Grace and Frankie star June Diane Raphael has a penchant for projects that tend to gain a cult following, especially with the comedy nerds of the world. She voices Devin on Big Mouth, appeared as Sadie on New Girl, and played Piper Ferguson on Adult Swim’s procedural series and action film satire NTSF:SD:SUV (which was created by her husband, and How Did This Get Made? podcast co-host Paul Scheer). As Grace’s eldest daughter Brianna, an icy businesswoman with a warm (ish) heart underneath, Raphael is finally getting her due for being an integral part of a long- standing series that is beloved by audiences of varying ages.
Raphael does a fair amount of Grace and Frankie’s comedic lifting—a difficult feat to accomplish when you’re up against the dream team of both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, who play the odd couple of Grace and Frankie, respectively—but if there is anyone who can critically parse what constitutes comedy, it would be June Diane Raphael. Starting out with a classical theater background at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Raphael began to study improv and eventually partnered with her friend, comedian Casey Wilson, to perform in their own sketch comedy show at Upright Citizens Brigade called “Rode Hard and Put Away Wet.” Now, on Grace and Frankie, she musters a delightfully droll and disaffected performance as the acerbic Brianna, delivering the most cutting of jokes that only a real master of comedic timing could produce. In fact, it’s this biting, yet still deeply funny, disposition exhibited by Brianna that demonstrates Raphael’s range as a performer herself. The actress’s position in the comedy community has also helped to establish her as somewhat of a pop culture guru (a title that Raphael herself is too humble to accept, but her arsenal of Real Housewives knowledge would beg to differ). Raphael opened up about what can be found in her Culture Diet, here.
How are you feeling about the new season of Grace and Frankie? Did you ever imagine that you would keep this character going for so long?
I’ve had the experience of always doing shows and being a part of things that were difficult for people to find, never knowing what medium they were on and always just a couple short seasons. So, being on a long-running show now that people love is much better! It’s much nicer. It’s been lovely, and I’ve never had this experience before, being on something that has stood the test of years.
How can we expect to see your character, Brianna, evolve in season five?
There is a lot of growth, I would say, in my [character’s] love life, and trying to understand this new relationship and the fears around that. Actually having a boyfriend for more than a week, that is a big deal and is terrifying. The reality of that sets in in a bigger way this season. I don’t want to give it away too much, but there’s a wonderful storyline with Brianna and Grace, and their business. That was really fascinating for me to see these two characters and how deeply they care about this other thing. It was a really fun storyline to play! It’s like checking in on what your friends are up to.
I’ll jump into the Culture Diet questions now, since you’re such a pop culture guru.
Which is insane, I don’t accept that title! [Laughs.] I’d say I’m a Bravo guru, but beyond that, no. I don’t even watch Below Deck, so let’s temper it here! But go ahead!
What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
I have small children, so waking up and reading something seems so decadent to me, so luxurious. I’m, like, woken up by screaming and then launched into a day. First thing I probably sit down and look at is probably the news alerts on my phone, to see what horror awaits. [Laughs.] I don’t recommend this as a way to set yourself up for the day! It’s always a horror show. This morning, I was reading about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and I’m in a full panic about why she’s not there. A full panic! As soon as my eyes fall upon those top five stories on my iPhone, I head on into the anxiety spiral.
Have you read any good books lately?
I’m currently reading The Best American Short Stories 2018, which is edited by Roxane Gay, who is my favorite writer. I am reading that and loving it. I just finished her book, Hunger. If I have time to read, I’m usually reading her stuff, and I’m also a huge fan of her Twitter. I’m willing to consume anything she’s going to put out, even if it’s editing other writers!
Speaking of Twitter, what are your favorite social media accounts to follow?
Let me put my phone on speaker and pull it up right now. I also love @ira. Rob Delaney always makes me laugh, he’s so funny. Roxane Gay I love because she comments on what’s going on both in the news and in pop culture. She’ll get into the Real Housewives as much as she’ll get into Elizabeth Warren. Her scope is so huge that I appreciate it because I am kind of the same in that I’m involved and caring about a lot of different things equally. Twitter can be such a hellscape for so many reasons, especially as an actor and having a public persona. Like, I’ll just go on there to read terrible things about myself, but there’s this other side of it where I’m like, oh wow, I’m really learning about different points of view and reading stories that I wouldn’t necessarily know about.
What’s the last thing you Googled on your phone?
Oh! The last search was, “What to do if a coyote approaches your child?”
Were you camping or out in the wilderness recently?
Oh no! [Laughs.] It just occurred to me, I think I was reading actually in Best American Short Stories, something about a coyote and them being these sociopathic vampire animals yet looking kind of like dogs. I was like, oh man, I know coyotes are around, but I don’t know what to do! What’s the protocol? What I found from that Google search was, well a couple different things. If there’s one coyote and it’s approaching you and you have a child or small dog, you pick that child or small dog up, and you start hazing the coyote. You make yourself as big as possible, you start screaming at it, and you don’t turn your back! Because as soon as you turn your back, they assume that you’re prey. I can’t remember, but I think it was different if there’s a mama coyote. It seems like the same rules as with a bear, so basically if the mom is there with her child, you should kill yourself because you’re gonna be dead.
