Julia Louis-Dreyfus Says Her Dad Body Shamed Her After "SNL" Debut
"He didn’t handle it properly, and he wasn’t gentle," she shared in a new interview.
Today, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the most lauded comedic actors in the business, known for starring on Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and Veep—and winning a ton of Emmy Awards (nine, to be exact) in the process. But, in the early 1980s, Julia was just getting her start on TV, and she joined the cast of a hit TV show: Saturday Night Live. At the time, she was the youngest female cast member to be on the show.
In a new interview with Variety, Julia talked about her dad Gérard Louis-Dreyfus' reaction to her appearing on SNL for the first time, specifically how he criticized her body. Read on to find out what the actor revealed, how she reacted, and more about her famous father.
Louis-Dreyfus joined SNL in 1982.
Julia was scouted for Saturday Night Live when she was attending Northwestern University and performing improv comedy in Chicago. She dropped out of school, moved to New York City, and started appearing on the show at 21 years old. She remained in the cast for three years, until 1985. Seinfeld premiered four years later, and she starred as Elaine Benes in what would be her breakout role.
Her father didn't like how she looked on TV.
In her interview with Variety, Julia said that when her father (who also went by the first name William) first saw her on the show, he made comments about her appearance.
"I remember him saying something really negative to me," she said. "He didn't handle it properly, and he wasn't gentle. His complaint was that I was too big, too broad. I was devastated by that."
Julia didn't reveal the sketch that prompted the insult. "I'm not telling you which one, because you'll look it up," she told the interviewer.
She called him a "narcissist."
Variety asked Julia "if she ever told her father that she agreed with his assessment." She responded, "No, he was such a narcissist, I didn't even consider that." Laughing, she added, "And I say that with love in my heart."
William, who died in 2016, was a very wealthy businessman. He ran the Louis Dreyfus Company, which had been founded by his great-grandfather as an agricultural shipping company in the 1800s. He is often referred to as a billionaire, but Julia said this wasn't true in an interview with The New Yorker in 2018.
"[T]he reports of my father's wealth are, in fact, greatly exaggerated in the press," she said. "He's referred to as a billionaire, and I'm referred to by some heinous term like 'billionaire heiress.' It's incorrect! My father—unfortunately—was never a billionaire. Far from it."
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He praised her publicly later in her career.
In interviews long after her SNL days, William shared kinder words about his daughter and her talent. In 2014, he told Today, "I couldn't tell she was going to be a star. I knew how natural she was and how much she liked life and fun. She was always very funny and fun to be with."
That same year, he told Lohud.com, "She was always very interested in acting. If the children are happy and successful, it's a great thing for parents. She's a wonderful actress and an even better daughter and mother." Asked if he had a favorite Seinfeld episode, he said, "They are all so wonderful, it's hard to pick."
She paid tribute to him after his death.
William's death came just two days before the 2016 Emmy Awards, at which Louis-Dreyfus won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Veep. In her speech, she spoke about him.
"I'd like to dedicate this to my father, William Louis-Dreyfus, who passed away on Friday," she said. "And I'm so glad that he liked Veep, because his opinion was the one that really mattered."