Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lola Petticrew Talk About Facing Death (Who’s a Parrot) In ‘Tuesday’

The surreal A24 film about a mother dealing with her daughter's impending death is a rare, and strong, dramatic turn for Louis-Dreyfus.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Tuesday. Courtesy of A24

Death takes on an unexpected form in Daina O. Pusić’s Tuesday, a film about a mother grappling with her terminally ill daughter’s impending death. It’s a strange, surreal story with fantastical elements, but it’s also deeply grounded and moving in a way that’s unexpected. In a canny move, Pusić cast Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Zora, a single American mom living in London and trying to avoid the inevitable loss of her teenage daughter, Tuesday, played by Lola Petticrew. It’s Louis-Dreyfus’ most dramatic role to date and one that takes advantage of her formidable acting skills as Death (voiced by Arinzé Kene) shows up in the body of a colorful macaw. There are some unusual narrative and visual turns, which both actors say they took in stride. 

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“As an actor, it’s your job to figure out why you’re in the scene and what it is you want,” Louis-Dreyfus tells Observer. “And once you’ve answered those two questions so much more follows. But you really need to know why you’re there. So [your character] may have eaten something unusual or you may be a different size, but you still have to answer those questions.”

“And then when you’re in a scene with someone so much of what you do comes from them,” Petticrew adds. “If they’re rooted in truth and open and giving, as most actors that I’ve come across are, then there’s very little that you have to do other than respond to that and be open and alive to what they’re giving you.”

The pair spent two months shooting in 2021 in the midst of the pandemic, facing both literal isolation and the intense emotional quality of the story itself. But the resulting film is deeply moving and uniquely told as it reflects on the ways in which we deal with loss. Here Louis-Dreyfus and Petticrew discuss being part of Tuesday and how it affected their own perceptions of grief. 

Lola Petticrew and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Tuesday. Courtesy of A24

Coming into the film, did you have an understanding of what the scope of the film would be?

Lola Petticrew: I think you have an idea, but when you really get into it—and not even in the sense of the fantasy, but just the emotion—it’s so much bigger. It’s all there when you first read it. You can absolutely see it. But meeting Daina and speaking about it you realize how big it all is. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: I needed to talk with Daina to fully understand her intention. And then once I spoke with her it all clicked for me. We were on a Zoom for over an hour. Just discussing the emotional life that’s going on, the metaphor, how death was going to be portrayed—all of these things. I wanted a fuller sense of what was on the page. And also reassurance about the visual effects and the animation. Because if those things didn’t work that was going to be a problem. 

Lola Petticrew with Death in the form of a macaw parrot (and voiced by Arinzé Kene) in Tuesday. Courtesy of A24

Did you have a good visual sense of how Death would look going in?

LP: Yeah. We had a book of the macaw parrot. They showed us a lot of images, a lot of storyboards. Thrown together videos so we could see the movement of the parrot. But it still was a massive leap of faith to think it could all come together and work. You risk, if it’s not done in the way it has been done, it verges on crazy or ridiculous. Luckily, we’re fine. 

JLD: We dodged that bullet! But I’ll tell you Daina is exceptionally organized. In addition to having this grand vision and this magical world in her brain that she was able to put on the page, she’s also incredibly organized as a director. Every frame of this film was storyboarded within an inch of its life and that was a lifesaver. 

LP: There’s a lot of freedom in her control and precision, right? It’s done in such a way that it’s so controlled and precise that actually it allows you an extreme amount of freedom as an actor.

Had either of you ever worked on something that carefully storyboarded?

JLD: I mean, I’ve worked on a couple of Marvel films that are fully storyboarded. But you need to go in organized. You have to do your job. There’s no making it up as you go along in any sense. 

Lola Petticrew, director Daina O. Pusić’ and Arinzé Kene on the set of Tuesday. Courtesy of A24

Julia, do you know why Daina thought of you for this? 

JLD: I don’t know. I mean, I’m really glad she did think of me, but I’ve never done anything this dramatic on film before. I have done some dramatic work, but not to this extent. So I’m not really sure. But she’s got a great sense of humor. And Lola does too. So there was this comedic Venn Diagram overlap [with the three of us]. 

It sounds really important that you would be able to have that sense of humor while working on a project this emotionally deep.

JLD: There’s no question. And respect, too. 

LP: We were incredibly lucky that everybody in the cast and especially the crew gave us a lot of space. And in a way [they] were great cheerleaders and really respected what we were trying to achieve. That sense of reverence around a lot of what we were shooting was really important. 

JLD: Very important.

Lola, what had you worked on before joining this film? 

LP: It was 2021, so in the pandemic. I had just finished shooting a film called Wolf that was a lot of fun. But that was another film made during the pandemic time. When we made this everyone was still masked and everybody was just getting vaccinated. We had a lot of rules. We couldn’t hang out after work. When you normally do something you can get together. 

