Greta Lee double-fisted coffee and water in an effort to survive her first SXSW festival experience, where she premiered two buzzy films: “Gemini” with Zoë Kravitz and Lola Kirke, and “Fits and Starts” about a successful scribe married to a struggling writer, played by Wyatt Cenac. The latter reunited her with Laura Terruso, who served as the director of photography during the first season of “High Maintenance,” in which Lee plays Homeless Heidi, a fan favorite. “I just loved the way she worked. She had that rare gift of specificity but immense trust,” Lee says of the writer-director-producer, who co-wrote the script for “Hello My Name is Doris,” a breakout hit at South by in 2015.
PROVENANCE: La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.
CHILDHOOD AMBITION: “My parents are immigrants from South Korea who have no ties to the [film] business. I thought I was going to be a lawyer. I just wanted to make my parents happy.” Cut to: Lee staging backyard productions of “The Babysitter’s Club” and going on to study musical theater at Northwestern University. “I had aspirations to become the Ethel Merman of my generation, and that’s basically what I’m doing, obviously,” she cracks.
BIG BREAKS: After a stint on Broadway in the musical “Spelling Bee,” she starred in “4000 Miles” at Lincoln Center, where Lena Dunham took notice. “She’s like, ‘I wrote a part for you on my little show called “Girls,” which hasn’t premiered yet.’ It was pretty wild.” Comic turns in “New Girl,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” and “Sisters” followed. “Everything just sort of happened simultaneously. It was just being in New York and being around these incredibly talented funny young women was very beneficial to me to ride on all of those coattails basically.”
CHAMPIONING DIVERSITY: “I feel really lucky that Laura was casting racially blind. It’s not even something that Wyatt and I even discussed outright. If anything we were discussing things about just being a married couple, but I think it’s important to see that [diversity] represented, and it’s disappointing that it’s still so rare that it happens.”
KISSING KRAVITZ: “I don’t think that I had ever expected that I would be like making out with Zoë Kravitz while being pregnant,” says Lee of playing Kravitz’s love interest in “Gemini” while four months pregnant with her now 7-month-old son. “They shot around my belly. That was totally just mind-blowingly strange in the best way.”
FASHION PHILOSOPHY: “We have to enjoy ourselves,” says the tattooed New York transplant, explaining her love of the irreverent Sandy Liang, her designer of choice for the fest. “I’m wearing a special skirt that from far away, it looks like polka dots, but if you look close they’re Cheetos and tampons. Is that not nonsense? It makes me so happy,” says Lee, aptly embodying the town’s motto to “Keep Austin Weird.”
UP NEXT: She’s shooting “Broad City” and the second season of “Chance” with Hugh Laurie, along with her own digital series called “Hibiscus” about an “It girl/DJ/model/artist/handbag designer/beauty ambassador.”