Sundance: Julia Louis-Dreyfus talks about 'spending' celebrity status on activism
“Gina McCarthy, the next President of the United States, ladies and gentlemen.”
It was a fun phrase to tumble from the mouth of Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who’s at least played the President of the United States on TV. But at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the Emmy-winning actress was actually on hand to help amplify the message of McCarthy, CEO and president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, during the EW x NRDC Sundance Film Festival Panel Series discussion Friday about the environment at the NRDC Impact Lounge.
Moderated by EW editor-in-chief JD Heyman, the conversation focused on the steps that can be taken to combat catastrophic climate change; Louis-Dreyfus, a longtime NRDC supporter, is now also on the board of the non-profit organization.
McCarthy and Louis-Dreyfus pointed to film and TV entertainment — from All in the Family to Dark Waters to Will & Grace — as a wellspring for cultural change. And a celebrity, as McCarthy told EW, can often amplify a message a lot louder than a non-celebrity. As Louis-Dreyfus said, “As I’ve become more of a well-known actress, I’ve felt a certain responsibility. As something Norman Lear once said, ‘Celebrity is something you spend.’ And, so, I thought, ‘Well, I need to spend this on something of worth.’ And this seems quite worthwhile.”
Louis-Dreyfus also detailed some of her family history to describe how and why she became an activist. Her stepfather, a thoracic surgeon, traveled the world with her and the rest of her family on behalf of humanitarian health NGO Project Hope. “There was a culture in my family of giving back,” she said. “And not just giving back, but a feeling of being linked to your community. That you are very much your neighbor’s keeper.”
This is NRDC’s first year debuting programming at Sundance. The EW x NRDC Sundance Film Festival Panel Series will continue through Monday, Jan. 27. Other guests visiting the space include Alec Baldwin, Zazie Beetz, Eva Longoria, and Amy Ryan.
Louis-Dreyfus will be spending much of the rest of Sundance supporting her new film Downhill, costarring Will Ferrell, which is making its premiere at the fest.