Julia Gets Wise with Gina McCarthy

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In this edition of Wiser Than Me, Julia is joined by 69-year-old environmental advocate Gina McCarthy, the former EPA Administrator and first-ever White House national climate advisor. Gina and Julia share their experiences of being the only woman in the room at work, trying different tactics to get the outcome you want, and going gray surprisingly young. And Julia and her mom Judith contemplate ways to get people personally invested in the climate crisis and discuss Julia and Gina’s plans to go shopping together.

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Gina McCarthy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Judith Bowles

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  00:00

On June 6 1968, I saw my stepdad who I call daddy Tom, cry, uncontrollably for the first time, actually, I think, really for the only time it was in the morning, and he was standing up in the bedroom hugging my mother. And I remember just staring at them. It was pretty terrifying. They had just gotten the news that Robert Kennedy had been assassinated the night before. My parents were huge believers in Bobby Kennedy’s ideology, and they were completely devastated by his loss. I was guess about seven. So I didn’t understand all of the political stuff. Of course, you know, the war and civil rights and social justice. I just saw my dad crying. But I really clocked it. In my family politics was gigantically emotional. My other father, my biological father, William, whom I call daddy, will he have this huge framed black and white photograph of Martin Luther King Jr, above the fireplace. And just to put this in context, you understand, he was an avid art collector, okay, he had some significant paintings. But in that prime spot of the house, there was just this huge photo of Martin Luther King. That was the art. That is how meaningful Martin Luther King Jr. was to him. Oh, and also, my daddy will was on Nixon’s enemies list. Can you believe that? He was so proud of that. For him being an enemy of the soon to be disgraced president was a ginormous accomplishment. You know, they printed the enemy’s list in the Wichita Eagle and beacon newspaper, and my dad framed it. And he put it up in his office as a badge of honor a triumph. You know, he has since passed. So now I am the very proud owner of that fabulous artifact. I didn’t really think about it as a kid growing up. But of course, I was surrounded by politics in Washington, DC, obviously. I mean, I went to a super conservative all girls school wasn’t a Christian school or anything, but it felt kind of like that, to me as a short, dark curly haired liberal named Dreyfus. The place was so Republican. I mean, President Ford’s daughter, Susan went there. She was way older than me. But I remember her secret service agents, they were in the halls, and she had her senior prom at the White House, God actually come to think of it. The main weed dealer at my high school was how do I put this so I don’t get sued. She was the daughter of someone from the Justice Department. Yeah, yeah, politics was just everywhere. For me, the first election that I voted in was Carter versus Reagan. So I was a righteous loser from the start. And I still can’t shake this emotional political thing. I hear the national anthem, and I get a little choked up. But politics is how we change things in this hugely flawed, wonderful country. Democracy, the right to vote, you know, that is huge, and it’s sacred. When my kids were really tiny. And whether they were too tiny to have any idea what the fuck was going on, I would take them with me to the polling place, and I’d marched them into the booth so they could punch the buttons for me. I don’t know, maybe that’s illegal. But I did it. I thought it was important was a good message for them. And they thought it was fun. When I started to get famous, it gave me a platform to help shine the spotlight on candidates and issues that I thought were legitimate. And so I started to do that. And I know there’s a lot of blowback on celebrities for getting involved in politics. But my philosophy on that is this. I am a citizen of the United States. I love this country. I’m allowed to express my views. And I never claim to be an expert on any issue. But if people want to listen to me, I’m delighted to use that moment to bring attention to the people who deserve to be heard. And when it comes to the environment, and the climate crisis, boy does Gina McCarthy deserve to be heard. So today, I’m talking to Gina McCarthy. I’m Julia Louis Dreyfus. This is wiser than me, the podcast where I get schooled by women who are wiser than me.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  04:59

Holy hell, you guys, today is going to blow your goddamn minds. You know, I really do believe that the climate crisis is the elephant in every room. It’s a social justice issue. It’s a national security issue. It’s a racial issue. It’s an economic issue. It is the ticking time bomb that could in fact, destroy mankind. And our guest, Gina McCarthy is out there trying to defuse that fucking time bomb every day. She’s like the MacGyver of climate. She’s fought inside the system serving in both Republican and Democratic administrations. I mean, give me a break. How hard is that? We need to find out about that. And I can’t even list all the shit she’s done for the environment. But here are some Greatest Hits. She was head of the EPA in the Obama administration. She was the first ever national climate adviser in the Biden administration. She ran the Natural Resources Defense Council, the folks who sue the governments asked and who sue climate criminals and who when she’s had to testify in front of the worst climate deniers in Congress can’t wait to hear about that. And somehow she just keeps on fighting in spite of impossible odds. And under the threat of global extinction for fucksakes. She’s controversial. She’s powerful. She’s smart as a whip. She’s a wife. She’s a mother, and she’s got the best Boston accent ever. And she’s definitely wiser than me, Gina. I am so happy to get to talk to you today. Gina McCarthy.

