An interview with actress Lauren Bowles quickly turns into a laugh-filled conversation where topics range from how she cultivated the very authentic Southern accent she uses in portraying wiccan/waitress/single mom Holly Cleary on HBO’s vampire/supernatural series True Blood to the guest spot she’s destined to play on Veep, her older sister Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ HBO comedy. Bowles grew up in Washington, DC (a natural Veep tie-in) and after setting her sights on becoming an actress studied theater at New York University. She earned her SAG card portraying a waitress on Seinfeld, on which Louis-Dreyfus co-starred. Over the past 15 years, Bowles has carved a successful path doing films and episodic TV work on shows such as The Closer, Private Practice, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Grey’s Anatomy, Arrested Development (where she portrayed a narcoleptic stripper) and CSI before being cast on True Blood in 2010. Mid-June will be an exciting time for Bowles. The Lifetime movie Gone Missing, in which she co-stars with Daphne Zuniga, airs on June 15 and season six of True Blood kicks off on June 16. Sharpen your fangs—things are getting intense.
DivineCaroline: There is no way to begin this interview other than with the obvious question. How crazy is True Blood going to be this season?
Lauren Bowles: I’m calling season six the season of survival. I’ll leave it at that. It’s insane. Literally, the writers never cease to completely amaze me. If you love a roller coaster ride you will love it. I can guarantee it will not be boring.
DC: What has always been compelling about True Blood is it’s outrageous, but at the same time really poignant. How do you handle that as an actress?
LB: That’s the Alan Ball (series creator) of it all. Your goal always is to keep things real and grounded. What makes our jobs so much easier on the show is the foundation that Alan laid. That’s just the type of writer he is. Everything is character-based for him. The writing staff that has now taken over fantastically was with him from the beginning so everyone has sort of gone to the Alan Ball school of poignancy of humanity. There’s that fine between the pathos and hilarity.
DC: One of my favorite crazy scenes is the final episode of season four where Bill and Eric are tied to a pyre shirtless, Marnie is possessing Lafayette and the fire is burning. Holly, dressed in a good witch/fairy Halloween costume with wings is walking calmly sprinkling salt to make the circle and saying an incantation. What kind of direction do you get for something so wild and potentially comedic, but also deadly serious?
LB: The last thing you want to do as an actor is comment. So the humor from that kind of came from the circumstances. Scott Winant directed that one, who is phenomenal. All I care about is grounding. The circumstances were we had to get Marnie out of Lafayette so that we could get the boys off the pyre. All you have to do is commit to the circumstances and let the context speak for itself. To comment on top of it would, I think, take the humor away.
DC: So you have to play it dead serious for it to be funny?
LB: The funniness is in the costume. Holly, doesn’t think it’s funny. She’s thinking, “We have to save these guys.” In that moment she’s not finding it funny, so if I were to sort wink wink to the side, I think that would take the air out of the humor. Part of what makes it funny is how serious the circumstances are.
DC: What has being cast in this series meant to you and how do you think the character of Holly has evolved?
LB: This is—I really kid you not—a complete dream job. I know whenever I hear actors say that I always think, “Oh please, someone’s an a-hole or someone’s a pain in the butt.” But really our cast and crew are just incredible. There’s none of the Hollywood bs of hierarchy of people expecting to be treated differently. It’s a very, very familial feel. That makes the work environment a total dream.
What’s been really fun is to develop the relationship with (boyfriend) Andy (the sheriff of Bon Temps, portrayed by Chris Bauer). Obviously, she was brought on as sort of the resident witch. Getting to meet her sons and develop her personal relationships has been really fun because as an actor anything you can to do to make your character more three dimensional is fantastic.
Getting to work with Alan Ball was just incredible. He’s one of my all-time favorite writers ever. American Beauty changed my life and I’m not kidding.
DC: Fans are so passionate about the show. What have been some of your most interesting encounters?
LB: I live in LA where everyone is pretty blasé, so it’s not like on a daily basis I’m by any stretch barraged. What I’ve done a couple of times are those True Blood conventions. That’s where you meet the hardcore passionate fans. People are bringing their babies with little baby fangs in their mouths.
DC: What is in store for Holly in season six?
LB: I can’t reveal too much, but I can say that a lot of relationships are tested and strengthened. As you know, we last left Andy and Holly in a somewhat compromising situation. She delivered his babies with another mama (quadruplets from fairy Maurella). The season starts with her not so very happy with our local sheriff.
DC: You nail the Southern accent so perfectly. Is there anything you modeled it after?
LB: I went in playing around with them in the audition. I had my Southern accent. By the time I drove home I got the call that I had booked it, which never happens that quickly for a job of this size. Casting said, “We didn’t know she was from the South.” My manager said, “She’s not.” I do have an aunt from North Carolina. We grew up going down to North Carolina my whole life. So I definitely have some Southern twang in there that I was exposed to early on.
DC: You grew up in Washington, DC and now your sister is starring in a series all about Washington, DC. Do you think you’ll get to make an appearance on Veep? You can play an annoying freshman Congresswoman and you’re trying to get in with the Vice President and she’s not having it.
LB: We’ll have to find some way to piss her off. We’ll make it an All About Eve situation.
DC: You’ve got a Lifetime movie coming up. What was that experience like?
LB: This was actually made as an independent film that Lifetime happened to buy. It’s about moms going to spring break with their daughters. All kinds of scary things happen and we end up on the search. I play the opposite of me—a total “housewife show” mom. She’s trying to be as young as her daughter, the inappropriate party mom. I haven’t really been cast like that before.
DC: Any other projects you can discuss?
LB: I’m in Starving Games, which is one of those parody spoof movies. That comes out in the fall. We shot that in New Orleans. It was fun to shoot in Louisiana where our show takes place.
DC: We’re going to be shot out of a canon for season six of True Blood?
LB: All I’ll say is fasten your seatbelts.