When I grow up, I want to be Lauren Bowles. Granted, it might be a little late for that since I’m already pushing thirty, but a girl can dream. Bowles has the kind of innate talent money and training can’t buy (although she has trained with some of the most prestigious institutions out there), and an ease about her that exudes a confident self-awareness both on and off screen. You can’t help but be drawn to her performances making even short appearances, like the “Waitress” in Seinfeld or the “Narcoleptic Stripper” in Arrested Development, some of the most memorable in these popular shows.
Since joining True Blood in Season 3, her character Holly Cleary has moved front and center in Bon Temps, developing a close relationship with fellow waitress Arlene (Carrie Preston), becoming a love interest for the hapless Sheriff Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), and becoming part of one of the show’s most “did I just really see that?” moments (we all know I’m talking about birthing those fairy babies).
When I spoke to Bowles for this interview, I was immediately struck by her love of show (she describes herself as having been a “huge, huge fan” prior to being cast), of her fellow cast members, and the art of acting in general. In a conversation that involved lots of laughing and a few fun tangents, she was kind enough to share a bit about how she got her start, this season of True Blood, and her beliefs in a healthy, natural lifestyle. Read on for the full interview…
The Daily Quirk: I know that you studied theater and NYU, but when did you first realize you wanted to pursue acting as a career?
Lauren Bowles: You know, I got bit by the acting bug when I was twelve. In seventh grade you did your first full length play in drama at the school I went to, Sidwell Friends, and I got cast in The Man Who Came to Dinner as the very glamorous stage actress Lorraine Sheldon, and I got my first laugh and my fate was sealed [laughing]. It was sort of like one of those slow-mo epiphany moments and I just thought, ‘I must do this. I must find a way to do this.’ So I was quite young. I didn’t start doing it professionally, mind you, because my parents gave the big no on the childhood star route, but they were very supportive in terms of letting me take any sort of acting classes or camps or any studying I wanted to do; they fully provided.
TDQ: You’ve made acting a family affair, appearing with your sister, fellow actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine, and with your husband, actor Patrick Fischler, recently on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
LB: Exactly. And we [she and Fischler] had a theater company that we performed in a lot when we first moved out to LA. And two other weird professional ones: we both did an episode of Veronica Mars that we got to do together and we are both, oddly, in Ghost World. Although we don’t have a scene together in Ghost World.
TDQ: Let’s talk about Seinfeld for a moment. How did your now iconic role as the waitress comes about?
LB: That came about by dear sissy [Julia Louis-Dreyfus]. During college, I would always come out and visit when they were doing the show [Seinfeld], sort of for my Spring break. She knew I needed my SAG card. So, she asked dear Mr. Larry David if I could have a line to get my SAG card and he said ‘Absolutely.’ Then once I moved out I had come to a taping and they needed a waitress again. He said ‘Hey, do you want to do that again?” and I said ‘Um, Yeah!’ And it became this sort of semi-regular gig. I think I ended up doing about eight different episodes, which I’m still getting checks for, gratefully.
TDQ: And I would imagine you still get recognized for that role too.
LB: Not as much anymore because it was so long ago. I had short gym teacher hair [laughing]. Although, that was in the ‘English Patient’ episode. In ‘Big Salad to Go’ and the ‘Finger’ episode, I think my hair was a little longer. It was so long ago, but every once in a blue moon someone will be like ‘Hey! You’re the finger girl.’ And I’ll be like ‘Yes, I’m the finger girl.’ My claim to fame.
TDQ: What about Curb Your Enthusiasm? How did you and your husband wind up together on the show?
LB: The old fashioned way. We both auditioned. Larry knew us both well from over the years and I think he liked the idea of casting a real life couple. I’m sure that was a selling point. We did audition for it separately though.
TDQ: What was it like playing a married couple on screen?
LB: So much fun because even though they’re married they were obviously so different from us [laughing]. It’s always nice when you don’t have to work hard to show the history. It was sort of built in.
TDQ: Acting seems to be the family business. Any chance your daughter Fia will be joining you on screen?
LB: We get asked that all the time because she’s very cute and people are like ‘Oh, she’s just like Shirley Temple. You guys gotta put her in commercials.’ But we both feel, fortunately, the same, which is a big fat no. I really am so grateful to my parents that they didn’t let me do it. I fully support her if this is what she wants to do when she gets older, but it’s not world I have any interest in her spending her childhood in.
TDQ: Fans can currently see you on True Blood as Wiccan and waitress Holly Cleary. I’ve heard you were a big fan of the show before you joined the cast. Is that true?
LB: Huge, huge fan. First actually, I should say huge Alan Ball fan because American Beauty was just one of those movies that changed my life kind of. I didn’t even know this kind of writing existed. Then I went to [watch] Six Feet Under and True Blood. His writing has always just completely captured me. So of course when True Blood, his new show, aired, I became quickly obsessed.