Gina McCarthy  06:35

Julia what an introduction. I’m really nervous now. How am I going to live up to all that?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:40

Yeah, we can just end the interview. Now, if you’d like.

Gina McCarthy  06:43

It would definitely be to my benefit, but we’ll risk it anyways. Go ahead.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:49

So, before we start talking, first of all, are you comfortable? If I say your real age? Are you cool with that? Of course. Yeah. All right. So you just turned 69? Right. That’s right. And how old do you feel Gina? On the inside? How do you feel age wise?

Gina McCarthy  07:05

I would say somewhere around 32. I still think I probably am somewhere like that until I look in the mirror, of course. But I can fool myself for long periods of time.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  07:16

We can all say you’re 32 if you want. I’ll ask you again. What’s your real age?

Gina McCarthy  07:20

I’m 32.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  07:24

All right. So listen, here’s my first question. Do you consider yourself a politician?

Gina McCarthy  07:29

No, not at all. I think there’s a big difference between a big P politician and somebody that is, you know, in, in politics, small p, you know, I’ve worked in government my entire life. So I’ve been surrounded in working for people who are elected. And I like policy, I like the give and take of making decisions based on real facts and science and, and trying to move those things forward. I don’t like you know, the scrappiness of the of the whole thing, when you’re in the big pay politics and Lord knows, I, I would hate going around shaking hands and doing all that kind of stuff all the time, a two to four years, it just seems miserable to me that you’re running more than you’re serving. You know, I wouldn’t like that at all.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  08:20

Speaking for myself, as somebody who’s who’s been the only woman in the room more times than I care to admit, I mean, whether it’s in a writers room, or whether it’s, you know, on TV and a cast, whatever. I know, You’ve had similar experience yourself. So let’s talk about that. What’s that been like for you? If that’s been your experience?

Gina McCarthy  08:45

And the number of ways that that has been it’s certainly gotten better over time, but honestly, I talked to a lot of, of young women about that now, you know, because I watched them how they behave in a meeting, you know, and, and really, over time, I think you just learn that you you sit forward and you speak up. You know, so if, you know, if you speak up and people don’t like it, I speak up again, if I think something still needs to be said. But it’s gotten better. I mean, I don’t think it’s anywhere near where it used to be. You know, I remember when I was younger, I got stuck sort of chairing this statewide board. Many years ago, I think I was probably 28 years old at the time, maybe maybe 30. And, and I was at a public hearing. And it was a very contentious issue, because it was a hazardous waste facility site safety council. So it was about an incinerator being sited in a community. And so every time you went to a public hearing, you had to have police escorts in and out. And so I was chairing this meeting and it was raucous, but this one guy came up. And I called on him and he hit he walked up sort of the front where we were sitting on a table as the board.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  10:06

He’s, he was like a citizen.

Gina McCarthy  10:08

Yeah, he was and he said any sort of steward leaned forward and started say, hey, sweetheart, and I jumped up, practically jumped over the table. And I said, don’t call me sweetheart.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  10:23

Please tell me people applauded.

Gina McCarthy  10:25

Well, it was it was on the news that night. It was a reaction, not a well thought out answer. But it made its point. You know, he backed up. And he politely asked questions, which was great. And actually, that was a very contentious issue that ended up not citing the incinerator. And the folks in that community were actually very appreciative of the way that we handled it. You know, so it just, you know, you just gotta go with the flow, but also recognize that, you know, there’s a ground you need to keep as a human being, there’s a respect that you need to demand, especially in political situations.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  11:08

Yeah. And especially as a woman, that’s right. You do, right. Yeah. Which leads me into this next thing I wanted to talk about, which was, you know, in in 2008. Do you remember when Hillary got famously emotional, she was doing a town hall somewhere, and she teared up. And there was a lot of controversy about it, because first of all, her approval numbers went up. And some people thought that was a good thing. And others criticized it because it was, you know, a woman tearing up on the campaign trail. And as a matter of fact, it was something that when we took and sort of ran with on Veep, when we were making Veep the first season, we actually had an episode called tears, written by Jesse Armstrong, who now runs a show succession, by the way, and in this particular episode, my character of Selina Meyer gets emotional during an interview. Only because her staff has negotiated with the journalist to make the journalists ask Selina Meyer questions to make her cry in an effort to get her approval ratings up. Can you imagine? Felicia, if if I’m tired? Imagine how tired the rubber makers are. Here in Ohio. She is magnificent. I won an Emmy for that. So that worked out good for me. But I want to know something. Are you an emotional person? I mean, you stand up and you say Don’t call me sweetheart. But I don’t know if that makes you an emotional person, are you?

