What You Don't Know About Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has paved a truly remarkable career in her nearly 40 years in Hollywood. She's racked up 11 Emmy Awards, the most Emmy wins for a single performer. Best known as Elaine Benes on "Seinfeld," with her crazy dance moves, "Get Out" shoves, and willingness to show she was one of the guys, she changed the game for women on TV. The role earned her an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and multiple SAG Awards.

After "Seinfeld," Louis-Dreyfus starred in her own sitcom, playing a divorced mom on "The New Adventures of Old Christine," and garnered a second Emmy for that role. In 2012, she took on the role Selina Meyer, an overbearing, inept vice president on the HBO series "Veep," winning a whopping six consecutive Emmys for her portrayal. In 2019, Collider dubbed Selina, "arguably one of the best TV characters in recent history."

The TV actor has ventured into film, taking a dramatic turn in 2013's "Enough Said" alongside "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, and teaming up with Will Ferrell in the 2020 flick "Downhill." In real life, Louis-Dreyfus speaks what's on her mind, and sometimes wears her heart on her sleeve. Even when times get tough, she seems to find the perfect punchline to make it through. Expect the unexpected here. Because there is never a dull moment in this celeb's colorful story. 

Her childhood was complicated

Julia Louis-Dreyfus was born in 1961 in New York City. Her parents separated when she was a baby, and she has no memory of them ever being together, according to a 2018 profile in The New Yorker. Her father, Willam, headed the Louis Dreyfus Group, a French commodities conglomerate. Julia's mom, Judith, married a surgeon named Tom Bowles, and Julia moved to Washington, D.C., with them as well as her two half-sisters.

Life became an unsettling tale of two cities and two worlds for young Julia, who shuttled between her middle-class family in D.C., and weekends with her rich father and his family in their posh Fifth Avenue apartment or Westchester County home. "The discrepancy was hard, because I was straddling two universes," she said. But it wasn't just the material things that made the actor feel out of place. She was intimidated by her siblings. "My two sisters with whom I grew up were very blonde and very gorgeous, and I always felt sort of like they were so beautiful I didn't fit in with them. ... I did think of myself as the ugly duckling in the group," she told The New Yorker. 

Louis-Dreyfus indicated to InStyle that embracing her beauty took time. "I didn't a have normal, beautiful look," she claimed, saying of her self-image, "Honestly, I think it truly started to change in my 30s and 40s."

She said working on SNL was 'brutal'

In 1982, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was part of Chicago's famed improvisation company, "The Second City," per The New York Times. One night, a producer from "SNL" caught the show and asked her to join the cast. The young actor quickly learned she would have to fight the male-dominated culture just to get any screen time. "It was so misogynistic and not female-friendly whatsoever," she told Porter in 2019. "But I was also 21 and unprepared to be there as a performer. A mash-up of those two very negative things made it a hard time, but I learned a lot." 

It wasn't just the blatant sexism she found objectionable, per USA Today. Addressing the audience at a 2019 fundraiser for the Montclair Film organization in New Jersey with Stephen Colbert, Louis-Dreyfus revealed, "People were doing crazy drugs at the time (on 'SNL'). ... I don't know how anybody could work stoned..." She continued, "It was a pretty brutal time, but it was a very informative time for me."

What Louis-Dreyfus took away was the ability to gauge when a job is not worth her time. She told USA Today, "I don't have to walk and crawl through this kind of nasty glass if it's not ultimately going to be fulfilling." Louis-Dreyfus left the show after three seasons, but she'd made friends with writer Larry David. The pair, of course, later struck comedy gold on "Seinfeld."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wasn't in the Seinfeld pilot

The pilot episode of "Seinfeld," then called "The Seinfeld Chronicles," aired on NBC in 1989. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, however, wasn't in it, and has never seen it, according to the "Making of Seinfeld" documentary DVD (via Uproxx.) When NBC execs saw the pilot, they told creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David they needed to add a strong female character into the mix. And the character of Elaine Benes, based on David's ex-girlfriend, was created (per The New Yorker).