JLD: It was very isolating. Every day when you came to set you were tested. 

LP: I think what’s great about making movies is you get into projects and really feel like a family. You know the crew when you go in every day. But there were some crew members who I never saw their face because we were all masked. I’m so glad we’re out of that. Everybody was really respectful of the burdens that we had to adhere to in order to just get this movie made in a really difficult time on time, on budget, no shutdowns. 

Did that sense of isolation help in any way?

JLD: In retrospect, from my point of view, yes. It made it harder but it drove home certain themes in a way that were maybe more felt. It was early on during the pandemic. We didn’t quite know what we were dealing with. It was a scarier time. Frankly, there were two people in my life that I had lost to Covid. So it felt like a dangerous time. And this movie has a feeling of danger in it. So it was all part and parcel of the ethos that was going on. I mean, it was scary. If you got to positive Covid test—it was not lightweight. 

Julia, did you come to the U.K. alone to shoot this?

JLD: I was there by myself, but my husband came with me—God love him—at the very beginning when we first began rehearsals because it was early days and we had to quarantine in a hotel room. It was 10 or 12 days in a hotel room with the National Health Service knocking on the door every day to make sure you’re not leaving. It was cuckoo banana.

What was the rehearsal process like?

LP: They were very detailed. Again, it speaks to Daina as a director and a creative. We spent a long time in the room up on our feet and doing things, but also talking and making sure that we knew detailed histories and we understood our characters and the events that happened to them in their lives. I think that allowed us, when we went into rooms, to be able to speak from really authentic [places] and make decisions off the cuff in a truth and authenticity. And to be playful in those moments.

JLD: But do you remember, too, that we had to wear masks? We had to wear visors to rehearse. And for a film like this? It was all very strange. It was altered. 

Once you started shooting did you feel like you had a complete understanding of these two people? 

LP: Yeah, I think that was really important. We’re dealing with quite enormous emotions and situations. And the film has also got this fantastical fantasy element. So I think the only way that that works is that if everything is grounded in complete and utter truth. 

Did the emotional scale of the film leave a mark on you after production?

LP: Your body sometimes, as an actor, it might know in your rational brain that something isn’t happening to you, but your body can’t make that difference sometimes. For me, it was the breathing and the getting into that breathing pattern and hyperventilating a lot. My body felt like it was in a fight or flight mode a lot of the time. It wasn’t able to tell that I wasn’t actually in danger. And so I think you’ve got to find your own ways to shake yourself out of that when you go home so that you can make yourself dinner and pair your socks. 

Julia, how did it feel to do something this dramatic? 

JLD: I loved it. It was incredible. It was just a delicious role to sink my teeth into and I think it was an important story to tell, so I feel proud of that. 

Has that shifted what you want to do next as an actor?

JLD: Well, I’m definitely open. I like trying things that I haven’t done before. I just finished shooting a big Marvel film [Thunderbolts] and doing all sorts of things I’ve never done before. And [Tuesday] was all sorts of things I’d never done before. So I’m open to all of it. I mean, that’s the part of being an actor if you’re lucky. 

Did being part of this give you a new perspective on grief?

JLD: Not for me. I feel as if I came into this with a certain understanding about grief. I’ve had a lot of it in my life. And so I think for me I brought it to bear in this and I very much enjoyed and was honored to be exploring it in this beautiful project. But I didn’t have a new point of view afterwards. Did you?

LP: Yeah, I think maybe in the sense that Tuesday is someone who was maybe prolonging her own sense of grief in order to satisfy or help carry the burden for her mother. And I think I maybe sometimes in my life I suffer from doing the same and trying to hold on too much of other people, not allowing myself to relinquish that in order to do so. [Now I want to] allow things to take a more natural course. Let things happen. I definitely took that away with me. And like a bit of a more meditative way of being and dealing with those things like Tuesday does.

JLD: I would also add that the one thing I will say that I think this film does is I’m certainly more open to is having conversations about these issues and making them less taboo. That’s something I’m very much aware of since making the film. Shame may be too strong a word, but there’s this feeling of “You need to get past it. It’s grief, they’re gone, it’s sad. Now we have to move on.” And it’s not a particularly productive lens through which, to consider loss. That has been an interesting thing to apply.

No matter what your experience with loss has been, it’s a very cathartic film.

LP: What I love about like cinema is being in a theater and experiencing that communally. For this specific film that is so important. If people go to the theater and see it with a bunch of strangers and everybody’s experiencing something that is a so universal but also can be so personal to each and every person, it’s powerful. That is something that is great about this film specifically, but also cinema period.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lola Petticrew Talk About Facing Death (Who’s a Parrot) In ‘Tuesday’