Being told that you can’t do something is often the best motivator to try even harder. That’s partly how acclaimed TV and film actress Judy Greer (THE ’97), honored as one of DePaul’s 14 Alumni Under 40 for 2014, became set on attending the university’s conservatory-style theatre program when she was looking at colleges.
“A girl I went to high school with said that DePaul’s was a very prestigious acting program, which it is and was, and that they only accepted 10 percent of the people who auditioned,” Greer says. “It was one of those frenemy statements: I’m auditioning, but I don’t know if I would if I were you because you’re not that serious about acting.”
Greer remembers relating the exchange to her mother. “She got very ‘mama bear’ about it: ‘You’re auditioning for that school. You need to just try, and see what happens. No one tells my daughter she can’t get in!’” says Greer. It’s obviously a story with a happy ending, as Greer is now known for movies as varied as “13 Going on 30,” “The Descendants” and “27 Dresses,” as well as TV shows including “Arrested Development” and “Two and a Half Men.”
The story of her journey to DePaul is one Greer also relates in her first book, “I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star” (Doubleday, 2014). The memoir spans Greer’s childhood in Detroit through her years in Chicago to her current career and life as a Hollywood actress.
Writing a book “was something I had always fantasized about doing,” Greer says. “I just thought I would do it much later, maybe when my acting career died down. I wanted to write a book because it seems really hard, and I’ve always found it is good to challenge myself.”
Greer balanced writing with filming multiple projects and found that a busy travel schedule actually aided the process. “It was pretty easy to write when I was on location shooting movies. It was actually harder when I was home with all my familiar distractions and friends and housework and things like that,” she notes. “I know a lot of writers will go away to a cabin or a hotel to write if they have a deadline coming up. I can see why people would do that. I just sort of have it built into my lifestyle that I leave to work a lot.”
Her artistic lifestyle is set now, but Greer remembers how difficult it was to launch her career. She advises students who want to act to throw themselves into the audition process. “Audition for every single thing that you possibly [can] in the beginning. I’ve heard a lot of actors say, ‘Well, I don’t want to play cops,’ or, ‘I just want to do dramas.’ I found that for me, auditioning for everything I could helped me become a good auditioner, and you have to be a good auditioner if you want to be an actor.”
Greer elaborates on this idea further, explaining why those early days are so crucial. “With success you don’t have to go on as many auditions, but I think in the beginning it’s really good to get out there and meet as many people as possible—and the best way to meet them and get them to remember you is by giving a good audition.”
Although she’s based in sunny Los Angeles now, Greer fondly remembers her time in the Midwest. She even misses the temperamental weather and the way residents adapt to it. “I miss the fall and summer, and I really miss snow around Christmastime. Then there’s spring, when it’s [starting to get] warm but everyone’s wearing shorts and everyone has pasty white legs because their legs haven’t seen sunshine in, like, five months, but no one really cares because it’s warm out. I really do miss the seasons a lot.”