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Julia Louis-Dreyfus goes from 'Veep' to weep in new tearjerker film 'Tuesday'

 Julia Louis-Dreyfus in <em>Tuesday</em>, a film about a mother dealing with death and grief.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Tuesday, a film about a mother dealing with death and grief.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has spent her career making us laugh — as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, and as Selina Meyer on Veep. In a surprising turn, her new movie, Tuesday, is a meditation on death — and the stages of grief along the way.

“I'm hoping that it'll foster conversations about these issues, some of which are very difficult to talk about,” she told Morning Edition host A Martinez. “How to handle these big things that happen to us all. And yet we don't really like to think or talk about them.”

Louis-Dreyfus plays Zora, the mother of a terminally ill daughter named Tuesday (played by Lola Petticrew). Zora struggles to come to terms with the inevitable. She refuses to engage her daughter on the subject of death, even hiring a full-time nurse to care for her — an expense Zora struggles to afford — in part, to avoid watching Tuesday suffer.

But Death arrives in the form of a giant macaw (voiced by Arinzé Kene) to take her daughter away.

 Tuesday, left, played by Lola Petticrew, and Death in <em>Tuesday.</em>
A24 /
Tuesday, left, played by Lola Petticrew, and Death in Tuesday.

When Zora meets the bird from beyond, her denial turns sharply into anger and bargaining as she furiously searches for ways to buy her daughter more time. “I don’t know what I am without you, who I am without you,” Zora tells her daughter.

“I was immediately drawn by the script,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “The themes of the parent/child bond, the themes of grief, loss, denial, death — these were interesting ideas. And then the fact that there is this sort of shapeshifting macaw, [this] otherworldly representation of death, I thought, ‘Whoa, this is crazy town!’”

Louis-Dreyfus realizes that a film about death isn’t quite what fans of her comedy work were expecting. “There's comedy in everything,” she said, just before she shared a very personal example.

“When my father, who has passed away, was dying, we were in the hospital. I remember a woman came in with a platter of cheese, crackers and salami. I mean, a massive platter like if you were having a party for 50 people. And I said, ‘Oh, this couldn't be for us.’ It was just me and my dad there. And she goes, ‘Oh, no, when this happens (pointing to my dad, who is really close to breathing his last breath), this is what we do.’” She laughed at the memory. “I’ll never forget it.”

Louis-Dreyfus reminds us that even in our darkest moments, “There's a cheese platter to look forward to.”

Watch the trailer here:

The audio version of this story was produced by Nina Kravinsky. The digital was edited by Obed Manuel.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Phil Harrell is a producer with Morning Edition, NPR's award-winning newsmagazine. He has been at NPR since 1999.