, home, home, home."
What makes you feel healthy?
"Exercise—anything that gets my heart moving. I run, I hike, and I take these classes where you get on the treadmill, then you do these things while on a BOSU ball, then you get back on the treadmill."
What is the workout that you loathe the most?
"I hate bike riding. I took a spin class once—I've never been more miserable. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I was late to learn how to ride a bike? I can't stand it."
I guess it is odd that you're sitting down and exercising...
"Yeah, and you're working out just from the waist down. I want to work out everything. It drives me crazy—much to my husband's dismay, because he is a huge bike rider. He wishes I would bike with him."
Do you ever work out together?
"We hike together. In fact, for our anniversary last year, we did a huge hike up in the Santa Monica mountains. It was about eight miles, and we had a picnic. What's great about hiking is that it's physically challenging and there's something meditative about it."
Are there ever days you just can't get off the couch? Or do you not have that problem?
"Oh, no, of course I do! I think it's OK to cut yourself a break—or I just get my fat ass up and get going. Ultimately guilt is a great motivator. Guilt has its advantages!"
What is your secret to body confidence?
"Getting older. It's like, 'Yeah, this is who I am, f--- off.' as opposed to, 'This is who I am, I'm sorry.' You know, there's something about getting older and owning who you are that is a good thing."
You seem so self-assured now. Was there ever a time when you didn't feel that way?
"Let's not forget the teen years. Which were excruciating. There was this period in my late teens when I got really heavy and was body-conscious. Then there was that time when the oversized look was in. When I started on Christine, the costume designer was like, 'You need to wear tighter clothes.' At first, I was appalled. Then I went with it and there was a turn for me: Show your shape! Because I'm not slim-hipped, I have curves. Own that."
So do you consider yourself curvy?
"Oh, yeah, definitely! Yeah, yeah, yeah!"
What about cellulite?
What do you do about it?
"I try to push the worry down and pull the Spanx up!"
Do you have any health regrets?
"I did not wear sunscreen when I was younger. When you're a teenager, you feel like you're going to live forever. I did have a little basal cell removed from my face—it's this little tiny scar here [points to the left side of her face]. It was six or seven years ago I had that removed."
Your skin is beautiful now. Do you have any special routine?
"I have this massive pimple on my chin, and I don't know where that came from. It's that kind that kills you—it really hurts. That aside, in terms of products, I use a lot of La Prairie. You know what else is really good? Aquaphor that you can get at the drugstore. I use it on my dry hands at night."
I read that your husband said he's 100 percent against plastic surgery.
"Oh, yeah, he doesn't want me to do that at all."
What crosses your mind when you hear him say that?
"Two things: One is I like that he likes me as I am—that's important to me. And also, that maybe one day I'm going to get a face-lift! [laughs, motioning to her neck] I gotta fix this! But I'm terrified of surgery. A weird thing, though, is that watching yourself age on camera is amazing. Well, it's not amazing, but it is a bizarre thing to witness in public. All of a sudden, when I turn my head, it's like, What the hell is that doing there? That definitely wasn't there before!"
Right, so what is that called?
"It's called a neck that goes bad. That Nora Ephron book [I Feel Bad About My Neck] is true. But that's why God invented scarves."
You and Brad have been married for 26 years. What are your secrets to a lasting marriage?
"I don't have any real tips except marry my husband. That's a terrible tip! Everyone, just marry my husband!"
What is your smallest fear and your biggest fear?
"I have lots of small fears. Like a dental emergency when I'm out of the country. Tooth pain is not good. I don't want to be in the Galápagos Islands and need to have a root canal—that's what I'm trying to tell you. Another small fear is lice. And I guess my big fear would be death. So, you know, I'd rather not die. I'd like to die at a very late age with everything intact. That would be ideal."
Your older son is in college. What is it like to be a half-empty-nester?
"When you have kids, you don't really understand that if you do your job well, they leave you. And that's a very strange thing to come to terms with....I'm trying to think of it as positive and not scary. But it is, in fact, both."
Where do you feel happiest?
"With my children, cuddled up all together on the couch. That's why I liked the end of the movie The Descendants. Remember when they're on the couch, just watching TV? I wept during that moment, because there's something unsaid and physically intimate that I loved."
Julia's happy list
Her happy food: "A piece of very good dark chocolate. I have it almost every day. Not because I consider it a health food; because I can't resist!"
Her happy song: "James Brown's 'I Got You (I Feel Good).' I love that song. It's possible that when I was on Saturday Night Live he was one of the musical guests and I had the pleasure of seeing him perform. But if he wasn't on, then I never had the pleasure of seeing him. [Laughs] It's one or the other!"
Her happy movies: "There are so many: I love The Wizard of Oz, A Room with a View, Life Is Beautiful, Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
Her happy hobbies: "I love to bake. I make a great carrot cake. I also like knitting, but I found myself getting compulsive about it, and it was hard for me to get other things done. I binge knit."