Gina McCarthy  12:38

Maybe it makes me less than stable? I don’t know. In situations like that, you know, I, I really feel like I disarm people by being very genuine. I don’t get excited about the situation I’m in. You know, I feel like I handle myself well. So I just talked normal, and I behave normally. And certainly there are things that, you know, get very upsetting, but not someone calling me sweetheart. You know, that was just a reaction, it would have to be a whole lot more than that. To get me to, to be emotional, in other than a private setting. And frankly, I don’t, you know, I don’t tend to be a very weepy person, but I don’t find it I’m gonna make you cry. Okay, good. Give it a go. And you’re not going to like pinch me or anything.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  13:34

So, here’s a question. What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career? Did you ever get really good advice from someone that you sort of took with you that you’ve taken with you along your way? Yeah,

Gina McCarthy  13:45

I did. I did. I got a, there’s this one thing that sticks up out in my mind. And, and it was just a little bit of a push as much of an advices. When I was in Massachusetts, one of the things that I did early on, and in my career without mid career anyways, I was working on how to get rid of the five remaining coal fired power plants in the state. The governor had said he was going to do it now it was on the third Governor trying to get it done, right. I mean, it took that long to get this done. And we had a lot of push. I had a lot of pushback at internal meetings. I left the meeting and I was walking with the then Chief of Staff of environmental affairs office, and I said to him, you know, I’m so sick and tired of this. We’ve gone to three or four of these meetings. I just want to call the question here. Let’s just put it on the table and see if the governor will step up. And he said something very casual like Gina you never push the question, if the answer is going to be no. And he looked at the politics and said, Keep plugging because it will We’ll break. But if you try too soon, if you push too hard, and because you’re frustrated, not because you’ve found a way to argue something different, then you’re going to lose. So every time from then there when I’ve hit a wall, I’ve thought to myself, well, what’s the other way to get at it? What do I keep? What do I do different? Right? That’s gonna start a separate conversation that can get me where I need to go.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  15:26

That’s the small p politician in you. Am I right?

Gina McCarthy  15:30

Yeah, because it’s it’s people. You know, I’m not really fighting for a political ideation idea. It’s not where I am. I don’t care whether it was a good idea by a Republican or a Democrat. If it’s a good idea, and I can save lives, I can make things better clean up places. I’m gonna go for it.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  15:49

Well, speaking of which, then so you work for Democrats and Republicans? It did. Of course. I don’t know how you manage to go between the two, particularly in the last, I’m going to say five years. I do not know how you’ve done it. Because I can tell you right now. I’d want to blow my brains out. Over these fucking lunatics. Really. I mean, I want to know and for speaking for myself, particularly when I get angry, I it’s very hard for me to put a sentence together, I get so pissed off that I can’t speak articulately. I sense that you are not like this. I know that you’re not like this. How How do you do it? How do you stay calm? How do you keep from forgive me, but murdering Joe Manchin? You know what?

Gina McCarthy  16:35

That would have been highly unsuccessful strategy. Well, let’s let’s not forget that mentioned was a Democrat or is a Democrat?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  16:45

Yeah. So hard to remember that.

Gina McCarthy  16:47

I guess we need to pinch ourselves and call out, call that out every once in a while. You know, my mother had this saying that always rings true for me. And I say it to my kids, and it drives them crazy. It’s basically don’t waste a good worry on things you can’t control. Oh, that’s such good advice, which I think is that in government. If you don’t take a deep breath, on things that you can’t change, you’ll drive yourself friggin nuts. Right. And I did for a while when I was younger, but I don’t do that anymore. I have to find a different way to get to the outcome I want. So when you know, I did more hearings, me and Tom Perez, it was a labor secretary under Obama. And when I was EPA Administrator, we were competing for who was hauled up in front of Congress more. But it you know, you just had to sit there and recognize that this is not your show. This is this show, the only thing you had to do was stay polite. Tell the truth. If they didn’t like the truth, it say something else. You’d still answer the question. And you just keep moving on. Because a lot of you know what happens at the federal level and in politics is bluster. Right? You know, and if you can’t take that don’t go in, you know, because that you have to desensitize yourself to that. But still, you know, you still have to respect people, they won. So you do what you can to be as respectful as you can. But you don’t ever have to agree. And you don’t ever have to try to bounce back and be as nasty to someone as they are to you. It’s the worst thing in the world, especially for a woman. That’s not the atmosphere and within which you can win.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  18:38

Doesn’t that suck? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting that you say that, especially for a woman. I can’t I mean, the idea of stooping to their level to the blustery level is just, that’s off the table for you as a woman.

