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Julia Louis-Dreyfus On Acting, Parenting, and Going Green

Former Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus juggles life as a working mother with a passion for environmental activism.
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Julia Louis-Dreyfus on parenting

Louis-Dreyfus displays a hint of dread when she mentions empty-nest syndrome. “Henry is already 16, so it’s coming. The child of a good friend of mine just went off to college, and it’s been an extraordinary adjustment for her, as big as bringing a newborn home. … It’s so thrilling to see your kids evolve into thoughtful, active, independent people … but what do you do without them?”

Nancy L. Brown, PhD, M.A., Ed.S, a Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute child development expert, says Louis-Dreyfus will almost certainly not go through earlier generations’ empty nest experience, defined by “questions of who am I ... and what do I matter if I don’t have others’ needs to fulfill?”

The reason? “Today’s generation of kids -- the [high school] juniors and seniors and those just going off to college now -- have been raised so differently from previous generations, who basically left home at 18 and never looked back. They’ve had their lives scheduled from the start, from playdates to activities to classes. And while they are amazing kids -- well-educated, fun, articulate, smart -- they are not nearly as independent as we were when we were their age. They are not accustomed to managing every aspect of their lives, and they want and need their parents to remain on call, often for years.”

The result is that most parents no longer feel that abrupt departure and loss of involvement. “We’re seeing this phase, which has been coined ‘adult-escence’ or extended adolescence, last between the ages of 18 to 25,” Brown says. “Tell Julia she just might one day say to her 25-year-old son: ‘Please, go! It’s time for you to move out!’”  

 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus on The New Adventures of Old Christine

Louis-Dreyfus knows that, when it comes to kids and television shows, neither stays around forever. When Seinfeld ended after nine seasons, she faced the plight of reinventing herself -- and shaking off the successful-sitcom “curse,” the notion that audiences would never accept her in any role but that of Elaine. After joking about the curse on her pal Larry David’s show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and then seeing Watching Ellie fizzle after one season, Louis-Dreyfus knew where she needed to go next. “I figured it was time for me to play a mom. It was territory I knew and had yet to mine.”

The pilot for Christine fell into her lap in 2005. It was perfect for her, she thought, and critics and award-givers have applauded her insight. She won the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series in 2006, 10 years after winning it for her work on Seinfeld. She plays a divorced mother who is relearning how to date, how to be a single parent, and how to deal with an ex-husband who is very much still in her life. It goes without saying she plays it for laughs.

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