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Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus tells TV WEEK about fighting cancer, finding joy, and saying goodbye to “a role of a lifetime”

“I’ve had an amazing ride!”
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When 11-time Emmy Award winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus has something to say, people want to hear it. The words she penned on her social media account on September 29, 2017, were no different.

“1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” the beloved Veep star shared on Instagram.

The actress added that although she had “fantastic insurance,” many other women did not, “so let’s fight all cancers and make universal healthcare a reality”.

That optimism has helped Julia, 58, through the highs and lows of recent years, including the deaths of her father and sister, undergoing chemotherapy, becoming an empty-nester as her youngest child headed to university, and winning the 21st Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2018.

With her cancer in remission, Julia is facing her latest life-changing milestone – farewelling Veep, the satire-rich political series that cemented her status as one of America’s comedy greats. Not that it was ever in question for the Seinfeld star.

As TV WEEK catches up with Julia, she explains how battling cancer has changed her life − and opens up about saying goodbye to the cast and crew that helped bring her hilarious character Selina Meyer to life for seven award-winning seasons.

Her cancer treatments completed, Julia says she’s feeling energetic and excited for the future.

“I’m knocking on wood because I’m superstitious, but I’m doing really well and I got through it,” she reveals. “I have my energy back.”

Julia is in remission after undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Julia keeps the momentum going by following a strict diet and fitness regimen.

“I’ve always been a healthy eater and an exerciser, but now I’m even more so,” she says. “I’m kind of hyper-vigilant about it; getting a certain amount of exercise in for certain a week and trying to live as clean a diet as I possibly can. I mean, you know, within moderation!”

Meals packed with fresh greens and clocking up the kilometres are high priorities, but there’s another essential on Julia’s self-care list: laughter.

“There’s nothing funny about [cancer] for sure, but there’s plenty of laughter that’s gotten me through these incredibly sh***y times,” she admits.

In addition to finding the humorous side of life, Julia says her cancer battle has “absolutely” changed her outlook on her work. The star, who has two sons, Henry and Charles, with husband and fellow actor Brad Hall, now focuses on “doing projects that bring a lot of joy to others”. And if it also brings her joy in the making of it, even better.

“I cherish that more than I ever did before – and I did cherish it before – but I’m keenly aware of mortality,” she says. “I’m sure many people are, but it’s sort of like a shock to the system and so it’s a slightly clearer way of looking at life, which is to ask, ‘What are your goals and desires?’ and then just go for it!”

Most actors would dream of the giddy heights of creating one universally adored character, let alone three. It’s an achievement Julia doesn’t take lightly.

Despite already shining as iconic writer Elaine Benes in Seinfeld in the late ’80s and ’90s, then again as a put-upon mum Christine Campbell in the 2006-2010 series The New Adventures Of Old Christine, Julia describes Veep’s Selina Meyer as “the role of a lifetime.”

She continues in one breath, “Oh, God − I’m going to miss everything about this character. You have no idea how much I loved playing her.”

However, playing the political player isn’t all Julia is going to miss. The Veep cast and crew are tight-knit – more like a family than workmates – after so many years on set together.

After Julia’s cancer news broke, her cast-mates publicly rallied around her, including Tony Hale (Gary Walsh) and Timothy Simons (Jonah Ryan), who filmed an inspirational fight song video for her to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Roar”.

At the time, Julia replied on Instagram, “How lucky am I that these bozos have my back? What a moving inspiration to my day. I’ve watched it a gazillion times.”

Now, after seven seasons, it’s time to say goodbye. As Julia struggles to maintain her emotions, she says she will miss everyone more than words.

“It [the show] has been so treasured and they’re such good people,” she says. “We’ve had an amazing ride together. I have an enormous amount of love for all these people with whom I work and so I’m going to miss all of it.”

Julia adds she was “caught off guard by the emotion” of shooting the final scenes.

“There was cake and there were tears,” she says. “I was pretty undone! Let’s not forget this is a group of people who have been through it together.”

The cast were on location for four years in Baltimore, which bonded everyone “big-time” before production moved to Los Angeles. They’ve also seen each other through life’s biggest milestones on set.

“People had babies on the show, had family members pass away, got ill, myself included,” she says. “There was a lot we lived through as a big group.”

Julia says the final weeks of shooting were “celebratory and bittersweet”.

“There was a lot of sadness too,” she says. “People were making toasts and speeches and it was really, really very significant for everyone.”

But always optimistic, Julia adds, “My final scene was insane and we had about 200 people on the soundstage. It was like an ongoing celebration.”

VEEP airs Tuesday, 7.30pm (AEDT), FOX Showcase.

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