Gina McCarthy  18:55

Yeah. But that’s what they were looking to do. Right. That’s what they wanted.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  19:00

Yeah, that’s the trap. That’s the trap.

Gina McCarthy  19:03

I keep saying, you know, I just sat there going, okay, Jeannie, you’re gonna leave here. And you’re not gonna make one single story. They just wasted their time on you. Right. That’s what I wanted. Because it’s it was certainly not my goal, to defend life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness in front of, you know, current senators that throw snowballs and say climate change isn’t happening. I mean, seriously.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  19:31

Well, speaking of which, I will tell you the story of myself because back over 20 years ago, I remember Laurie David, who whom you know, and I know of course I do. She came to me and she was thinking she was going to do a documentary about global warming, which ultimately turned into an inconvenient truth and won an Academy Award, but she says this to me, and I’m like, You know what, I don’t think anybody’s gonna buy that. So that was my that’s, that’s what a complete idiot. I was. I mean, I really did think it was just too big, too big an idea to present to the American movie going audience, you know, or shall I say, a global movie going audience? So what did I know? But anyway? Have you always been on this on the climate train? And yeah, how did you come around to it yourself?

Gina McCarthy  20:27

You know, I had a woman that I worked with. And when I was in the environmental agency in Massachusetts, who was an air quality person, and she’s she spotted it early, and really kept pushing me and pushing me to start getting more active on climate, we got to talk about it. And so I really got very active, when we started looking at something called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is was the first cap and trade program in New England and the Mid Atlantic States, it’s now 11 states, that was a really big thing for me. And it was the, you know, the first time I started to get a real sense of the dynamics of this issue, and all the various ways that you could really start thinking about managing it and addressing it.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  21:19

You know, I obviously, I don’t have your expertise on the climate crisis. But I certainly understand the gravity of this issue and the scale of it. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to take on something so huge, and to have the responsibility that you had. And when my son Henry was in, in fourth grade, he had a teacher named Christie whom We adored. And she used to say, to Henry, and to the kids, when they were feeling overwhelmed by whatever, you know, a math test or a little essay or something, they had to write whatever she would say, take it in manageable parts, break it down into manageable parts. And it reminds me of something that you said that I have here, you said, I just don’t think there’s anything we can’t do when we begin to take those small steps. Because when you do big steps follow. That’s right. And it reminded me of Christie. It’s the same idea, isn’t it

Gina McCarthy  22:13

Yeah, it is, I think in this is a really important thing I think maybe for your listeners and others to think about is when you have a big lift that you’re trying to get. You take it in five pound weights, right? You have to just start somewhere. I have seen it my whole life. It’s been amazing. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was huge. No one could do it live. Then you got a couple of states who can and then all of a sudden, whoa, this actually works. Most states don’t, you know, it just happens. But you you can’t always with big things. Know how to get them done. You just know you have to start. I think people worry too much about plans to the finish. I see it all the time. Well, that’ll only get you halfway there. I’m like, Well, who gives a shit? Halfway is halfway further than I am now. Right, exactly.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  23:11

We’ll get more wisdom from Gina McCarthy after this break. Stay tuned. Can we talk about Flint? I know you took a lot of criticism about the Flint water crisis. And you’re actually one of our producers is a black woman. And we are watching the hearings that you went through. And when she described what it was like watching the Senate hearing, she said that the woman part of her was cheering for you. But the black part of her was very let down. Yeah. And so I’m wondering today, what would you say to those black people that community who felt disillusioned and disenfranchised by the whole thing by that crisis?

Gina McCarthy  24:01

Well, I certainly won’t challenge how she feels. If I were her, I probably would have felt the same way. So there’s there’s a couple of things. One is that entire city had been let down for decades. And we did nothing at EPA to help with that. Very, very little. We didn’t jump on it quickly. We didn’t recognize what the community was saying. We were just listening to and then the they had this emergency supervisor. I forget what the term was. That was running Flint, because basically the state took it over. And they didn’t tell us the truth. And we just didn’t push fast enough. Now I know that that at headquarters when we figured this out, we jumped we had people there the next day. We had emergency services set up for the for years after that, but it was a horrendous situation. And so what that hearing was about, though, was a couple of things it was about obviously getting information out. But the challenging part is, whenever a problem like that happens, everybody wants to land on someone to blame. It’s It’s human nature. And so I had to take out and make sure that everybody knew about the disappointment we had at EPA with our performance and not listening quickly. But But I, but it was a horrible situation. And I don’t blame anybody for for you know, resenting that or feeling like we let them down. Because I don’t think I feel any differently. Every time it’s brought up. I have a pit in my stomach.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  25:45

