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Judy Greer talks CBS' 'Mad Love,' movies with George Clooney, Jason Segel, and Ed Helms, and voicemails she's kept for years

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Image Credit: Matthias Clamer/CBSMad Love‘s Judy Greer is one of those actresses most women assume they’d be friends with in real life, and after she dropped by EW’s office last week for a chat, we can confirm you’re probably right. It’s hard not to like someone who gets giddy when the receptionist gives them a copy of the Entertainment Weekly issue with Prince William and Kate Middleton on the cover. Someone who admits that she’s not a baby person, so when one of the babies on her show (her character is a nanny) fell asleep in her arms, she gestured to the nearby prop guy, “Dude, f—in’ take a picture of this. The baby likes me!” Someone who rushed out to buy a tape recorder at Rite Aid before switching cell phones so she could record voicemails she’d been saving for years (messages from her Miss Guided exec producer Todd Holland and Love Monkey co-star Tom Cavanagh and his wife after her first Letterman appearance in 2008, two different birthday serenades from her parents, and the first awkward voicemail from her boyfriend when he called to arrange their blind date). 

You like her so much that you want to root for her CBS sitcom Mad Love, the story of a new couple (Sarah Chalke’s Kate and Jason Biggs’ Ben) and their best friends (Greer’s Connie and Tyler Labine’s Larry), who hate each other — for now. (We saw in last week’s episode that Connie and a masked Larry anonymously made out years ago at a costume party, and Greer says the season finale ends with a cliffhanger involving the two of them.) Watch the show, which airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET, and it’s surprisingly easy. “People keep asking ‘What is it about your show [that’s different]?’ and my answer is it’s our chemistry. It feels like that new relationship when you’re first dating a guy and you’re like, ‘Is this for real? Are we really this into each other?’ That’s how we are on set,” Greer says. “I’ve worked with a lot of people at this point in my career, and this is very rare. This doesn’t happen all the time. When something happens to me, after texting my boyfriend, I text all of them together in a group.” And, the laughs on the show are getting louder. Greer says one of her all-time favorite scenes is in tonight’s episode, in which Kate’s little sister (guest star Brittany Snow) comes to town, and Connie and Larry get into an argument when they decide to be each other’s wingmen at the bar and he fails her. “It’s about orgasms,” Greer says. “Is that enough of a tease?” (Other upcoming story lines she’s excited about: Chris Parnell plays a cop she dates for two episodes, and Connie and Kate go out to a club that has a much younger crowd and wear “really slutty outfits.”)

Greer, who’s perhaps best known for her film work, has a few movies awaiting release. There’s Jeff Who Lives at Home, written and directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms as brothers and Susan Sarandon as their mother. Greer plays Helms’ wife, who the brothers spend the day tailing because Helms thinks she’s having an affair and Segel is taking signs from the universe that keep him tagging along. “The way the Duplass brothers work — I loved, loved, loved working with them — is that they shoot tons of footage, tons of improv, so there’s so many movies in that movie. Until I watch the final cut, I won’t even know what they went with,” Greer says. “There are some scenes where Ed and I are laughing our asses off, and then there are some scenes where we’re really emotional and crying. Depending on which take they choose, it’s like choose your own adventure. It’ll be exciting to see what Mark and Jay picked for the main throughline in terms of our performances. I know that it will be funny no matter what, because it’s Jason and Ed. But when I was there watching Jason and Ed play some dramatic scenes in a very real way, I was like, ‘This would be really cool for them as actors and for their fans to see them having these really meaty scenes that I haven’t seen them do before.'”

Speaking of a change of pace, she’s also excited about her small role in Alexander Payne’s adaptation of the Kaui Hart Hemmings novel The Descendants starring George Clooney. After seeing Citizen Ruth in college, working with Payne became one of her life goals (which could explain why the message he left her asking her to call him back so he could offer her the role has also been saved). Clooney plays a descendant of Hawaiian royalty wrestling with the decision of whether to keep his inherited land or sell it to a real estate developer. He finds out that his wife, who’s in a coma after a boating accident, has been having an affair. He goes to tell the man that she’s dying, so he has a chance to say goodbye, and he meets Greer’s character, the man’s wife. “That’s how I find out my husband is having an affair. I haven’t seen this movie either, but there’s a really beautiful scene in the hospital room with George and I,” she says. That sounds like a major departure from the funny, sharp-tongued Greer we’re used to seeing. “I think so. I certainly played it that way. But at one point, I think Alexander said, ‘Oh, that hospital scene is so funny,’ and I was like, ‘Really? I have been crying for days,'” she says, laughing. “The stories he tells, I trust him totally. I did exactly what he asked me to do… Maybe he was talking about a different hospital scene. I’m like, wait, I was there. We were in Honolulu, right? That was you, and me, and George Clooney, and barbecue.” (Barbecue? “Hawaiian barbecue for lunch. It’s awesome.”)

She also plays Jack Davenport’s wife in Peter Himmelstein’s The Key Man, which takes place in 1975, and features Davenport as a man desperate to provide for his family and her wearing some of her own bell-bottom jeans and clogs that she brought with on location in North Carolina. She costars as Keanu Reeves’ wife in Henry’s Crimes, in which he plays an innocent man who decides to commit the crime he was framed for when he gets out of jail. “He’s kind of stuck in this dead-end life, dead-end job, and going to jail in a weird way is a chance for him to start over and escape because he’s not really man enough to walk away from his unhappy life. He sees jail as his freedom, as his out. It’s a beautiful story. When I read it, I was so moved by it, and I was thrilled to be able to play a character that wasn’t like [sings da-da-da-da-AH!]. I’m the high school sweetheart wife who’s happy just being a nurse and wants a baby, and he’s not ready.”

With those films in the can, Greer (27 Dresses, 13 Going on 30, The Wedding Planner, What Women Want) says her team is looking for another good big screen romantic comedy — but hopefully one that will have to fit around her Mad Love schedule. “I’m so in love with Mad Love, I just pray more than anything that people will watch and then beg for us to come back in the fall,” she says. Especially if they want that cliffhanger resolved.