That’s actually really informative, especially since you live in California, I’m sure they’re all over the place.
Oh, they’re everywhere! Sometimes I have a really early call time, and I have to be on set at Paramount at 5 A.M. so I’m walking to my car at like 4:30, and they’re out and about. I’ve watched coyotes walk by like they own the place. They walk down that street like, “This is all mine, motherfucker.” There’s a whole problem in L.A. with people feeding them, so now you see them more in the daytime because these total dummies are feeding them on hiking trails. I also found out you should protect your throat because that’s where they attack! This is my little public service announcement for the day. You will never forget this.
What TV shows have been keeping you up all night?
I’m in the middle of Surviving R. Kelly. Have you seen it? It’s a lot. I’ve got a lot to say about R. Kelly, and I’m only three episodes in. What I really appreciate about it is it’s incredibly well done and incredibly mindful of how to talk about sexual abuse, and how to talk about these issues and what to do if they’re struggling with them in your own life. It’s a really respectful responsible docuseries. I didn’t know what it was going to be, and what’s mindblowing is—and this is not an original thought—is that this has gone on unchecked. Just thinking about all of the systems in place that let this man have his way with these young girls of color, and why that happened, it’s just crazy. The next person I started following on Twitter was the producer, Dream Hampton, because she really took care. She took care in a big way. It’s responsibly done, which I so appreciated. And this guy’s a fucking monster. That’s all there is to it. It’s a hard watch and it’s an important watch.
What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?
Well, I fall asleep immediately, which is my problem. So essentially, my parameter for “good movies” is, “Am I awake?” If I have stayed awake for the duration of a movie, that movie should receive an Oscar in my opinion. [Laughs.] I don’t get a lot of sleep, and being in a dark space will have me lights out. I really wanted to see Second Act for my birthday because that’s right up my alley. I need it. When I saw J.Lo on that poster in that ‘90s business outfit on the poster, I was like, I don’t know what this is but I need it right now.
Besides How Did This Get Made?, your podcast that analyzes movies that are so bad it would seem impossible that they would ever be greenlit, what other podcasts have you been into lately?
I listen to a lot of political podcasts. I’m a big fan of Brittany Packnett on Twitter, and I also listen to her on Pod Save the People. I love that podcast, hosted by Deray McKesson. Of course I listen to Bitch Sesh!
What’s the last song you had on repeat?
So, this is going to be embarrassing. I came to Hamilton late. Last year, in 2018, I was so late to it. And I’m just obsessed with it! I know this should have been done years ago, but here we are! [Laughs.] I love it! Retta is a friend of mine and I remember her being obsessed and having a chapter in her book about it, and I asked her when I was listening on repeat, “When will I start to hate it after destroying it from listening so hard?” And she was like, “It’s gonna be a while. It’s gonna be longer than you think,” and I gotta tell you, I’m still in. I’m still listening like it’s the first time I’ve heard these songs. One year in, and when I go running, that’s what’s on.
What’s the last concert you went to?
So, I saw Dolly Parton in concert about two and a half years ago at the Hollywood Bowl. I was surprised with tickets and I love her so much, but my dad had just passed away weeks earlier. But I really wanted to go. It was a crazy time in my life, but I was like, how can I miss this opportunity, I’ve never seen Dolly in concert. We got there, we sat down. She started playing and I started crying hysterically. It’s fine if people are crying and listening to music and there’s a tear here and there, but no one was expecting a grown woman howling with grief and sadness in the middle of the Hollywood Bowl. [Laughs.] It wasn’t a delicate tear, it was full on hysterics. Her voice just cuts through me. It cuts to the core. I had to leave, so I only heard one song, and I was like, I have to go now, I can’t be here. It was too raw for me. We walked out, I purchased a t-shirt, and I left. She’s too pure! Her voice makes me cry even when I’m leveled out.
Are you into astrology at all?
I’m not sure if you know this, but I was married by my personal astrologer. So, the answer is yes! I’m a Capricorn sun, Scorpio rising, Leo moon. It’s totally changed my life. I am a true Capricorn, but the astrology that I have learned from Heidi Rose Robbins, who is an astrologer in L.A. that me and many of my friends live by, she has taught me that the sun sign is usually the way people perceive you. The outside world would say, “Wow that’s a Capricorn. She’s driven, and gets to her goals, ambitious.” Internally, the way you feel, is not that, it’s the rising sign. So, my inner life is more like a Scorpio, which is the sign of sex and death and extremes. It’s really passionate but it’s a difficult sign to live. And Casey Wilson is a Scorpio with a Capricorn rising sign. So we have the opposite signs, and when we realized that it made total sense because what comes very easily to her is very hard for me, and things that come very easily to me are very hard for her. We have this really balanced relationship.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?
I’m going to sound like a Los Angeles monster after my astrology statement. But I get some essential oils. This is really new for me. I couldn’t get over this sickness and I rarely get sick, but I came down with a cold after Thanksgiving. I got a diffuser and some oils my friend recommended, and it’s been life changing. I’m almost like, I don’t think I can diffuse these lavender oils anymore because I start to smell them and I pass out immediately. It’s Pavlovian now. That’s my last order of business before getting into bed, is getting my oil situation in check. I swear by them! I never understood oils, but I am now a believer.