It seemed to me during the hearing, when I was watching the footage, it seemed to me like you, you were biting your tongue a lot during that hearing. Oh, right. And actually, back to Veep, again. We used to meet with politicians and people in government and lobbyists and all sorts of things. And when I say we, I mean me and the writers and stuff. And one of those people was Mitt Romney, he came to talk to our writers room. And he was incredibly generous to do so. And he hung out for a really long time. And we asked him about his 47% gaffe that he made when he was running for president. And it was an incredible gaffe. And it was sort of, I think, the beginning of the end of his, his run for president to a certain extent. And we were asking him about that, and how he managed that moment, what it was like, and what he said to us was, you know, when you’re explaining, you’re losing, he said, which is an actual line, then we put into the show, what happened to you during that hearing that kept you from saying what maybe you wanted to say, and what did you want to say?

Gina McCarthy  26:53

Well, you know, the awkwardness of that hearing. I was sitting next to the governor. Now the governor had all the culpability in the world, right? The state, which we now know, because the state’s the one that’s been sued, right, and the other ones that have had to pay, because it was their responsibility to tell us the truth. And they did it. So I think he went first, and then I went next. And so you make your case, but you know, I really kind of wanted to whack them one. Do you know what I mean? I’m like, seriously? Yes. I was I, I tried my best to Yes. Explain. Because in government, you you’re supposed to explain. You’re supposed to explain what you did. What you didn’t do how you thought about it. Maybe that’s losing. But to me, that’s governance. That’s leadership. I tell it right, you know, and so we took culpability, to the extent that that I tried hard to make sure that people knew that we should not be without criticism. We are not without blame. But to have that guy start out by saying it was our fault. Well, that was where I was biting my tongue. I because I, you know, it that would have done nobody any good. And frankly, I think the people were much more interested in getting justice than they were revenge. You know?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  28:27

I want to shift gears now. Thank you for that. And thank you for speaking so in depth about that crisis in particular. So but now I’m changing gears completely. I want to ask you something. Okay. You have three children. Yeah. Yes. Three children in three years. I did. Had you not heard about something called birth control?

Gina McCarthy  28:50

Yes, I think I just got overly excited. I’m sorry. Those were fun years. I’m telling you. First when I was 30. Oh, my God. They were great. They would crazy.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  29:02

Yeah, crazy. Exactly. How did you do it? Because you had a career you were working? Were you not?

Gina McCarthy  29:08

I was I was. So I had my first one. I was the health agent in Kent. And that was a full time job. And I had a lovely friend who was in the same town who sat for my my child after like, he was three months old or so. And so I got I went back to work and I kept that job up for a while, which was great. Then I just I got pregnant again. And then I decided I probably should take a little bit of time with this baby, which I did. But then I got really bored.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  29:43

So you got pregnant?

Gina McCarthy  29:45

So I went back to work, and then I got pregnant again. So it was the the way it worked was you know my husband was really terrific. He’s he’s just a great person and he was in the flow. or business? Yeah, here’s how our schedules worked, please. So he he would go in there’s there’s a flower market in the city where he had to go in and buy flowers because he bought them for supermarkets. This was his job then. And he’d go in at like three in the morning, two or three in the morning, that’s when his day started. And he’d get home at two. And I’d go to work then. And I’d go to work for like three hours or four hours in, in the job. And then I’d take home a box of plans that that other people didn’t have time to look at. And I’d work till 10 at night.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  30:40

So it was like tag team parent it was.

Gina McCarthy  30:44

That’s it. Yep. So it was it was really fun. And not seeing one another a lot was how I avoided the fourth maybe, I don’t know. four and four years would have been the death of me, that would have been, that’s a lot I had, you know, I also had a sister in law who had two kids that not too long after mine. So when my kids were like, you know, three and four and five, I had a lot of help families great.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  31:13

The family was around, because your mother also worked, right? I mean, she, she worked while raising you.

Gina McCarthy  31:21

She was a waitress. And then she was a nurse’s aide, and she worked in a chemical company for a while. So she was great. I think I learned to live with less sleep than most human beings. And I think I got that from her.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  31:37

I love the attitude about it. I have to say when I was when I was having my kids, and I spaced them out, right, I spaced their five years apart. But even having them spaced apart, I was like dying. I wish actually looking back on it. I wish I had been I could have taken a big fat chill pill during that time, because I was so anxious about being there for them. And then also when I had to get to work and it doesn’t sound like you’ve suffered that at all.

