Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lauren Bowles knows being on True Blood is so right on every level

As featured on The Vault -

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to the wonderful Lauren Bowles who plays the wiccan waitress, Holly, on True Blood.

I found Lauren delightful to speak to and it was great to learn about her life and her experiences on the show. Just like all of the cast members I've previously spoken to, she too gushed about what a great experience it has been. I'm not sure what Alan Ball's magic is, but he must really and truly be a genius, because I have never heard anyone say anything but positive statements about their time on the show.
To quote Lauren, "When it’s kinda just right at every level, everyone feels it and is just so happy to be there."

Lauren also talks about how she loves the cast and particularly commented on those she has worked most with, Carrie Preston, Rutina Wesley and the great Fiona Shaw.

She talks about her first day on the set and says: "..stepping into Merlotte’s was, as a fan, you can guess that it is as iconic as it can get and was the most I ever felt like Dorothy stepping into Oz."

Be sure to see Lauren back to back on HBO, this Sunday, July 31, when she guest stars with her husband, Patrick Fischler on Curb your Enthusiasm right after True Blood. 

Below is my interview with Lauren.

Did you always want to be an actress? What made you want to be an actress?Basically, I grew up in Washington,DC and went to a great school, actually where the Obama girls are going now and they had a great, great drama program. In 7th grade I got cast in the play, “The Man Who Came To Dinner” as Lorraine Sheldon and I got my first laugh and it was like one of those epiphany moments and my fate was sealed, as it were. I got completely bit by the bug and knew from then on this is what I wanted to do. My parents were awesome about it and completely supportive and I, of course, wanted to do it professionally, but they jumped in and said, we will support any acting classes, training, etc., but until you’re 18 we want you to have a real home life experience. Much to my chagrin I obviously had to go along with them, but in retrospect I am grateful. Then I went on to NYU to be an undergraduate drama major and spent a couple of years doing New York Theater and then to LA.

I see that your half sister is Julie Louis Dryfus, did she get into acting before you or was it you who started first?  Was she an influence?
Yes, she’s my big sis. She is nine years older and she went to another school, but as a little kid we were always traipsing out to see her in all her plays. I was in 7th grade when she got hired to be on Saturday Night Live. Without her, I still think I would have found it [acting], but she absolutely influenced me and helped pave the way with my parents who already had one actor so it wasn’t necessarily a huge shock that they had another. So, it’s been nothing but a major bonus having her as a big older sister.

Tell us about your role on Seinfeld, and what was that like working with your sister and on such a popular show? Did she have anything to do with you getting the part?
Oh, 100%, if was pure nepotism. When I moved out to LA, she said, “you have to get your SAG card” and “I think Larry [David] needs a waitress in the coffee shop, let me talk to him about it.”

At this time you have to remember that Seinfeld wasn’t the monster “out of the gate” hit; this is very early on, and I was quite young and it didn’t feel like the biggest break ever. Obviously it was great to have help to get your SAG card and I ended doing about 8 episodes in the run of the series and again, that was 100% big sister nepotism.

You worked with your husband Patrick Fischler on Curb your Enthusiasm recently, right?
Yes, exactly. That was a dream job, getting to work with my husband and Larry [David] again and coincidentally, the studio is about 5 minutes from where we are and we got to hang out with our baby girl, shoot together and were home before dinner. I think that airs on this Sunday, July 31.

Was this the first time you worked with your husband? What was it like, did you enjoy it? Would you do it again?
We have worked together before. Actually, it’s a funny story. We met at NYU and we were best friends for nine years before we got together as a couple. Then, we were living together for about eight years before we got married. So, I really feel like, although we haven’t been married that long, that we’re like an old married couple because we knew each other for so long before we got together and we’ve been together so long, just not all of those years legally.

When we moved out here to LA, we had a theater company that my husband started and we’ve done tons of theater together. Then, oddly, we were in Ghostworld and were in an episode of Veronica Mars together. So, periodically, we’ve gotten to play together professionally.

You’ve done lots of TV and film, can you talk about your favorites?  Do you prefer TV over film?
Absolutely, yes!

Theater is my roots and I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. Obviously, New York is a much more theater based community then we have out here, but I really love theater so I’m dying, dying, dying to get back on the stage because there is nothing like a live audience.
In terms of TV vs. film, it’s really hard to say. To work on an hour long show before a camera and in front of an audience is obviously a whole different beast. An hour long show is very cinematic and the experience is so different.

I’ve heard it said that True Blood is shot like a film, is that correct?
Completely. The average episode takes about 12 days to shoot which is much longer than most TV hour longs get, so it feels like we are making these sort of mini-movies each week.

I love film, I’m a huge movie buff. Old movies I adore, and until recently you’d say that the quality of film is so much better [than TV], but really today with cable now there’s some great television being made. For film, everything is so expensive, even Sundance is so “hollywoodised,” it’s so different now.  With the cable channels now, it’s the new place to be where you get left alone to do what you want.

