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In The Mix
August 01, 2019

Front Runner

Among her many projects, a multi-tasking actress-author helps women run for office.

Maria Neuman
  • Steven Perilloux

When June Diane Raphael booked a series audition back in 2014, she was more interested in getting out of the house than in landing a plum role.

"I was at home with my first son, who was three weeks old, so I was totally postpartum," says the actress, who plays Brianna, a snarky daughter with a soft spot, on Grace and Frankie. "I showed up for the audition with zero makeup and my hair in a bun on the top of my head."

Five seasons later, Raphael is still bringing the deadpan sarcasm on one of Netflix's longer-running original series. The comedy stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as women who develop an unlikely friendship after they find out their husbands (Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen) are in love and planning to marry.

"It's like I'm in a graduate-level acting program," Raphael says. "It's fascinating to watch them, and I've learned so much about being brave on set and feeling free to fail."

Raphael doesn't seem to do much failing. Born and raised in New York, she met Casey Wilson, her personal and professional BFF, at NYU. They began their comedy careers at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, wrote the 2009 film Bride Wars together, had a development deal with UPN, and cowrote and starred in the 2013 film Ass Backwards.

"She's still my best friend, and we're working on something together now," Raphael says.

As a solo player, Raphael keeps herself busy. Last year she cofounded The Jane Club, a shared workspace in L.A. designed for women. She's in the recently released feature Long Shot (which stars Charlize Theron as a presidential candidate) and has a book due out this summer, Represent: The Badass Woman's Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World (Workman Publishing Company).

"I came up with the idea after the 2016 election. I was thinking, 'Well, if this guy can be president, can I?'" She wrote the book with Kate Black, the former chief of staff at EMILY's List, who's now a policy advisor at the FCC. "I was really struck by how mysterious the process is," Raphael says, "and this book is an accessible way into the conversation."

Of course, comedy is a throughline in most of her endeavors, and one of her most respected sounding boards is her husband, actor-comedian Paul Scheer (Veep, Black Monday). She says he always gives her honest critiques.

"When we watch Grace and Frankie, he's sitting on the couch watching the show and I'm sitting in a chair facing him, watching him watching it," she says with a laugh. "Comedy requires an enormous amount of vulnerability to look a fool and to make someone physically laugh."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2019

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