Gina McCarthy  32:05

Not as bad. But I’ve told you I don’t waste a good worry. I mean, I just don’t do that, because it’s so draining. So it all works out. You just got to make it happen. And honestly, having someone like my husband was really made it all happen. You know, it’s always been challenging, but he always knew that I was never going to be a person who didn’t want to work. It’s just in my blood. You know, I love having a purpose. And, and it’s great to have your purpose be motherhood and many people are satisfied with that unhappy, it just wasn’t me. And so he knew when I said it was going to take some time off after the second that I probably wouldn’t do that. I built a really actually I built a really terrific swing set. And I built a really terrific little Little House in the back to the kids to play.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  33:01

I really, I really wish I’d known you when I was a young mother I could have used I could have used your handiwork. I couldn’t use the swingset backyard. When did your hair started gray?

Gina McCarthy  33:12

When I was about 13. I was significantly gray in high school. And I really loved it because it was like so different. I have grown up with literally no style, right? I mean, I switched jeans whenever I can get away with it. And if it’s not jeans, it’s just a really cheap pair of pants and maybe I can find some kind of jacket to go over it. You know, I just can’t it’s just not what I do. I suck at that stuff. But I loved my gray hair. It always gave me something probably to detract from my clothes. So it was great, but but then then when you grow into an age where it’s not a surprise anymore, then it’s like oh shit. gives me no distinguishing feature.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  34:02

Yeah, but it’s a good color. It is for real. I started graying at a very young age too, but I started I’ve been dying it my whole life at some point. Probably bout in my early 20s.

Gina McCarthy  34:19

Yeah, mine. YMy oldest daughter Maggie. Yeah. And she’s not pleased with it.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  34:26

She dyeing her hair?

Gina McCarthy  34:27

Yeah, she does it. Starts getting this gray thing. I had kind of a brown light brown here. So it was boring without the gray and it mixed in. Well, it wasn’t startling at first so it grew in but maybe he’s he is much darker than mine. And so it looked and I would agree with her. I totally would have done the same thing if I were her.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  34:54

But what do you do like if you have to go to event or something you get somebody to help you with your with your outfit choices or You just share the pants, a jacket?

Gina McCarthy  35:02

If I actually hired somebody to look through my choices that only have to work for about five minutes or so, because it’s either the gray suit or the blue suit, you know what I mean? It’s just, I’m really bad. I’m trying to be better, but I don’t think I ever will be.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  35:18

Yeah, I don’t think you’re changing in this area. No. So all of these high powered jobs that you’ve had throughout your career, I want to know, how do you take care of yourself in the middle of all of that, you know, do you have like any sort of a, you know, they call it self care. But do you have what do you do for yourself?

Gina McCarthy  35:40

I do. I do think I take care of myself. You know, when I was a kid, we sort of grew up outside. Yeah, so being outside and walking or biking. And in my younger years running, it was absolutely essential. You know, I always swam a lot. And I’m, I’m a pretty good swimmer. Oh, really? Do you still swim? Not not of the past couple of years, I should, but I just haven’t had time. The White House is a horse of a different color.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  36:08

Don’t you have a pool in the White House you can pop into?

Gina McCarthy  36:13

And you know what, I really do it every every night. And this has been a habit of mine, I think for a really long time, is I read a book, I have to that’s how my I get my mind off of things, you know, and it’s I’ve always read mystery books, because I can read them and I can put them down. You know, a novel I read. I read every once in a while, but they’re intense. They’re all personal. And I’m like, I don’t need any more drama in my life.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  36:48

And so what are you reading now? What are you reading?

Gina McCarthy  36:51

Oh, I am reading something by Karin Slaughter, which is a more intense book than I thought. I will tell you my favorite author.

Gina McCarthy  36:59

Louise Penny.

Gina McCarthy  37:03

It’s a mystery. It’s it can be complex. And it’s I think she’s on her maybe 12 book. I’ve read every single one of them. And I thought I was the only freak that was obsessed with this woman. I have her on my Kindle. As I’ll buy anything. This woman writes. She just did a book with Hillary Clinton.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  37:23

Oh, she’s the one who did the book with Hillary Clinton.

Gina McCarthy  37:26

I don’t know what it is. But I’m just fascinated with the woman in the way she writes.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  37:38

Once it was too much pressure to finish the book and then and then have an opinion. I like to go at my own rate. You know?

Gina McCarthy  37:45

I think I just gave you the most opinion of a book I’ve ever given anyone in my life.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  37:50

I think we just started a book club. I think you and I are now in a Louise Penny book club. So now this is the very last bit of our conversation which has gone on forever. I apologize for that. But what the hell, we had a lot to cover.

Gina McCarthy  38:05

You know, I love talking to you.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  38:07

I love talking to you, too. Here’s the question something you’d go back and tell yourself when you were 21?