Before you were cast as Holly, you were already a huge fan True Blood, right?.
Huge fan! Although, I’ve been schooled by all these fan sites that I’ve been talking to. I thought I was a fan until I met the true, true fans and everyone knows so much more than I ever did. I was completely glued and never missed an episode, but I didn’t have nearly the depth of knowledge that some of the really hard core fans have.

I’m a huge Alan Ball fan starting with American Beauty, one of my all time favorite movies, I kid you not.  And then Six Feet Under and True Blood.  If he’s written it, I’m there. So, I absolutely loved the series and continue to watch it.

Can you still watch the show as a fan now that you are part of the production?
It’s crazy, I forget sometimes, I’m so swept up. We are watching and there are tons of scenes I’m not in so I’m so swept up by it and obviously, I know what is going to happen, but then I see myself on the screen and I think, Oh my God, I forgot I’m on the show, this is so cool.

Did you audition for any other parts on the show, or just Holly?
Yes, I only auditioned for Holly. The audition came in and my goal was just do well enough that they will bring me back for a guest spot. Because it seemed like such a huge part to get, I thought, oh, they’re going to get a name or something so I was concentrating on hoping that they bring me back to read for something else. But, I auditioned, and by the time I got home, I received the call that I had gotten it and I was floored. So, I only had to audition once. The bonus of HBO is that they trust Alan, obviously he was in the room, and he gets to cast it. Normally, elsewhere, for a part of this size you’d go back a bunch of times, you read for the studio, you read for the network and all of that.

How did Holly get interested in being a wiccan?  Did it have anything to do with her history of rape?
I don’t think it was one isolated event. I see Holly as a true, true survivor and she’s a single mom and obviously a rape surviror. Her life has not been easy and she is forever searching for peace. The wiccan religion, the more I read about it, is a really beautiful religion, very nature based and it’s a feminine diety, it’s a goddess that they worship. It has a lot to offer in terms of comfort I think and so I that’s probably what attracted her to it.

Did you draw upon your personal experiences to play Holly?
She is very different from me, but I think what we have in common is that she has a real comfort of self that I think, I too possess. She is not someone who puts on airs or pretends to be anything other than what she is and I like to think I have that, although my friends could say I’m full of shit. Obviously, I’m not a wiccan myself, but I’m a big meditater and I read a lot of Buddhism and as in most great religions I think that there is a commonality. Also, I’m a big holistic gal. I never like taking medicine if there’s a herb to take for it, so there’s that amazing cross over. Obviously, I’m an east coaster, went to college and studied acting so there are some vast differences as well, but I like to think that at our core, there are some real similarities.

What is it like being on True Blood? Who do you work with best on the show so far?
It was really fun at the end of Season 3, most of my stuff was with Carrie Preston (Arlene) and that was just an absolute perfect indoctrination into the show because she is so beyond talented. Everyone associates her with Arlene, but I’ve seen her elsewhere, she was in a play I saw with a friend of mine in New York and she went to Julliard so we have things in common. She is so unbelievably talented as an actor and it was great fun to sort of jump in the deep end with her and she was just so welcoming.

My first day at work, I showed up on set and the show, being an established hit, you just never know what you are going to get. And, I've learned that you can get the best scuttlebutt from the hair and makeup team and I said to them, so prep me; what’s everyone like really, who should I watch out for? And they were like, no one, there really are no bad apples. I’m like, come on, really who do I need to prep for and they said, no, really and I thought we’ll wait and see. I’ve now worked with most of the cast, not everyone since as you know it’s a big, big cast so there’s still a good quarter group I haven’t worked with yet, but they're all great and I’ve had so much fun.
I’ve worked lots with Rutina Wesley (Tara) who is a complete blast to work with. I think I’m the most surprised by just how versatile and good everyone is, even though I knew that, as a fan, I loved everyone’s acting. When you’re in the same room with them there’s no faking it, there’s no camera angles, there’s no editing to help you out there and you really see just how talented everyone is. It’s the truth, I’ve worked long enough now to know that this really just never ever happens. And I know that if I weren’t on the show and hearing this interview, I wouldn’t believe, it, I’d think oh, she’s lying, but I’m just telling you, it’s really true because everyone is just so happy to be there.  That’s because it all starts with Alan [Ball], everything is trickle down, and its who he assembles from the cinematographer to the directors to the writing staff. The writing staff I can’t go off enough about and all of the actors. When it’s kinda just right at every level, everyone feels it and is just so happy to be there.

Everyone said working with Fiona Shaw was great, did you have that experience, too? What was it like working with her or any of the others?
I’m going to sound like a gusher now. I can’t say enough about Fiona Shaw. I was so nervous to meet her because I am a huge Fiona Shaw fan starting with My Left Foot, and The Doctrine. I’ve seen her on stage, too. I mean this woman is mythic.

