Jami Gertz’s Second Act and What Led to Her Reinvention

Jami Gertz is blasting off into another universe and becoming BFFs with creatures from outer space in her latest role on "The Neighbors." In the edited version of our interview with her, she talks about her latest character, Debbie Weaver, her life off the camera and what inspired her to reinvent

by Ilyssa Panitz • More.com Celebrity Reporter
jami gertz image
Photograph: ABC

More: You are starring in ABC’s new series The Neighbors, which premieres tonight, September 26. What drew you to show?
Jami Gertz: To read something so funny, where I can laugh out loud, to me is a gift. Clearly this show has Dan Fogelman (Cars, Bolt and Tangled) written all over it. I believe he is really on to something. When I saw this, it was the kind of script that made me really want to audition and land the part.

More: What kind of neighbor is your character, Debbie Weaver: noisy, nosy, gossipy or quiet?
JG: Debbie is the kind of person you want on your side. She is a good mom, a good wife and a good friend. But she is also from Bayonne, New Jersey, so she is a working-class girl. In Debbie's world, at the end of the day if everyone gets to their bed and no one is bleeding, that is all that matters. It may not be tied up in a pretty bow, but they are all safe.     

More: Debbie sounds like your character from Still Standing.
JG: Yes, she is very much like Judy Miller. They both have three kids and are working moms. The reason both roles are a very comfortable spot for me to be in comedically is because I too am the mom of three and I get what it means to just make it through the day when you also have a job to hold on to. 

More: On this show you discover your neighbors are actually aliens.
JG: Yes, we discover in the pilot that they are from another planet. My onscreen husband [Lenny Venito] moves us into a new neighborhood, which is on a golf course. As soon as we get there we say to ourselves, “Hmm . . . something is not right with the neighbors. They look too perfect and have the names of many professional athletes.” While they are stuck on Earth, we are stuck in this community with no place to go.

More: You have had some pretty memorable roles. Having said that, does this script seem like the wackiest one you have read?  
>JG: Yes, it was out there and wacky. While this show is coming from a different voice, it is also very distinct and I just get it. The scripts that keep coming in make me laugh out loud.

More: Do you believe there is life on other planets?
JG: I do believe we are not the only ones in the universe. It is just too vast. There are too many galaxies and I think it is naive to think we are the only things going. There has to be something else out there.

More: Aside from your work in front of the camera, you are also working behind the scenes producing films. Tell me about that.
JG: It was part of my maturation. There is a certain point where things slow down. When they did, I felt I had to reinvent myself a little bit. I took a step back and thought, How am I going to do that? Once your children hit a certain age, they don’t need you the way they used to when they were babies. This event kind of coincides with [that midpoint in an actor's life], and it was a double whammy for me.

More: And so the story began?
JG: I am the worst person to go to the movies with, because I look at things so differently since I am an actor. If my husband didn’t enjoy a film, I would say, “Well, that is because the character wasn’t fully explored.” Anyway, after he heard me babble on one too many times, he told me to put my money where my mouth was and go create art in the media I had knowledge about. It was a challenge I was up to and excited to explore.

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