June Diane Raphael Talks Acting and Politics

June Diane Raphael’s fruitful acting career may have taken her to the West Coast, but the Rockville Centre native often returns to her old stomping grounds. One of her sisters still lives on the Island along with her in-laws—her husband, actor Paul Scheer, is from Huntington. Her trips back home now include taking her two sons, 3-year-old August and 1-year-old Sam, to places she used to love as kid like Jones Beach and the Malibu Shore Club.

“Re-experiencing my childhood with them has been really cool,” she said. “And for them it’s fun to experience the winter since they don’t get that in L.A. They are also kind of shocked by it, too.”

Back in Hollywood, Raphael has been busy at work. The fourth season of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie dropped in January where she plays Jane Fonda’s bold CEO daughter, Brianna Hanson. The show also stars another veteran actress, Lily Tomlin. “It’s been a dream come true for me,” Raphael said. “[Jane and Lily] are incredible role models, unbelievable performers and also really wonderful people.”

Raphael also appeared in the latest season of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and in James Franco’s The Disaster Artist. She recently finished filming scenes for an upcoming flick playing the chief of staff with Charlize Theron as secretary of state. Politics aren’t too far out of Raphael’s lane: she’s releasing the book “Represent. The Badass Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World” to aid women who want to run for office.

The actress spoke more about her roles, interest in politics and the Time’s Up movement that’s sweeping through Hollywood.

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What do you enjoy most about playing the hilarious Brianna on Grace and Frankie?
In real life I think a lot about what I’m saying to people and don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s kind of refreshing to play a character that just does not care at all about any of that. [Laughs]

Your character was just as funny on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Did you have any memorable moments working with Larry David?
Curb is one of my favorite comedies on TV and just working with him was a dream come true…A lot of the stuff that happens in that scene between me and Larry in the airplane is kind of improvised—well the whole show is improvised. It was just really so much fun to improvise with someone who I admire so much. Being able to make him laugh was one of the best moments ever.

Is it difficult at all to improvise while shooting?
It’s challenging and it’s scary but I don’t find it difficult. It’s definitely risky because you don’t know what’s going to happen, but in the most exhilarating way possible…I don’t do it on everything I do. On Grace and Frankie we’ll improvise a little here and there. The writers are so incredible on our show, just saying the words as is works. If there’s time and it’s the end of the scene, I love kind of surprising people and throwing something in that’s unexpected.

Aside from acting, you also have your book coming out.
The idea came about after Trump’s election where I was just feeling like, “I wonder if I want to run for office, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. What is the first step?” I was really wishing there was some sort of definitive resource where I could just really figure out what the requirements were, where to even start. I teamed up with this woman Kate Black who at that point was the chief of staff at Emily’s List, which is an organization that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women. I asked her about it and if they’d ever thought of doing anything like that. She said there wasn’t anything out there like that. We had such a great conversation that by the end of it we decided to do it together. She has really been like the resource and knowledge behind it. It’s really an informative and also really accessible and fun guidebook for the women who want to run for public office. It’s coming out hopefully in the spring of next year.

There’s been a movement of more and more women wanting to run for office. Why do you think it’s important for women to do that?
We still make up less than 20 percent of Congress. Women of color even less than that. We make up more than the majority of people in the United States and yet are just severely underrepresented in government. It is problematic and there’s a lot of research that supports the idea that when women are in elected positions they legislate for women and families. We do better as women citizens when we have women representatives.

Another issue affecting women is the Time’s Up movement. As someone who has been in the business over a decade now, how are you feeling about it?
I’m really so inspired by what’s happening right now. I think it’s definitely a long time coming. [Because of] the election and for a lot of reasons, women are feeling that things have to change and that this world is not built to support them in the workplace, sometimes in the dating world and [even] on the gymnastics team. There are so many examples of inequity all over the place and abuse of power. What’s so powerful about what’s happening right now is that women are speaking up and showing that when multiple women do, there’s so much strength in numbers. We are in the midst of a huge cultural shift, which is uncomfortable for a lot of people. But ultimately I think we are swinging in beyond the right direction.

anna halkidis

anna halkidis

Anna Halkidis is a senior web editor at Long Island Pulse. Feel free to reach out at anna@lipulse.com or on Twitter @annahalkidis.