Gina McCarthy  38:13

Read more. Louise Penny. See, I start the sentence you complete it. That’s a good one.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  38:22

What do you love about being your age? Is there anything you love about being 69?

Gina McCarthy  38:28

There is there’s a few things at four things in particular, which are my grandchildren. Oh, they’re the best. You know, it’s, it’s as if you got through kids in order to get grandkids really? Oh, it’s better than best. I’ll tell you, they’re just such a joy for three, almost two and seven months.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  38:54

So do you see them all the time?

Gina McCarthy  38:56

I did. Well, three of them. And I say you know that my The oldest is in New Jersey. So I know it’s not a long way. But it tends to be when you want to see him all the course.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  39:07

Yeah. Is there anything you wish you’d spent less time on? Besides shopping for pants?

Gina McCarthy  39:17

No, I’ve sort of lived my life the way I wanted to, I guess. Maybe I should buy a few shirts too. What do you think?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  39:26

I think maybe you should spend more time on shopping. I don’t I don’t think I would. I can’t imagine that I would have ever said this. But I think it’s time for you to really focus on shopping. Yeah, that’s probably true. I think I have to come to Boston and we’re going somewhere or you’re in New York.

Gina McCarthy  39:48

Just bring your checkbook. You know, I’m just a government worker.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  39:52

Yeah, done and done. Sorry. exco know exactly. What are you looking forward to? Is there something you’re looking forward to?

Gina McCarthy  40:00

Yeah, this lots. I think I’m looking forward to spending more time with my kids. I think if there’s any regret that I’ve had is that I think I could have spent more time with my kids rather than my work. So I’ve missed some of that. But I don’t know whether they feel that way. I’m sure they’d tell me if they did. They’re just about as shy as I am. Got it. But I just want to relax a little bit. I’m I’m really looking forward. And I think I’ve done pretty well to just finding a way to chill and finding a way to get a little more exercise again?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  40:36

You gotta go swimming.

Gina McCarthy  40:38

I’ve thought about that. I found a couple of swimming pools in the area. So I gotta, I gotta get my button.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  40:44

I started swimming recently. I have to tell you, I find it very meditative. After certain point it getting going. Yes. I mean, it’s difficult for me anyway, we’re there. It’s hard. But then you get into a rhythm. And I just, it’s really good for the brain.

Gina McCarthy  41:00

I loved it. Well, I was a lifeguard for years. So I do college and stuff. And, and I used to swim all the time every day. And I loved when you hit that moment that you’re talking about. Yeah. You know, when you all you can hear is your breath.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  41:16

It’s unbelievable. It’s really cool. It’s proper meditation is what it is.

Gina McCarthy  41:21

It is great. Plus, it’s great sweat. It’s great exercise, especially when it my age.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  41:27

I think when we go shopping, we’re getting you all sorts of new pants and really lovely blouses, jackets, possibly a dress and by the way, a new bathing suit. I feel that

Gina McCarthy  41:39

I will draw the line at bathing caps. I really don’t like that look.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  41:45

Oh, then you don’t want to come swimming with me. i That is I? Let’s just say it’s the opposite of sexy. I don’t know what the what that word is. But that’s what I am. Gina, I can’t tell you how much fun this has been to hang out with you and talk.

Gina McCarthy  42:02

Julia. No, I love you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. It’s great to spend time with you again.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:07

Likewise, likewise. I hope I see you sometime soon.

Gina McCarthy  42:11

We’ll make that up. All right. Big hug. Take care.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:15

Okay, we have to take a quick break right now. And when we come back, it’s time to zoom my mom. Okay, I can’t wait to talk to my mom about this conversation with Gina. I’m going to zoom in right now.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:50

Mommy, can you see me?

Judith Bowles  42:52

Yeah, I can see you and I just dropped my mouse. Two seconds. Let me just do this thing. Where’s my little zoom thing.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  43:04

Hi, Mom.

Judith Bowles  43:04

Hi, sweetheart. How are you?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  43:21

I’m good. I just talked to Gina McCarthy.

Judith Bowles  43:24

Oh, for heaven’s sakes. Wow. Wow. Wow. Yeah. Are you smarter than ever? I wonder if that’s a bad way to go?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  43:46

I think it’s probably I think talk about word to the wise. I think we should all probably be paying a lot less attention to shopping, although I’m saying that knowing that I don’t believe a word that I just said.

Judith Bowles  43:59

But you can talk about things that shouldn’t be.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  44:03

We can be aspirational.

Judith Bowles  44:07

Tell me something. How did she get into the into the work? Is she is she a scientist?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  44:11

No, she’s not Her career began in the 80s She was the public health officer in Canton, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

Judith Bowles  44:22

When did Gore first do the inconvenient truth?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  44:24

  1. That’s when it came out. So you know, and, and remember you and I and daddy, we went and heard Gore speak well, before it was the movie and he was giving the talk about global warming.

