Louis-Dreyfus Shrugs Off 'Seinfeld Curse'


Julia Louis-Dreyfus is resigned to questions about "the Seinfeld curse."

After all, "The New Adventures of Old Christine," her new CBS sitcom that premieres Monday (Feb. 13), is her second attempt to launch a new post-"Seinfeld" series, following the crash-and-burn of her "Watching Ellie" on NBC in 2003. Subsequent projects by former "Seinfeld" cast mates Michael Richards and Jason Alexander also failed quickly.

So cue the thunder, wolf howls and sinister organ music -- only Louis-Dreyfus just isn't buying it.

"I've just never really met anyone in the industry or, you know, a thinking person, really, who thought that meant anything," says the actress, who won an Emmy as Elaine Benes on "Seinfeld."

"Show business is difficult," she explains. "Even to have a hit is difficult. And then, once you have a hit, to get another hit is difficult. It's hard to hit them out of the park every time, but that mustn't keep you from trying, and it certainly hasn't kept me from trying. Mainly, I just love acting. It's so much fun, and I love to make people laugh. That's very satisfying."

This new CBS series casts Louis-Dreyfus as Christine, a 35-year-old divorced mom struggling to be as good a parent as the judgmental stay-at-home mothers at her 8-year-old son's (Trevor Gagnon) new private school. Christine and ex-husband Richard (Clark Gregg) have a perfectly amicable divorce that makes it easier for Christine to keep her loneliness at bay.

In the series premiere, however, Christine makes the startling discovery that her ex has found a new girlfriend (Emily Rutherfurd), a sunny, pretty and notably younger woman who is also named Christine -- or, as everyone immediately begins calling her, "new Christine."

This new series finds Louis-Dreyfus in funny, confident form, although it marks the first time she has played a mother. That actually isn't a stretch for the actress, who has two sons in real life with husband Brad Hall, and Louis-Dreyfus says she was toying with the idea even before the "Christine" script came her way.

"I wanted to do a new series," she explains, "and I was racking my brain to have what kind of character I should play when I had this epiphany: I should play a mother, because I am a mother. And I know it. I don't think there are a lot of, in my view, realistically depicted moms on TV right now. I tried developing a show along those lines for about a year, without getting anywhere, when this script that Kari Lizer wrote was sent to me. I read it and thought, 'Oh, jeez, this is it.' All that remained was for us to put the deal together."

The logistics of doing "Christine" are far less demanding than those for "Watching Ellie," which had been shot like a movie, single-camera style, a format that requires much more setup time between shots than multicamera shows such as "Seinfeld." It was the time-consuming aspects of that gig that forced Louis-Dreyfus to commit to doing fewer episodes per season than most sitcoms crank out.

"Also, on 'Ellie,' my husband and I were working together, which meant we were both out of the house 14 hours a day, five days a week," she explains. "I was just trying to protect my family life when I put that deal together. This is a much more manageable schedule for me."

Louis-Dreyfus throws herself happily into the daily humiliations that beset her TV character on a regular basis, although she likes to think of herself as quite a bit more grounded than "old Christine" is.

"I think the idea of humiliating circumstances for this character, who is trying to do the very best she can with her child and in her life and doesn't always succeed, is very relatable," she says. "We all kind of feel that way to a certain extent, and also, there's an inherent conflict there that's comedic."

"I try to be more relaxed," she says of her own parenting style. "I'm not as hysterical as Christine is, that's for sure, and I hope I don't make quite as many neurotic mistakes as she does. God knows, I make mistakes, that's for sure. I try my very hardest, but sometimes I fail, and in the storytelling of our show, I think it's refreshing to see that. I think all parents feel that way. It's impossible for you to get it all done perfectly."

While Louis-Dreyfus is the focal point of "Christine," the show features a strong ensemble cast, with Wanda Sykes in a recurring role as Christine's acerbic friend Barb and Andy Richter and Matt Letscher popping up in Christine's romantic life. The cast also features Hamish Linklater ("Gideon's Crossing") as Christine's slacker brother, Matthew, and Tricia O'Kelley and Alex Kapp Horner as Marly and Lindsay, the two tart soccer moms at school.

"Without a doubt it's more fun to work in a group, particularly if the group is as talented as this one is," Louis-Dreyfus says. "I like the collaborative process. It's just enjoyable."

As for her show's long-range prospects, the actress says she has her fingers crossed and is doing everything she can think of to ensure a hit.

"I certainly feel pressure when I'm trying to do my best work," she says, "and I always want to do my very best. I think people are interested to see this show, and I hope they come to watch it."

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