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CONTENDER Q & A

Julia-Louis Dreyfus talks 'The New Adventures of Old Christine' and Emmy

The actress digs self-deprecating humor; 'Old Christine' cracks her up too.

By Hillary Atkin, Special to The Times

August 6, 2008

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IN EACH of the last three seasons that her sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine" has been on CBS, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been nominated for an Emmy as lead actress in a comedy series; she took home the statuette in 2006. Curse? What curse?

Louis-Dreyfus played Elaine Benes on " Seinfeld" for nine seasons (and won an Emmy for it). When the series ended, she and other alumni of the show launched new -- yet very short-lived -- series, hence the buzz of a post-"Seinfeld" curse. After her "Watching Ellie" was canceled, though, Louis-Dreyfus struck sitcom gold again with "Christine."

As Christine Campbell, she struggles to keep pace with the other moms at her son's private school and has more than her share of dating disasters, even as her ex-husband is in a new relationship -- with another, younger Christine.

Louis-Dreyfus got her first laughs on television in the early 1980s as a " Saturday Night Live" cast member and says one of her most glorious moments was returning to host the show in May 2006 -- at the time, the first female former cast member to do so.

What originally enticed you to take the role as Christine?

I was delighted when I read the pilot and wanted to be a part of it. In fact, I thought, 'God, if anybody else does this and I don't do it, I'm going to feel really jealous.' It appealed to me because it had a kind of rawness. I like the self-deprecating humor.

Tell me about some of your biggest hurdles as the character.

Well, one of my biggest challenges was walking around in an ugly bra and sweat pants. That was very scary and took a lot of bravery on my part, only because I'm as vain as the next person and that was just terrifying. So I'm happy to say I did it and I got the laugh.

What's it like to be recognized again with an Emmy nomination?

I was relieved and surprised because we only had 10 episodes last season [because of the WGA strike], so I thought we were out of the running. I'm absolutely deliriously happy to be included in the group. It makes me feel fantastic, and it's a vote of confidence for the show in general, and really significant and meaningful to me.

You've been in the running each of the three years you've done Christine, and won the first year out.

Before they announced that I, in fact, had won, the first thing that ran through my mind was, "I'm screwed." And, "There's no way I'm getting this." I just figured I was absolutely not winning. It was just pure shock! I just couldn't believe it. It was a real surprise, I think frankly to everybody, because we'd only been on the air 13 episodes so it was like, "What? You're kidding!" That Emmy win was just a godsend, to tell you the truth.

What do you think are some of your most resonant relationships on the show?

I think that Christine's relationship with her brother is very well-drawn right now and there's a lot of comedic material yet to be mined from that relationship, which is highly dysfunctional, to put it mildly. And it's been very well set up. So I'm really quite pleased with that. There isn't a relationship in the show that doesn't work.