'Seinfeld' alum scores hit series in 'Christine'

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

You could argue, of all the high-powered performers to come off the comedy phenomenon that was "Seinfeld," Julia Louis-Dreyfus has landed in the best spot of all.

Sure, executive producer Larry David has his well-regarded HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and star Jerry Seinfeld packs concert halls when he's not helping salvage pal Jay Leno's new talk show or pitching reality show ideas to NBC.

But Jason Alexander's last TV gig was in NBC's awful summer miniseries "Meteor." And perhaps the less said about Michael Richards, the better.

Contrast all that with Louis-Dreyfus' current resume: Her comedy, "The New Adventures of Old Christine," starts its fifth season this week, making her the only Seinfeld alum to score another successful network TV sitcom.

Her old gang from "Seinfeld" managed a no-pressure reunion, getting together for five episodes of David's "Curb." And next year, she's due to get her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside Russell Crowe, Emma Thompson and Ringo Starr.

Her run of good fortune did not include an Emmy win last Sunday, but as it turns out, assuming a loss was an integral part of Louis-Dreyfus' preparation for the evening.

"I just go into this thing knowing I'm not going to win, and so you can sort of relax and enjoy the party, frankly," said Louis-Dreyfus, 48, who didn't even bother to prepare an acceptance speech.

The real trick in Hollywood is to make success look effortless. And Louis-Dreyfus has maneuvered her way into a string of successes showing as little sweat as possible.

Let Leno wow journalists with tales of jogging 4 miles each day and his legendary workaholic's hours. Louis-Dreyfus has raised two kids and stayed in a marriage with writer-producer Brad Hall while building a new network TV comedy career.

In showbiz, that's the equivalent of running a four-minute mile.

"The only thing I did know about starting another series was that ... when you're considering playing a character for a long period of time, its has to be something that's familiar to you," she said, referring to her character, Christine Campbell, a divorced mom struggling to move on after her husband starts dating another, younger woman, also named Christine.

Louis-Dreyfus' Christine doesn't seem all that different from "Seinfeld's" Elaine Benes, who often felt like an amped-up version of the amiable comedian we first met as a Not Ready for Prime Time Player on "Saturday Night Live" in 1982. For Louis-Dreyfus, the one tie that binds is a willingness, or even enthusiasm, for putting her characters in gigantically embarrassing circumstances.

"I really enjoy doing a lot of physical comedy, and anything that is ... any humiliating experience for the character," she said, laughing. "Profound and wicked humiliation seems to be a great place to live, comedically."

Humiliation is also where "Curb" creator David likes to live, and the new season finds a deliciously snarky story line to bring together the "Seinfeld" cast: In hopes of winning back his on-screen ex-wife, the on-screen David engineers a "Seinfeld" reunion so he can hire the former Mrs. David as a co-star.

Starting with the Oct. 4 episode, Louis-Dreyfus joins Alexander, Richards and Seinfeld for a reunion David nearly derails with his talent for offending network executives. For Louis-Dreyfus, the "Curb" episodes were a good way to savor a success she didn't really have time to process when it was happening.

"You know how in life, you look back and think, 'That was so great, I wasn't really as present as I should be,' " she said. "Life moves so quickly, it's hard to just value those moments. So this was an opportunity to go back and sort of revel in the good fortune that (the "Seinfeld" experience) was."