True Lauren Bowles
At Home & On Screen
by Pamela Price
photos by Michael Bezjian
hair by Aubrey Loots
makeup by Stephanie Cardenas for STUDIO DNA
“True Blood” will go down in television history as one of HBO’s most beloved series. Seven seasons ago, viewers entered the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, where humans, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural species never live in harmony. Every Sunday, we follow the dangerous escapades of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and the 175 year-old vampire, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer).
The show has become just as much a community and lifestyle as it is a TV series. Faithful viewers over the years are known as ‘Truebies’ who know the backstory of every character and take their wrath to social media when a popular vampire meets their true death or a Bon Temps townie is murdered. As the show comes to an end, we will always remember our favorite characters and the actors who brought them to life. Lauren Bowles is one of them. She made her mark on “True Blood,” as Holly Cleary, a waitress and witch in a sea of vampires and werewolves. Previously, the actress and writer has portrayed a wide range of roles on other shows like “Seinfeld,” “Watching Ellie,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Arrested Development,” and more. While her on screen life couldn’t be more strange and supernatural, Lauren’s real life and career in contrast is genuinely normal and continuously blossoming.
I met with Lauren at her beautiful home in Los Angeles, where she resides with her husband, actor Patrick Fischler, daughter Fia and their two adopted dogs, Rosco P. Coltrane and Lady. As we sat down on her comfy couch, I felt as if I was talking to an old friend about her adventures on “True Blood” and her hopes for the future.
You’ve been a part of the “True Blood” family for five seasons. It’s a big deal to survive the show through to the final season.
It’s a huge deal! I think basically by the end of last year, I was like okay, it’s the final season. I think this has been the first year that I’ve relaxed, because everyone’s been a free for all. Every time a script would arrive I would say, ‘Oh my god, is this the end?’ But they’re very respectful on our show, so you get the call. We would hear about actors getting the call.
Either Bucky (Brian Buckner) or Gregg Fienberg. And it’s well advance, so it’s not some big surprise. Season 4, with every script that came I lived in fear of Holly dying. What kind of way is that to live!? I realized, this is the way it’s going to be — I’m going to hold it lightly and enjoy it while I have it. I kept not getting the call which was so lovely.
When you were first cast as Holly, what did you think? Had you been following the show?
I knew the show because we watched it. I was a huge fan. But more than that, I was obsessed with Alan Ball. He’s one of my favorite writers of all time. “American Beauty” changed my life. This was around the beginning of season 3 when the show was at its pinnacle of being hip and a huge hit. It was really out of the gate and had found its audience. I thought, ‘I am never going to book this.’ After I auditioned; I kid you not, by the time I drove home, I got the call that I had booked it. Normally for a job of this size, it’s at least three callbacks and testing. But that was a true testament to both HBO and Alan Ball. HBO had to approve it. But really, Alan, for the most part, got who he wanted to get. So if you were Alan’s choice that was good enough for HBO.
And was the cast welcoming?
So welcoming. My first scene ever was with the divine Carrie Preston, who is perfect.
Your characters have a great friendship chemistry.
We had so much fun playing together on screen and off. She’s really become a dear friend. I remember my first day, in hair and makeup you get the best scuttlebutt: Who do I stay away from? Who’s a pain in the butt and who’s not? And Carrie said, ‘oh no, everyone’s really awesome. Trust me, because if you’re not, you don’t last long on the show.’ And it’s really true. Starting at the top with Anna (Paquin) and Stephen (Moyer) — really, everyone has been amazing.
Where do you shoot?
We shoot at the “The Lot” — that obscure, little funky lot in Hollywood on Santa Monica and Formosa. We shoot over there and then we get the exteriors. No one can believe it, because they dress up in the Malibu Mountains. Everyone is shocked that we don’t actually shoot in Louisiana.
Because it’s a supernatural show, are you interested in fantasy, magic and whatnot?
No, which is why it’s interesting. My husband’s really into the genre shows, like “Walking Dead,” and there are countless others. But I never have been. Had it not been for the Alan Ball of it all, I never would’ve normally gravitated towards a show like this.
You said that you and Carrie have a lot of fun. You must have a lot of anecdotes from the set.
Well, the funny thing is, this year, our first day of shooting was one of the guys getting dragged away and the fabulous Mr. Moyer directed one, and was like, ‘Okay, just scream your heads off.’ So on the first take of this season, we literally just started going, “AAAHHHHH.” So Carrie joked, she’s like, Season 7, just start screaming. We decided that was going to be the tagline for the final year.
Were you disappointed to find out that this was the final season or do you feel that this is the right note to end on?
I do. Look, would I have loved a season 8? Absolutely, of course. But, at the same time, I really do think that storytelling-wise for the show, it’s always better to leave the party before it’s dissipated. And I think that’s what we’re doing and I think it’s time.
I think everybody sort of intuitively felt that and I’m excited. This has just been the most fantastic feast, to get to sit at this table with all of these amazing actors. Fear is always scary, but I’m excited to say, ‘Okay, I’ve had a blast with Miss Holly, and I can’t wait to see what is next.’
Every single season the stakes are raised, no pun intended. I know that you can’t give spoilers, but in what way do you think the stakes are raised in the final season?
