The greatest surprise about Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed, a hilarious send-up of a closeted Hollywood actor, is not that it’s finally transferred to Broadway. It’s the fact that Julie White, best known as the sidekick on Grace Under Fire, is the bitter comic genius who carried it there. As the agent, Diane, she narrates with cutting bile and a surprising smidgen of humanity. She spoke with Boris Kachka.
What’s new about the Broadway version?
Better shoes. Diane stays utterly current. At Second Stage I was wearing Christian Louboutin’s ’06 line, and now I have the ’07 line.
You’ve got a new co-star too—Tom Everett Scott.
I loved my old client and I had great faith in him. But one great thing about Tom is that we’re both very tall. We’re the super race, in from California to dominate these little New Yorkers in the play.
Where do you get the energy to play a character this wired?
Drugs! No. Well, I’m out there on a Broadway stage. So, fear, excitement—and I want people to have a good time. It’s a dirty story! There’s naked boys in it!
So who’s your agent?
I’m with Paradigm, and he’s one of the younger agents there. He’s the sweetest, kindest, most enthusiastic agent. They have those guys do theater, of course.
At one point, Diane says, “I didn’t fly across the country to put my client in a play!” How did Paradigm feel about this one?
I was offered a big, long story arc in Desperate Housewives as a woman who fakes being catatonic. And dopey me, I did the play. The L.A. agents were more about the television show, but it was really a no-brainer for me.
Did you draw on them for Diane?
I’ve drawn more on the idea of the crafty servant in Molière. Because if you’re an agent after all, you’re just a ten-percenter, you’re a servant to the star. Dorine in Tartuffe, Toinette in The Imaginary Invalid. It’s a classic role from commedia.
The schemer whispering into the ears of the powerful.
Hello—Dick Cheney?! People who see no gray tend to convince others to follow them. If someone talks with great conviction and joy, people tend to agree with them.
So Diane is Dick Cheney?
No. I think she totally believes that her solution is the best for everyone. To her, there is no difference between worldly happiness and any other kind. She just thinks all that emotionalism, that artiness, is just buuullshit!
You charmed Gerald Schoenfeld into promising the production a Broadway theater. Was that a little bit of Diane you were using?
There is that part of me that knows it’s just a pitch. I was raised in Austin, Texas, around trial lawyers. My friend and I—we were 14—would go and watch her father try cases. I also heard of lot of Baptist preachers in little churches saying crazy things with such conviction.
This is a strong woman—a far cry from the domestic types you started with.
The last time I was on Broadway was in The Heidi Chronicles. I was 29, and I was playing all the characters Wendy Wasserstein didn’t like. And three years later, for the movie, I was the radical lesbian feminist. And Wendy said, “Julie, what happened to you?!”
So what did happen to you?
It was around the time I was getting a divorce, and my daughter was 4, and I had to become more of a tiger. I had to get a little more fierce just to keep from going under.
What strong roles can we look forward to?
I’d just love to have another TV series. I’ll be the assistant D.A. on some crime show.
You’ve talked about how humiliating it was having a nonspeaking role in War of the Worlds.
But listen, dude—then what happens? Here I am, an old chick in L.A., and Michael Bay asks me to be in [2007’s] Transformers, a $180 million movie! It was a blast. And shockingly, I am getting residuals from War of the Worlds.
Really? As an extra?
I’m Woman, in the credits.
You are Woman.
Hear me roar.