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Julia Louis-Dreyfus Remembers Father’s ‘Devastating’ Criticism of Her First TV Performance

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: NBC / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB

Today, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of American television’s most beloved and decorated actresses. However, everyone has to start somewhere, and Julia’s first TV appearance was on the comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live! Looking to her father for encouragement on this new endeavor, she received quite the opposite.

Julia was scouted by SNL

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and other actors on a comedy skit for SNL

Julia’s first television appearance was on the comedy sketch show, Saturday Night Live! (Photo Credit: Lynn Goldsmith / Corbis / VCG / Getty Images)

Born in New York City, Julia found her breakout into the comedy world while working as a performer at The Practical Theatre Company in Chicago Illinois. While there, she was scouted by Saturday Night Live! reps who invited her to join the show. She later admitted that she had “no understanding about performing in this new medium” when they approached her.

Nevertheless, they extended the invitation and after dropping out of Northwestern University, Julia made her debut on the comedy sketch show in 1982. She continued to perform with the NBC program for another three seasons before parting ways in 1985. She’d go on to act in career-defining roles such as Elaine Benes in one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, Seinfeld (1989-1998), and Selina Meyer in Veep (2012-2019). Julia eventually became one of the highest-awarded actresses in American television history.

Her father was not impressed by her acting on the sketch show

Back in the early days of her performances on Saturday Night Live!, Julia looked to her father for support and encouragement. She approached him to ask what he thought of her appearance on the show, but the response she received was not at all what she was looking for.

“I remember him saying something really negative to me. He didn’t handle it properly, and he wasn’t gentle. His complaint was that I was too big, too broad. I was devastated by that,” Julia said during an interview with Variety. Even back then, she did not agree with the criticism. “He was such a narcissist, I didn’t even consider [his opinion],” she said. “And I say that with love in my heart.”

Julia refrained from identifying the SNL sketch in question.

Gérard Louis-Dreyfus was both logistical and creative

Julia Louis-Dreyfus holding hands with her father, Gérard, while both dressed up

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and her father Gérard Louis-Dreyfus arrive at a state dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. (Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Julia’s father, Gérard Louis-Dreyfus, was a very successful man – both by inheritance and by his own work. He was the great-grandson of Léopold Louis-Dreyfus, who founded the Louis-Dreyfus Group, one of the largest agricultural commodity trading companies in the world.

Gérard Louis-Dreyfus studied at Duke University’s School of Law and became a lawyer, working at a New York City Law firm. He then ventured into the business world, acting as chairman of Louis Dreyfus Energy Services, a company involved in agriculture, food processing, international shipping, and finance. In 2006, his net worth was estimated at a whopping $3.4 billion.

Although his career path may paint him as a very logistical person, Gérard was also a creative in his own right. He sat as the chairman of the Poetry Society of America for 10 years and accumulated a remarkable art collection that featured over 170 artists. When he died in 2016, a large portion of Gérard’s collection was donated to The Harlem Children’s Zone, which is a non-profit that supports low-income and underprivileged young people.

He still supported his daughter

Headshot of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her father, Gérard.

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and father William Louis-Dreyfus in New York City. (Photo Credit: Mike Pont / FilmMagic / Getty Images)

Despite his early disapproval of her appearances on Saturday Night Live!, Gérard supported his daughter throughout her entire acting career and in life. “She was always very interested in acting,” he said of Julia in 2014. “If the children are happy and successful, it’s a great thing for parents. She’s a wonderful actress and an even better daughter and mother.”

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Following his death, Julia spoke of him during her Emmy acceptance speech, saying “I’m so glad he liked ‘Veep,’ because his opinion was the one that really mattered.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!