When Louis-Dreyfus won the role, over contenders including Rosie O'Donnell and Megan Mullally, she sensed it would be something special. "I'm sitting on top of a great treasure, and no one knows it," she told The New Yorker. But at first, the guy-centric "show about nothing" was mostly about Jerry, George, and Kramer. "I didn't think I was getting enough really meaty comedy stuff," Louis-Dreyfus said in the "Making of Seinfeld" documentary (via Time).

Though it was challenging to secure more comedic material, the actor's efforts paid off, as Elaine eventually became more like one of the guys. "The girl role was not the Girl Role," Louis-Dreyfus explained to The New Yorker. "That was very important culturally: 'Oh, you mean women have, like, value beyond whether or not you want to f'**k them?'"

She posed nude on Rolling Stone's cover

In 2014, Julia Louis-Dreyfus bared it all on the cover of Rolling Stone. In the special issue, which features the "Veep" star as "First Lady of Comedy," she appears with a tattoo of the U.S. Constitution on her back, with a signature of John Hancock. Here's the rub. Hancock didn't sign the Constitution. He signed the Declaration of Independence. The actor first took to Twitter to joke about the naked photo, blaming her behavior on alcohol.

"In my defense, "I was in a drunken stupor," she tweeted. In a second tweet, she playfully pointed the finger at Mike McClintock, the communications director to her character Selina Meyer on her HBO comedy series. "Hancock signed Dec. of Independence NOT Constitution.Yet another Mike f***k-up. Dummy," she wrote. Inside the magazine is a different pic of Louis-Dreyfus with a man in a white wig tattooing Hancock's signature on her in backside in another "cheeky" shot.

Rolling Stone spokesperson Melissa Bruno has a simple explanation for the signature snafu. She told Entertainment Weekly that the Declaration of Independence tattoo was on Louis-Dreyfus' other side, and signatures wouldn't fit there. In the cover story, Louis-Dreyfus remarks on the connection between her "Veep" character and her Hollywood life: "Selina is playing the game, and she knows how to play the game. There are a lot of parallels between political life and life in show business, so there's plenty for me to draw from."

She loved being bad on Veep

When Julia Louis-Dreyfus was offered the role of a crude, overbearing politician on "Veep," she knew she was taking on a character who might not be a fan favorite. She told Time in 2019, "Frankly, I've made a career of playing unlikable people." Even Selina Meyer's campaign manager, Amy Brookheimer (played by Anna Chlumsky), called her "the worst thing to happen to this country since food in buckets" (via Glamour).

Louis-Dreyfus noted that Selina's actions may be questionable, but viewers don't necessarily paint her as a villain. "The audience can't get enough of Selina, in all her awful glory. People like her, you know?" she said. "Despite the fact that she's a horrible human being!" In 2018, the "30 Rock" alum told The New Yorker that she can relate to some of the things that motivate Selina's bad behavior.

"She's super driven, and she's highly frustrated, and certainly I can understand that — her frustration, as a working woman who is in the business of selling her brand." Selina might be an awful vice president, but she's so much such fun to watch, as Bustle noted in 2015. When she messed up her State of the Union address and accidentally pledged $10 billion to the military, forgoing a bill to benefit impoverished mothers, Selina explained it like this: "Whole cities of children were going to be saved from poverty. Instead, that money is going to fund obsolete metal, giant dildos."

She was 'terrified' after her cancer diagnosis

In 2017, Julia Louis-Dreyfus went public with something she wished could have remained private. "1 in 8 women get breast cancer," she tweeted. "Today, I'm the one." In the announcement, she continued, "The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends and fantastic insurance through my union." She also used her diagnosis as an opportunity to promote universal healthcare.

After the Emmy winner was diagnosed with stage II cancer, she had a double mastectomy and six chemotherapy rounds, per Vanity Fair. Louis-Dreyfus told The New Yorker, "I was to-my-bones terrified. But I didn't let myself — except for a couple of moments — go to a really dark place. I didn't allow it."

