Julie Bowen's Moment in the Spotlight

Her own water broke while her character gave birth on Boston Legal. The internet lit up after she showed a tv audience a photo of herself breast-feeding twins. During her 20-year career, Julie Bowen has always played it her way—and now, on ABC’s megahit Modern Family, her intelligent quirkiness is paying off.

By Margy Rochlin
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Photograph: Peggy Sirota

Bowen, who enjoys being provocative, was less embarrassed by the Weeds arc that threw her into a tryst with a teenage boy (played by series regular Hunter Parrish, 24). “That was so fun,” she says. “No one ever casts me as anything other than the good girl. Weeds was like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to be the pot-dealing cheese-shop lady who’s having sex with a 17-year-old,’ and I was like, ‘I am so happy!’ ” Yet Bowen admits that, confronted with the on-set reality, “I did not feel good about having fake oral sex with a 17-year-old on top of a cheese board. So I decided, ‘Look, this day is happening, and it may as well be fun.’ For [sex] scenes, you wear this weird flesh patch over your business, as it were, so you look like a Barbie doll. You’re nothing but smooth, flesh-colored parts. So I walked on set and immediately dropped my robe and showed everyone Barbie. And they all start laughing, and now everybody is relaxed and you can have some fun.”


LOOKING back on her career, she is, as always, simultaneously funny and pragmatic. Has she ever wondered why it took so long for her to achieve a big success? “No!” she says. “I always thought I was lucky to work at all. I’m keenly aware of the odds of succeeding in our business, and to me, paying your rent and being financially independent is success.” Nor does she fret about past choices. “Honestly, I feel like a lot of times, the only really bad choice you can make is one that closes doors. I’ve managed to keep a lot of doors open,” she says, then offers an inventory: “I haven’t burned bridges. I have good relationships with the people in my life, both professionally and personally. If I wanted to chuck it all tomorrow and move to Michigan and live on a farm, I could do that—and I don’t think anybody would be mad at me.”

For the moment, she is not only happy with her frantic schedule but also proud of her altered priorities. “I’m constantly shocked that I am successfully taking care of this family and that I’m capable of putting their needs in front of mine,” Bowen says. “I don’t think I could have done it in my twenties.” Her life, she notes, is good, and she is puzzled when others suggest she should push for more. “Why is ‘good’ the enemy?” she asks. “Why push it past good?”


MARGY ROCHLIN profiled Kate Walsh in the April issue of More.


Want MORE? Check out our profile of Mary J. Blige. 


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First Published September 6, 2011

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