Yes, the stakes always got raised each year. In seasons past, it’s true. What I think is even bigger this year, is returning to what the show was originally; where it wasn’t necessarily about these huge, outdoor evil forces working their way through town. We’re back to the everyday evils that exist in our daily life that in some ways are bigger than any kind of evil that could come to town. And I know that that was sort of Bucky’s (executive producer) vision for the final season, which is really kind of taking it back to where we started the show: focusing on relationships, fate and where our choices take us — where we all end up, ultimately. That to me is bigger than any Maenad or witch or authority that could kind of come rolling in.
Has anybody ever asked you if there would be a True Blood movie?
I keep joking to Bucky. I’m like, ‘Come on.’ And he looks at me like he wants to rip my head off. And I’m like, ‘Come on. True Blood: The Movie. All the other HBO shows are doing it.’ (laughter)
Looking at your career, you’re constantly working and a lot of your roles have been comedic in the past…
Well, you know what’s funny, I’ve had a lot of comedic roles, but if you were to weigh the drama more so, I somehow, pre-True Blood, made a living playing the crying mom, which was just hilarious to me. I’m from a very funny household, and I’m always the one who’s cracking a completely inappropriate joke. I always thought for sure that I would make a living doing comedy, so when I discovered that I had this gift for crying, and was using it to make money, that was very surprising to me.
Is there a role or even just a type of project that you really want to sink your teeth into?
I actually have something in development right now that I’m working on that I would be producing and helping to write, as well as act in. I think that I’m definitely really interested in writing, and it’s something I have a penchant for. Beyond being just an actor, having full authorship of something, creatively, is the next challenge for me that I’m really looking forward to taking on. That’s really taking a bite off of the bone that I’m really excited to do because it’s more than just showing up.
Is it in a specific genre?
Well, my genre is very much “Louie.” Not so much plot driven, but much more behaviorally-based comedies that are at the same time thought provoking. It’s quite frankly what I loved about “American Beauty.” It’s like Alan does that, but pathos and hilarious absurdity are right up next to each other. Some things can be so heartbreaking, but then you skew it and look at it this one way, and then all of a sudden it’s hysterically funny. That kind of real fly-on-the-wall observance comedy is what I’m obsessed with, quite frankly.
What about the film “Underdogs?”
I shot that last year on hiatus. It was great fun — very guerilla filmmaking. They basically pitched it to me as Karate Kid meets Bad News Bears. And I love both of those movies, so I’m like, ‘Sign me up.’
The life of a working actress is hectic. What do you do to unwind?
I’m a big meditator — that’s kind of one of my great wellness practices that I can kind of preach to everybody. But when I’m not holistically unwinding, the Hubby and I are big TV heads. We’re obsessed with “Game of Thrones.” We also love movies, and we’re big eaters.
I did hear that you’re a foodie.
Yes, I’m a huge foodie. We are very into food, which is why we love talking about it.
Do you have a new secret discovery in the restaurant scene?
There’s a new one we just discovered actually in Manhattan Beach called Fishing with Dynamite, and it is so unbelievable. It’s right next to M.B. Post, and the Chef’s name is David LeFevre.
Do you cook a lot?
I’m the baker. This is where our marriage works. I’m married to a chef — really an actor, but he dabbles in chef-dom.
It’s certainly an art to be a baker.
It’s so funny, I feel that way about being a chef. Patrick just intuitively knows seasonings and flavors that would go well together. Baking is more scientific.
How did you get into baking?
It really just started with the love of the chocolate chip cookie when I was in high school, and I’ve been perfecting it ever since as my tastes have evolved. I’m a nutritionista, so I’m really big on the health front. You can make everything taste so delicious and make it so healthy, so that’s how I started improvising — forever finding ways to make things healthier with less sugar.
Are you gluten free or vegetarian?
I’ve tried everything under the sun. I’m sort of happily now a flexatarian, I would say. You really just find what works for your body. I have flirted with veganism and vegetarianism.
Your daughter Fia, does she eat the same way?
I was the nerd that made her own baby food and stuff, so she really has grown up on whole foods, so she eats everything. Truly. I don’t believe in kids’ menus — I think that kids should be eating what we eat, rather than chicken fingers or mac and cheese. I’m of the Michael Pollan school of thought — junk food’s fine as long as you make it.
You studied at NYU, which is where you met your husband.
Yes; we didn’t get together at NYU, but that’s where we met.
Patrick is an actor as well, have you worked together yet?
We have. Actually, we had a theater company out here that my husband was the artistic director of, and I was the writer for. We produced a bunch of plays that I had written. Professionally, we were both in Ghostworld together. We both got cast in, oddly, “Veronica Mars,” and of course he’s in the show that I’m developing.
On an activist note, you have a passion for animals. Are you tied to a specific charity?
We have a personal affinity for Much Love (Animal Rescue), just because that’s where our dear Rosco P. Coltrane was adopted from. We will support anyone who comes our way who is looking for some help or for anything — any animal charities. Also, the environments are our two biggest issues that we support, as well as food safety. I always say: on a much microcosmic level, processed foods are taking a toll on our bodies, and on a macro-level, it’s taking a toll on the planet. So I would say getting back to a whole foods movement is something we feel very, very strongly about.
We hope to revisit with Lauren for a special ‘baking’ segment on at LATFUSA.com to share one of her special recipes! In the meantime, we look forward to seeing her on screen in her next venture.