Julia Louis-Dreyfus: “Opportunity for women in television has increased. It’s because the landscape has widened”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in 'Veep'

“I did not come out of SNL as any kind of name. I didn’t do anything particularly great when I was there. I didn’t. It’s fine. But I learned a tremendous amount.” – Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Few actresses have had a television career comparable to that of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is now starring in her third successful television series, Veep, after Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine. The fifty-five year-old actress has won every major award for television acting, and she shows no sign of slowing down. In an interview with the New York Times, Louis-Dreyfus talks about why her early years on Saturday Night Live were not successful, and why she doesn’t view herself as a trailblazer for female comedians.

Though Louis-Dreyfus was on Saturday Night Live, unlike other comedy stars the show did very little to improve her career. She recalls that at the time it wasn’t the best place for female comedians, saying, “I did not come out of SNL as any kind of name. I didn’t do anything particularly great when I was there. I didn’t. It’s fine. But I learned a tremendous amount. It was a very sexist environment. Since I’ve gone back, I can tell you it’s much more of an equal-opportunity environment.” She continues, “I was on it for three years, and when I left, I made this conscious decision that I would not take any jobs that didn’t seem as if they would be really fun. That’s very simplistic and Pollyannaish sounding, but really, I noted that. I’m not doing this unless I can have a deep sense of happiness while doing it. I’ve applied that, moving forward, and it’s worked. So in that sense, I have SNL to thank.”

Louis-Dreyfus can also count herself as one of the few female actresses who plays the lead in a series and is above the age of thirty — an unfortunately rare situation for aging actresses. However, she admits it’s not something she focuses on, explaining, “I don’t think of it like that. I’m happy to have a job. Really, I’m not kidding. I’m certainly happy to be playing a woman in a powerful position in politics, even though she’s a buffoon. And I don’t say that apologetically, because think of all the buffoons in politics right now. She’s our buffoon.”

However, Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t think of herself as a “pioneer” for actresses on television. She points out, “I don’t think of myself as a pioneer. I’m not sure that I am. Opportunity for women in television has increased. It’s because the landscape has widened. More women got on the playing field. But opportunity for women in film has not increased. I just think it’s that simple. By the way, I’m certain that there’s more much more in television that can be done. And I’m trying to do it. But I’ve certainly seen it change in my lifetime.”

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