Judith Bowles  44:38

He was just on fire about giving a talk. Right. Exactly. Yeah, it’s certainly the environment and climate change. And this is taking hold and more and more people, including the young people and and his struck me. I remember so well during World War Two, the war effort and our universal In this country the war effort was and how I did truly think if I bought those same stamps, and then I got my bond. And then I gathered up my scrap metal. And I took it to the collection place. I didn’t truly think that that was going to help won the war. I mean, there was no question in my mind. And I was like, you know, eight years old? Yeah, there was a fervor about it. And it was universal. And I was thinking to myself, Jesus, I wish that the environment could take on that kind of mission where every single person thought every single thing that they did was crucial.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  45:34

Well, mom, maybe that’s happening, maybe that is we are on the road towards that, you know, and it really speaks to a kind of a connectivity you felt to your community and to your country, and to human beings, was, you know, I mean, in other words, it was you are not alone. And it spoke to that. And I think if the environmental messaging is correct, it can tap into exactly that fervor you’re talking about, I think?

Judith Bowles  46:04

Well, you know, here in our condo, we have a woman that’s very much into energy. And she has been a she moved here about four years ago. And boy, she has taken off, you know, we’re composting now, of course, we’ve been recycling for a long time. But now she’s going over all kinds of energy things. She has a whole list of, if you leave a room, 15 minutes, you turn the lights off. And that’s one of the things and then she has all kinds of other suggestions that are on the bulletin board?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  46:31

Mom, or is there resistance at all in the building to these suggestions?

Judith Bowles  46:35

Well, there’s resistance in that certain people have made fun of her. You know, there she goes again. But now if you can tell it the meetings, that she is front and center, and she’s, she’s Intrepid, and she doesn’t give a crap about who loves her who doesn’t love her. She is here to make this this place, more energy efficient. And my hat’s off to her. And you can tell that she gets listened to now. And she talks a little bit less. You know, she she stands up and she says certain things because she’s got us on a certain track. And she really gets listened to carefully.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  47:09

Oh, I’m so pleased to hear that. Gina McCarthy sort of going gray at the age of 13/3. Oh my gosh. Oh, but she said she loved it. Yeah, right.

Judith Bowles  47:20

Well, it’s, it’s so stunning when you’re when you’re young.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  47:24

That’s what she said. She said it distinguished her sheet because she has blue eyes. And she had this beautiful gray hair. And she said it was like it made her feel really special. She says now she doesn’t feel special. But she it’s still very pretty. Yeah. So interesting. Was that a hard decision for you to make that decision to go gray?

Judith Bowles  47:42

Yeah, it was a huge decision. And I plan to do it when I was 70. But then somehow, the days went by I sort of got through my 70s. And then and then I think it was a long around that when I was in my late 70s that I said, I really was curious as to what was under there. Yeah. And I found a wonderful hairdresser who shepherded me along and helped me do it. And was very encouraging, which is very important, you know, because it’s a big change. I was happy I did it. But I still you know, when I see pictures of myself as a brunette, I think well, but well.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  48:18

You can always dial it back. I like your gray hair mummy. I think it looks fantastic. I really do.

Judith Bowles  48:26

Thanks. Thanks, sweetheart. I I’m glad I did it. And I’ve never you know, I’ve never really seriously considered going backwards. Yeah, so once you’ve done it, you’ve done.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  48:36

Well, I love you tons. And I will talk to you later.

Judith Bowles  48:41

Thank you for doing such such good work for not only for your family and for the people that you love, but for the all the people that you love in the world.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  48:50

Okay, you’re welcome world and mommy.

Judith Bowles  48:53

Okay, I mean that to me, I really mean that.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  48:56

Okay. Thanks, mom. Okay, love you. Bye, mom. Mom, mom. Okay. My mother didn’t push leave. We’re just looking at her desk top. Possibly. Mom, can you hear me? Yeah. Okay, hold on. I’m gonna call her. Oh, brother. Mom.


There’s more WISER THAN ME with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. WISER THAN ME is a production of Lemonada Media created and hosted by me Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease , Alex McOwen and Hoja Lopez. Brad Hall as a consulting producer. Our senior editor is Tracy Clayton. Rachel Neil is our senior director of new content and our VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, Paula Kaplan and me. The show is mixed by Kat Yore and Johnny Vince Evans and music by Henry Hall. Special thanks to Charlotte Chrisman Cohen, Ivan Kuraev, and Kegan Zema. And, of course, my mother Judith Bowles. Follow wiser than me wherever you get your podcasts and hey, if there’s an old lady in your life, listen up.

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