TDQ: What attracted you to the character?
LB: I liked her groundedness and her real faith in the Wiccan religion and all things in the natural world. I think she has a lot of faith in that and that’s a similarity I’d say we have. I’m not a practicing Wiccan or anything, but I’m a big yogi and love to take hikes and be in nature. That aspect of her really spoke to me.
TDQ: What was it like the first time you put on the uniform and stepped into Merlotte’s?
LB: Insane. My first episode, actually, I’m interviewing for the job. That was my first scene that I got to do with the fabulous Miss Carrie Preston. I just remember first walking onto that set, I felt like I was Dorothy in Oz. I couldn’t believe I was there. I knew Alan was going to be at the audition and there were so many big name people there for the audition, much bigger names than myself. I thought, ‘Well, a part like this that’s potentially a series regular the following year, they’re going to go with a much bigger name.’ So my goal, really, was to not screw up the audition so they’d bring me back for a guest spot, truly [laughing]. So when I got the call, by the time I drove home from the audition I got the call that I booked it; I could not believe it.
TDQ: Is there a moment that sticks out as your favorite filming the show so far?
LB: There’s been so many. I, of course, love every scene I get to do with Chris Bauer, who I just adore. I have to say birthing the fairy babies was quite fun because that was an episode that Alan had written, so any time that I got to work with him was just a dream come true. And then, you know, Kristina [Anapau] who played our Maurella, I was just all up in her hizzy for an entire day. Just staring right into her… [laughing] and the light panties that they used to make her glow. That was really great fun. And then we got to play with actual real live babies which is always great. I think that even took two days to shoot that scene and that was really fun.
TDQ: I was actually just about to ask you about that scene. Holly and Andy seem to have really gotten to a good place now after that fairy baby mama on the side incident.
LB: Yes, because for a while it didn’t look good. You didn’t know. So much has happened, but she certainly was none too happy with him upon learning about the cheating for sure. But this season is so the season of survival, and with everything that happened with his daughters those sorts of personal dynamics go out the window. You really have to sort of bond with who you’ve got because everyone’s literally running for their lives this year.
TDQ: Were you surprised by Holly’s decision to forgive Andy?
LB: I would have been surprised if he had just earned it back without the drama because I would have thought she would have really stood up for herself more there and not put up with that. She’s really strong, I would say, and doesn’t take a lot of shit from people. But really, she’s also a very compassionate soul. So, I think she did know that he felt awful about it and also seeing the pain that he’s gone through with the loss of his daughters, she was very quickly able to put it aside because as a parent she knows better than anyone that there’s no greater loss than the idea of losing a child. It didn’t surprise me that they sort of ended up back together.
TDQ: While we’re discussing Bellefleurs, you’re the first cast member we’ve spoken to since the big death reveal. Can you tell me a little bit about what it was like for the cast when you first found out Todd Lowe would be leaving?
LB: Total shock because you know, our show doesn’t really do that. It kind of brings a lot of people on and kills a lot of those people, but the core cast of which Todd was really a part of we’re not really Games of Thrones-y with. I was totally surprised when he told me that he had gotten the call. They’re always very nice and let you know in advance. You don’t just get the script and read it. So when he told me he was going this year, I was very surprised. And also because I know how much they love him. I think they just sort of felt like the show was needing a big loss.
TDQ: A lot of names were being thrown about in regard to who the big death this season was going to be and I think losing Terry took a lot of fans by surprise.
LB: Absolutely, because there’s not many of us humans left and I think we [humans] are such an important part of the show, and by that I don’t mean crazy governors and people that are trying to kill vampires, but the ones that really are in Bon Temps that are sort of the fabric of the town. And he and Arlene were such a beloved couple and he [the character of Terry] was just a good sweet simple guy. I could completely see how people were so emotionally invested in the two of them and their relationship. I certainly know I was. When I got the script, just picturing the two of them doing that and her sort of singing the lullaby to him as he’s dying; I completely cried. I know in so many interviews you read that people read it [a script] and cried, and people think that’s bullshit, but I really did. I think it was really beautifully done.
TDQ: Holly’s relationship with Arlene has really strengthened across the seasons. Will Holly be helping Arlene through the loss?
LB: I think she does. I don’t want to give too much away, but you know obviously Arlene’s going to need a lot of support. I think that’s something Holly’s really good at because, as I said before, she’s a very strong, compassionate soul. She’s truly a column, if you will, that a lot of people lean on and she is more than willing to be there for the people that she truly cares about and loves. And Arlene is absolutely one of those. From the start, pretty much, they had so much in common. At the time, they were both single moms and just know each other’s world quite well, although they’re very different characters. I think they really enjoy each other.
TDQ: It seemed like the two characters really clicked from the start.