In 2018, she shared with Jimmy Kimmel that she was cancer-free. The actor also spoke to ET at the Key to the Cure fundraiser in New York about her decision to be so candid about her diagnosis. At first, she was hesitant. "Then I thought, 'Well, I'm just going to embrace this and attack it and try to do it with a sense of humor.' I was really pleased with the reaction." she said. On her last day of chemo, "The New Adventures of Old Christine" star shared a funny video of her two sons lip-syncing to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (via ET). "It had a kind of 'kick cancer in the a**' kind of point of view," she said.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus' sons are following in mom's footsteps

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been married to fellow comedian Brad Hall since 1987, according to Us Weekly. The sitcom star and The "Weekend Update” alum share two sons, Henry and Charlie. Both of them work in the biz, and their proud mom is their biggest fan. Henry is the musician in the family, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus loves to sing his praises. In 2016, as the "Dream Lover" crooner geared up for a New York gig, Louis-Dreyfus posted a pic of him on Instagram with the caption, "2 days from now my son rocks."

The pop vocalist said his mother supports his music career 100% and never misses his shows. He said in a Rolling Stone interview, "It's great to have creative people in the family and bounce things off of. I really respect her opinion on all things creative." As for younger brother Charlie, his parents told the Chicago Tribune that they watched all his college basketball games. "We think he is outstanding in every regard. We're his biggest fans," Louis-Dreyfus told the paper. When the former hoopster at Northwestern University chose acting over athletics, mom and dad were a great resource.

Charlie created a web series called "Sorry, Charlie" with his college classmate, Jack Price, and he looked to his famous parents for help. In 2021, Charlie appeared in his first movie, and mom cheered her son's film debut. She quote tweeted son Henry's message about "Moxie," the Netflix film starring Amy Poehler: "My little man Chucky @charlie_hall23 is in his first ever movie and it's out today!!!" Louis-Dreyfus' wrote, "Yay!!!!!"

Julia Louis-Dreyfus doesn't think she's 'made it'

In a 2013 interview on "Larry King Now," Julia Louis-Dreyfus said she's been working steadily since the age of 21. With the rack of hardware she's collected, you would think she might be resting on her laurels at least a little, but she remains quite humble. When the host asked the star how she felt about tying comedy legend Lucille Ball's four Emmy wins (at the time), the actor said, "I keep wondering if they got that number wrong."

When she picked up her eighth statuette for "Veep" in 2017, she with tied another comedy great, Cloris Leachman, per The Hollywood Reporter. Yet, she remained deferential. Backstage, Louis-Dreyfus praised the "Rhoda" alum and did her best impression of Leachman in "Young Frankenstein," when she said, "I'm sort of numb, I can't believe it." 

In a 2019 interview for NPR's "All Things Considered," Louis-Dreyfus was asked if she felt that she's "made it." "No, I don't think I've made it. I keep thinking about what will be my next challenge. And I like that," she replied, adding that failure can be part of the process. "Keep pounding away at it and the actual pounding can reap rewards, you know." As for the secret to long-lasting success in comedy? Her answer for Larry King was simple. "I think if you're really truly having fun, and if you're not bullsh***ing your way through it, people pick up on that."

She struggled with her father's and sister's deaths

In 2016, at the end of an emotional Emmys acceptance speech for her role on "Veep,"Julia Louis-Dreyfus broke down in tears with a heartfelt revelation. "Lastly, I'd like to dedicate this to my father, William Louis-Dreyfus, who passed away on Friday," she said, with her voice quivering and her hands shaking. "I'm so glad that he liked 'Veep' because his opinion was the one that really mattered. Thank you."

Julia described her dad to The New Yorker as "an incredibly handsome, dashing, fellow," just like his father before him. "They were both very dashing, tiny Frenchmen," she said. The mogul was also a world-class art collector and philanthropist, per Artnet. Before her father's death, according to Today, Julia worked on "Generation of Eye," a documentary which delves into William's art collection and the Harlem nonprofit that benefited from it.

