Few people picture Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 45, as anyone other than her famous sitcom alter ego, Seinfeld's Elaine Benes. But even fewer are aware of her favorite role: wife and mother of two sons, Henry, 13, and Charles, 8. As she prepares for her latest TV debut '- a CBS comedy called The New Adventures of Old Christine '- we chatted with the sprightly star about her new character, how she bonds with her boys and why she'll never quit working.
As a newly divorced mom who stays in very close contact with her ex-husband, your character, Christine Campbell, seems a bit neurotic and a bit pathetic. How much do you feel you have in common with her?
Yeah, I'd say she's a little pathetic! I'm a mom too, but I'm not nearly as neurotic as she is. What appeals to me about the show so much is that it's a realistic take on the imperfect parent. There is no perfect parent, and it's great we can show that on TV and in a funny way.
What parts of the show are most real to you?
When I read on the first page of the script that Christine is leaving herself a message about what things she has to get done the next day, I said, Oh my God, this is so my life. I don't think you even have to be a parent or anything to connect with that.
Christine relies a lot on a support network '- her brother, her ex '- to help balance her life. How do you make it work?
Well, it's a very difficult balance. I'm fairly lucky '- I have a fantastic husband [in June they'll be married 19 years!] who's very hands-on with our kids. But it still means a lot of juggling '- you have to stay sharp, be patient and try to do everything in manageable parts, and even then, it's always a challenge.
Did you ever take a break from the daily grind?
I had both of my children while making Seinfeld, and that was hard because when they're that young, being away from them at all is hard. When we finished that last season of Seinfeld and my youngest son was just under one, I was more than delighted to be home doing nothing. Just to have that singular focus of my children was a tremendous luxury.
And now that they're older...
I've gotten relaxed, and also they're more independent '- so I don't need to hover in the same way that you do when they're younger. But being home for a while was definitely a well-needed time in my life and in their lives too.
Do the kids come and visit you on your new set?
They're in school all day, so they'll only visit when we shoot. They get a kick out of that, and they certainly get a kick out of all the donuts and all the crap that's on the set. But you know, they're not wildly impressed with it either.
Now that you're all running in a million directions and so busy, how do you create quality family time?
We do the entire family thing. That's just a priority of ours '- we don't really have to think about it. We have family dinners every night.
And time for your husband?
Finding time as a couple is a little more challenging. We have to remember to go out on dates and stuff like that. But we just last night went to the movies, actually. [They saw Tristram Shandy.] But it's so funny because even though we'll go away as a couple, we end up talking about our kids the whole time.