LB: Exactly. I think they have a lot of similarities and then obviously as people they’re so very different which I think really makes them click.
TDQ: We haven’t seen Holly use magic in awhile now. Any chance she’ll be using some before the end of the season?
LB: We’ve sort of focused a little bit away from her Wiccan world because this season, like I said, is really everyone running for their lives. It’s a lot more about building community and the dynamics of what happens to relationships when everyone is under this duress. I would say the focus this year is much more on personal relationships than it is necessarily on her Wiccan faith.
TDQ: I know you can’t reveal anything too spoilery, but if you had to sum up the remaining episodes of the season in just a few words, what would they be?
LB: Oh my god. Survival. Survival. Survival. Literally, for everyone on the show and that is not a joke.
TDQ: You have another project coming up, The Starving Games, where you play Effoff. Can you tell me a little about that?
LB: Yes! The Starving Games was hilarious. It’s one of those spoof movies and it’s spoofing, the main one obviously being, The Hunger Games, which I absolutely adored as a film. And so when they had told me that I’d be playing Effoff which is like the Elizabeth Banks character [Effie in The Hunger Games] I was more than a little excited. I got to thinking, ‘Ok. What the hell kind of costumes are they going to put me in?’ [Laughing] They did not disappoint. I can tell you that much.
TDQ: Do you have any other upcoming projects you can share with our readers?
LB: Yes. My husband and I last year made a short film that I wrote called The Test. And actually, again we play a married couple, but a married couple that is at a very sort of critical point in their relationship. It’s basically about a couple taking a pregnancy test, but there’s a kind of twist to it. We’ve been doing the film festival circuit with some great success. We won the Sun Valley Festival [Best Short Film 2013] up in Idaho and have gotten into a bunch. Our next festival that we’re in is the Washington West Festival in Washington, D.C. my hometown, which we’ll be going to in October so that’s great fun.
TDQ: Do you prefer comedy or drama? Does one come more naturally than the other?
LB: It’s really apples and oranges. I truly don’t know how to pick. I get asked that all the time and they each have their own challenges and are both utterly fun to do. I would say I’m most at home in comedy because that’s sort of where I started, but I really love both genuinely.
TDQ: Let’s talk a little bit more about your life outside of acting. You’re a big proponent of a healthy and natural lifestyle. Was that always an important part of your life or way it something that evolved over time?
LB: No, no. It’s been a real personal evolution to kind of get where I am and I call myself now, I’m like a self-professed nutrition enthusiast. When I moved out here, I got really involved in yoga and meditation. The more aware you become, aware of your own existence, you really start paying attention to how your body feels and how much what you put into it affects that. I’m kind of a bit insatiable when it comes to nutrition information and learning about different ways of eating. It’s sort of hard though. I was just reading about the Paleo Diet, which is very high in protein. I would say I’m about 80 percent vegan. Every school of thought has its own literature and its own studies to back it up. It’s really hard to figure out what is the truth [laughing] and really I don’t think there is one truth. I’m of the Michael Pollan school of thought, just eat as many fruits and veggies as you can, whether or not you have some meat with that. The main thing I feel strongly about is that things be organic, grass-fed if it’s meat, and as low pesticides as we can put into our bodies because it’s such a barrage of toxins that our bodies have to digest daily even if we’re eating healthy just from the air we breathe. But it’s easy to say now. In my 20s, I was having chocolate cake for dinner and calling it quits [laughing]. So, it’s definitely something I’ve grown to be very interested in.
TDQ: And how did you get started with yoga?
LB: I had a studio near me and I had been reading a lot about it so I thought, ‘Alright, I’ll try it.’ I have to confess, I hated it at first. I was used to a gym and it felt very slow. But yet, I kept going. So some part of me unconsciously knew this was what I needed to do, but I would really have to drag my ass to the mat. I was so happy when it was over, but what I started noticing was how good I felt when it was over. More than just getting the physical workout, I kind have had the feeling like I had just gotten sort of an internal massage. Attention the breath and all of that started making me see, ‘Wait, there’s really something here.’ And then once I started noticing that I had to drag myself less and less. I just started craving it.
TDQ: Hopefully, that will inspire some of our readers to give it a try or stick with it.
LB: Absolutely. And the beauty of yoga is that no one is necessarily good at it. There’s no way it should be. It only looks like what it looks like on you. It helps you to truly embrace where you are now and hopefully make you feel better. And who doesn’t want that?
TDQ: We like to end things on a fun note, so if you were a Wiccan like Holly for a day, and could only use magic to do something fun, what would it be?
LB: I could only use it for fun. What would I do? I would want to fly. I would want to find that magic broomstick and fly [laughing].
The Daily Quirk would like to thank the wonderful Lauren Bowles for taking the time to chat with us! To find out more about Lauren, you can follow her on Twitter, and be sure to tune in and watch her Sunday nights on HBO’s True Blood.