In 2018, tragedy struck again, as news broke of the sudden death of Julia's half-sister, Emma Louis-Dreyfus. Per the Daily Mail, Emma, 44, died from an accidental overdose, followed by a seizure, and cocaine and alcohol were found in her body. The news was a shock to Julia. After being baited by British tabloids for not commenting about her loss, she opted to stay out of the public conversation. "I've kept this under wraps out of reverence for my dearest Emma," she told The New Yorker. "It's been a very bad period of time."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She received a prestigious honor for humor

In 2018, Julia Louis-Dreyfus became the sixth woman to be honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, alongside comedy icons including Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, and Carol Burnett, per The New York Times. But when the "Downhill" star received the notification from the Kennedy Center, she misread it, and thought she was honoring someone else.

"I have to go all the way to Washington, D.C. — which, no offense, is a nightmare — and make up flattering things to say about how funny someone else is? No effing way," she said in the beginning of her acceptance speech. Her tune quickly changed when she realized she was the honoree, and her fellow comedians lined up there to recognize her. "Broad City's" Abbi Jacobson said, "Every time you create a character, you open a door, a door for another generation of young women to goofily walk through" (via The New York Times). Jacobsen's co-star Ilana Glazer mentioned how Elaine on "Seinfeld" broke new ground. "She hung out with the guys, but without changing who she was to please them," Glazer said. Louis-Dreyfus thanked them both personally.

The honoree humorously extended gratitude to many colleagues, sharing that her great-grandmother Bessie was a comedian in her own right. Louis-Dreyfus cited the adage that laughter is the best medicine, which helped her through her battle with cancer. She emotionally said, "The fact that I've had the opportunity to make people laugh for a living is one of the many blessings that I have received in my life."

She doesn't shy away from hot-button topics

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is not one to keep her opinions to herself. Per Vanity Fair, the politically-active "Curb Your Enthusiasm" alum has supported Al Gore, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and she's spoken out about a host of hot topics, according to The New York Times. But her favorite punching bag may be Donald Trump. In her 2016 Emmys acceptance speech, after expressing regret to the "Veep" crew for the long hours they work, she threw shade at the president: "While I'm apologizing, I'd also like to take this opportunity to personally apologize for the current political climate." 

At the SAG Awards in 2017, the actor picked up another trophy and slammed Trump's travel ban, per the Daily News. In 2020, she took to social media to bring out the vote, bashing the GOP on Instagram for unfair practices at the polls. "2020 is our LAST CHANCE to keep Republicans from the horrible gerrymandering and voter suppression that has helped them unfairly stay in power," she wrote in her caption.

In 2020, the actor, who has been honored for her work in climate advocacy, took yet another stab at then-presidential candidate Trump, per Deadline. At a virtual fundraiser for Joe Biden, she compared Trump's record on the environment to that of her "Veep" character, Selina Meyer. "Talk about pathetic," she said. "He's actually worse than a fictional president with a team of professional writers working 24/7 to make her as bad as possible."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus could be worth billions

Julia Louis-Dreyfus comes from a wealthy family, but as for reports that she's a multi-billionaire, she finds that amusing. In 2016, the "Arrested Development" alum told Rolling Stone, "I've been attached to that. It's unbelievable, because whatever I do, people just assume it's true. Welcome to the f***in' Internet."

Julia has an estimated net worth of $250 million, per Celebrity Net Worth. Her father, Gérard Louis-Dreyfus, who went by William, had an estimated $4 billion fortune when he died in 2016. Although Julia isn't a billionaire yet, it's likely she could someday make it into the 10-figure bracket with her income, combined with her family money. Her financial picture is nothing to sneeze at.

For "Seinfeld's" final season, Louis-Dreyfus was paid $600,000 per episode (per Time), at parity with co-stars Jason Alexander and Michael Richards. Though her "Veep" salary is unconfirmed, Deadline noted supposedly significant increases in the cast's salaries ahead of Season 7. Celebrity Net Worth claimed her final salary per episode was half a million dollars, distinguishing her earnings among women in her field.