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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.
By Lauren Paige Kennedy
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Julia-Louis Dreyfus may make her living as one of TV’s funniest women, but she is serious about her passions: parenting, environmental activism, and going green. At the moment, she is at the wheel of her hybrid. She’s just left the set of her Emmy award–winning sitcom, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and is rushing back 90 miles from the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank to her home in Montecito, Calif., where wildfires are destroying hundreds of residences and thousands of acres of land in counties bordering Los Angeles, including the enclave where she and her family live.

While her house -- outfitted to be green with its net-metered rooftop solar panels, natural ventilation system, and sustainably harvested building materials -- is thankfully in no immediate danger, she is hurrying to regroup with her husband of 21 years, writer-producer Brad Hall, and their two sons, Henry, 16, and Charles, 11. “And I need to check on my friends and neighbors,” she adds, worry in her voice.

As she tries to calm her nerves, navigate traffic, and simultaneously conduct an interview with WebMD over the cacophony of wailing sirens, Louis-Dreyfus, 48, does what so many women must do every day: compartmentalize emotions and responsibilities. She explains: “I’m driving and talking to you right now so I can give my full attention to my sons when I get home. It’s tough to be a working mom sometimes!”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Activist

For a woman known around the globe for making people laugh, Louis-Dreyfus is nothing short of serious when it comes to talking about motherhood, marriage, health, and the importance of political activism -- from environmental issues to cancer research to California’s controversial Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriages. (“I’m despondent that it passed,” she says. “I was very vocal in my opposition.”) Elaine Benes -- the hilarious Seinfeld character that elevated her to the status of television icon -- may be a screw-up with bad dance moves, while her newest alter ego, Christine Campbell, fumbles good-naturedly through a postdivorce haze, but the real Louis-Dreyfus is a smart, motivated, happily married mother with quite a few causes. And not enough time.

“I became involved with environmental activism as a two-part process,” says the actor, who over the years has emerged as an outspoken leader in the green movement and is associated with more than a dozen environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Waterkeeper Alliance, the Environmental Media Association, and Heal the Bay.

“As soon as I gave birth [in 1992], I suddenly noticed issues in my own backyard. Motherhood changed everything for me.” Her “backyard” is actually the Pacific Ocean, which was so polluted at the time that swimming and surfing were often banned at her local beach. But by the time her younger son arrived five years later, her lifelong-surfer husband was again suiting up to hang ten. Louis-Dreyfus was instrumental in making the cleanup happen; she became a board member of Heal the Bay and Heal the Ocean, organizations to which she still devotes time and energy.

But meeting environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. at a dinner party in the late 1990s compelled her to do more. “Kennedy is a true leader, a visionary, and an inspirational person. He connected all the dots for me.”

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