When I met her, I was very nervous. Obviously, I was going to be working with her a lot this year so I had to go up to her sheepishly, like a fan. She is everything you want her to be and more.  She is this huge, huge actress but, talk about unassuming, she is this “funky, idiosyncratic woman who is like, “Oh, I don’t know, yes, yes, what do you think, is it going to be good, are we going to have fun?”  And, I say, oh it’s totally going to be fun. She is just a hoot. I have seen them give her like last minute Latin rewrites to learn, I kid you not, and she has it memorized in like ten minutes and nails it. It’s like a master class working with her; it was a real treat of the season for me, working with her.

Being a waitress in Merlotte’s is a dangerous job, what are the odds Holly will survive another season?
The body count keeps rising for those waitresses. I can only say that it’s a possibility Holly will be back and I have my fingers crossed for her return.

The True Blood sets by Suzuki Ingerslev and her team are so spot on and rich in detail. How important is the set quality to you as an actress?
It’s incredible and it just makes our job so much easier.  My husband worked on Mad Men for a season and it’s the same thing on that show. The shows that offer that level of specificity are such a treat because again, it’s not common. Obviously, I do a lot in the Moon Goddess Emporium and for my two year old daughter, that was her favorite set to come to. The detail you can just imagine, the teas and the potions and the herbs, and the crystals and everything. But, on my first day, stepping into Merlotte’s was, as a fan, you can guess that it is as iconic as it can get and the was the most I ever felt like Dorothy stepping into Oz.

What do you like most about being on True Blood?
The hours are long and particularly night shoots, and because obviously it’s always life or death stakes; it’s either that or sex on the show, there’s not really much in-between and so both options are so heightened. But the surrealist aspects of working on the show are when it’s three o’clock in the morning and you know you’ve got people looking and you’re in battle trying to kill each other and then they yell, CUT, and you are joking the most crassest jokes, that I probably can’t repeat but the camaraderie off set is goofy, fucked up and hilarious and it’s just so incongruous to the intense world; it’s the opposite of that.

It sounds like it’s a lot of fun.
I tell everyone that it is so, so much fun, I feel really blessed.

Is Holly going to find any love in the show?
Well, there might be, there just might be a little love for Holly; it’s entirely possible. There might just be some interest coming her way that she’s going to explore, she said coyly.

Both the words witch and wiccan are used, are they the same thing?
You could say that it’s all ultimately semantics.The word wiccan is the religion, some people would not refer to themselves as a witch, they say, “I’m a wiccan.” If you’re a true wiccan it’s not what people associate with Bewitched, broomsticks or the Wizard of Oz or any of that, it’s a lot more of a religion. Witches or wiccans are really just practitioners of that religion and some are just more tapped into their powers than others, I would say.

Do you believe in the supernatural?
Good question, I don’t believe in vampires, but I believe that there is absolutely more in this world we live in. I absolutely believe in the soul and a self and that there’s more to it.

Did you ever have a supernatural experience?
No, not a tangible one, but I meditate and I feel that I’ve tapped into a strong sense that there’s something more that we’ve had here, but no I haven’t had a outer body experience or anything, although it sounds like great fun.

Did you know anything about Wiccans before you were cast?
Not really, only peripherally. I used to babysit a 12 year old girl who claimed she was a wiccan and had some books and stuff about it. I would fully support her in her endeavor and would hear all about it from her. I did once have my palms read and the palm reader did tell me that I was a witch, which I loved. This was over twelve years ago and when he looked at my palms, he exclaimed, “Oh, You’re a Witch, you’re quite powerful.” I took it as a compliment.

If you could cast a spell, what would it be and who would you do it to?
I would cast a spell over Washingto to figure out our damn economy and over the nation to give Obama another four years.

What are you doing next, tells us about your upcoming film roles?
Curb Your Enthusiasm right after True Blood this Sunday and other than that I’ve been True Blooding and I’ve been missing my baby girl terribly so I’m just sort of drinking her up right now and I’m hoping to get back to do some theater in the fall and that’s it for now.

I have a baby girl, and although I keep calling her baby girl, she is two so welcome to my own form of delusion

Do you have any pets.
I have the two most magnificent doggies. Everyone said that when the baby was born that they would become second class citizens in our house and I’m happy to say that did not happen. Although it’s true that they don’t have College funds, so technically maybe they’re not exactly equal, but they are in everything else. I have the most delicious fourteen year old mutt and then a two year old Chihuahua.

Do you go to fan sites, read about yourself or go to message boards?
Ultimately no, however I must confess there have been some late nights when I can’t fall asleep and I am not beneath Google-ing myself.  Everyone says that is the worst thing to do, but I think I must have a thick skin, because for the most part I think “Oh, that’s nice” and when I come upon something bad it usually makes me laugh. It’s either so incredibly rude that it makes me think about the people who have time to write this and sometimes what really makes me laugh is when they are oddly accurate.

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