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Judy Greer
Judy Greer in "Men, Women & Children"via

How Judy Greer turned pimp

Hawking seductive pics of her daughter in Men, Women & Children, the actress talks pageant mums and reality TV

Jason Reitman's tale of technological malaise – Men, Women & Children – is a generations-spanning survey of how we interact, sext, and cheat in our relationships. We're celebrating his digital spectacle through in-depth interviews with cast members Ansel Elgort and Judy Greer; Bibio walks us through three melancholic melodies from the soundtrack, and we look at how cinema is slowly reverting to silence on screen.

What if your mum was a pimp? A literal career cheerleader who propped you up on hay bales in a skimpy studio shoot for your 'portfolio'? That's the basis for Judy Greer's character in Men, Women & Children. Her daughter Hannah Clint (Olivia Crocicchia) pines for attention, brags about losing her V card and crows about her big plans to make it in Hollywood as an actress. Donna Clint (Greer) tried her hand at acting and has transitioned to photography, so she's got a bevy of top tips for her teenage daughter on how to catch the attention of producers – one of which includes mugging in softcore photoshoots for a list of private clientele. Donna is kind of like a stage mom, an all too real portrayal of driven parents who coach their kids into Honey Boo Boo contracts and big egos. Save for bookmarking dubious websites and staging cringy photoshoots, Judy Greer completely transforms in the hilariously naive character of Donna Clint and here she tells us how she did it.

Do you think there are people out there who are a lot like your character who would go to those lengths for their kids?

Judy Greer: Yes. I live in Los Angeles and I feel like I can say definitely yes.

Have you met any?

Judy Greer: Not that I know of. I think there are all kinds of messed up people out here. There are a lot of really driven kids and a lot of doubly driven parents. I sometimes see parents who used to be actors, who wanted to be actors or who are still trying to be actors, who are trying to live vicariously through their kids – I feel like that's really problematic.

It doesn't seem that extreme since there are all these crazy pageant mums out there. Have you ever seen that show Toddlers & Tiaras on TLC?

Judy Greer: I watch that kind of stuff when I’m on airplanes. I don't watch that stuff regularly but trust me, it’s not cause I don't want to, it’s just that I don't have time to do it. I'm sure those shows are a bit heightened. It's icky.

Have you heard about that meme Alex from Target? He got his picture snapped while he was bagging stuff at Target and overnight he's got quarter of a million Twitter followers.

Judy Greer: I read it on the skim briefly this morning but I was like, "I don't have time for this right now." I don't really get it but okay.

Is that something that you'd ever imagined growing up – kids becoming famous overnight for no reason?

Judy Greer: I'd 100% never imagined that. It’s weird when you're an actor and you have this sort of craft that you do and sometimes you can't do it because people that had a sex tape are getting roles or are getting the attention or getting the programming time. There was a time several years ago, we had a writer strike. It was really scary because everyone thought, "Oh my God, there's not gonna be any scripted TV shows anymore, it's all going to be taken over by reality shows and reality stars." I said I'm guilty of watching it all too and I totally get into it. I don't think that's ever going to happen. I think the content that's coming out now through other mediums, like on the computer and websites – they're doing such great work. The lines are getting erased so quickly. It’s great for actors because now there are just so many more roles and so many more outlets.

What kind of reality shows do you enjoy?

Judy Greer: Well, I started out loving and I still love, Cops. My favourite one of all time is Cops – it’s like the OG reality show. I feel like it's the beginning middle and end for me. I love Cops, I love The Quarters, I don't get into any of the housewives. I loved Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica when it was on.

What was your favourite episode?

Judy Greer: I love the episode when Cacee is moving. Him and his brothers move themselves, they don't hire movers – I loved that episode; it was so cute to me. Like when you move, your friends all get together and move each other themselves – I didn't know anyone still did that.

Did you have to do any research for the part?

Judy Greer: I didn't really want to, it was kind of dodgy. I wasn't sure how proficient I needed to seem behind the camera so I did talk to Jason a little about whether I needed to take photography lessons. I didn't go on to creepy websites, I feel like I was okay figuring that out on my own (laughs). If I’d gone on those websites, I would’ve probably ended up on an FBI watch list.

“If I’d gone on those websites, I would’ve probably ended up on an FBI watch list” – Judy Greer

When you first read the script was there any part where you sat back and thought, 'Oh my God, people are going to hate me'?

Judy Greer: Yes, most of the time. I was really nervous about that but it didn’t really influence my decision about whether to take the role. It’s an important story to tell.

Did you have to stage all of those sexy photoshoots with your 'daughter' for the sake of the movie?

Judy Greer: No, thank God.

In the film you're a photographer. Have you ever seen that movie Stepmom where Julia Roberts' character is a photographer?

Judy Greer: Yeah, I love that movie.

It’s so good, isn’t it?

Judy Greer: It’s so good. It got really good for me when I became a stepmom. Now I like it for completely different reasons. I wanna hire a model to meet my stepdaughter on campus like whaaat.

“I wanna hire a model to meet my stepdaughter on campus like whaaat” – Judy Greer

Say I had a daughter that I wanted to get into the acting industry, what advice would your character offer me?

Judy Greer: Ooooh, my character? My character would probably say you need really good pictures. You need to put together a website. You need to start her in any kind of performance class that you can think off. You wanna keep a close eye on her skin so that she doesn’t get breakouts, you’d want to keep a close eye on her diet too.

So how far do I have to go if I want my daughter to be successful?

Judy Greer: In my character's point of view, I would say you’d stop when your daughter's uncomfortable.

What would you say from your point of view if you had a daughter that you wanted to get into acting?

Judy Greer: From my perspective, I would say that her education in school should always come first. There’s a lot of things that go on on movie sets that I just don’t feel that kids should be exposed to.

Like what?

Judy Greer: Just like adult conversations, swear words and talk of "What did you do this weekend?" Things that I feel content-wise aren’t appropriate. If I had a kid that really wanted to go into show business I would make sure that the child was well-educated because nothing is worse than a stupid actor. I think having a good education makes you a better actor because you're bringing more to the role. I would also make sure I was on set but not hovering over them all the time because if they want to do this business, they need to learn what it’s like. I’ve worked with some hover parents and kids and I don’t know if that’s helpful.

Are you the cool mum in real life?

Judy Greer: I’m not at all. I’m 30, boring, gross and I think I’m really cool. You know, how you’ll think, "I’m a cool mum" but no.. (my kids) don’t want to hear my opinion or listen to my music or watch my movies but that’s fine.

It seemed like all the women this film had more developed or interesting roles than the men did – do you think that was a conscious choice?

Judy Greer: I don’t wanna speak for Jason Reitman but it seemed to me that he wanted to play against Adam’s comedic stylings, he was excited to have Adam play a more grounded role. When I read the script for the first time, I loved the movie so much but when I watched it in the theatre, I was like, "These are really great roles for women". It made me really happy and I was like "Way to go Jason, thank you for making a movie that had such great layered female characters."

Men, Women & Children is out in cinemas December 5