There's No Accounting for How Julia Sweeney Became an Actress

If there is one thing Julia Sweeney is good at, it's analysis.

"This is what I go through," explains the comic actress, who portrays the androgynous Pat on "Saturday Night Live," of the way she critiques her own work.

"First I either think my performance is good or bad. Then I watch it (on TV) and hate myself so much I can't believe I inhabit my body. Then six months later I watch it and think, 'Oh, that's not so bad.' So it takes, like, seven months to get through it."

Such in-depth analysis might be due to the fact that before Sweeney became a TV star, she was an accountant. After moving to Los Angeles from Washington state, Sweeney crunched numbers for four years at Columbia Pictures before having a "major midlife crisis" at 25.

"I realized I had to kind of force myself to be an accountant," she says, adding that although she had thought she wanted to be in business affairs, "I really just wanted to act like I was in business affairs. I just wanted to wear a suit."

Sweeney, who swears she never even considered being an actress while she was growing up, was inspired by an article she read about the local improv troupe the Groundlings, which offers workshops for non-professional actors. She signed up, "and it was like a religious experience almost."

What did not happen was overnight success once she began her new career. "I had three years when I was in a major depression all the time, because I had cut off all these options for myself. I remember even a year ago sobbing because I couldn't even go into the Gap and buy a blouse, and all my friends were buying houses."

But even in leaner times, she never lost her head for business. The proof: The second course she took after her Groundlings class was "The Business of Acting," which, she admits, "was such an accountant's way of becoming an actress."

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