Lauren Bowles: From True Blood to Party Moms

The TV star talks Wicca, wild weekends and almost receiving an award from Jodie Foster.

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As the witchy waitress at Merlotte’s, True Blood’s Holly Cleary chants incantations when she’s not slinging hash. And she was last seen midwifing four fairy babies on the establishment’s pool table.

“Hey, you use what you’ve got,” says actress Lauren Bowles, 40, who is entering her fourth season on the show.

With Julia Louis Dreyfuss for a big sister and actor Patrick Fischler (Mad Men, Lost) as her husband, BFF and baby daddy, Bowles has been virtually surrounded by “the craft” (acting) all her life. And this month is a big one for Bowles. There’s the True Blood premiere on June 16th (HBO), and before that, you can see her in her Lifetime movie, Gone Missing. “It’ll be a Lauren-Bowles-fest weekend!” she laughs.


In Gone Missing, the Lifetime movie, you play a party mom.

I play a totally inappropriate party mom. She’s going through a messy divorce and her teenage daughter is her best friend. They dress alike and she’s buying her daughter the booze. Not a boundary-setting kind of a gal. It was so much fun because it’s completely opposite of who I am.

No lost weekends in your past?

I certainly lived through my twenties where there was chocolate cake for dinner and lots of pot, but I was never any kind of crazy rager. Plus, her sexuality is kind of how she defines herself. I’m a card-carrying feminist, so even though I like to look cute and be beautiful, it’s not my identity.

Holly, the waitress you play on True Blood, is a witch. Do you have any personal experience with Wicca?

I’ve never been a practicing Wiccan myself, but from all the research that I’ve done, I’ve learned that it’s really just a religion, a beautiful one that worships the sacred, divine goddess. Which I can very much relate to as a cliché yogi, herb-takin’ kind of a girl.

You have done a lot of TV work, from Seinfeld to CSI. Did you intuitively know that the opportunities were in television?

Certainly it’s what took me out here, and the old modality of television is going the way of the dodo bird. All these incredible directors are coming to cable and Netflix. Did you see Liberace? It’s fantastic! Ultimately artists want to be funded and then left alone and that’s almost impossible in big studio movies or big network television because you’ve just got so many cooks in the kitchen. With True Blood, I auditioned for Alan [Ball] for Season 3, and by the time I drove home I had gotten the part. That only could happen because it was cable or HBO. It’s much more the auteur’s medium.

Your daughter, Fia, is four, and you are on your fourth season of the show. How did that work?

She was maybe nine months when I got cast. She was a good luck baby! She’s grown with the show, and comes to sets on the non-bloody days. In fact I just tweeted a picture yesterday: her favorite little snuggly thing is a Merlotte’s tee.

I would guess it’s probably helpful to be married to a fellow actor.

I just can’t imagine it any other way. This business is so wackadoo and we just completely understand what the other one is going through, and we’re the other’s biggest champion. We met in college and were best friends for nine years before we got together. It was really wild because it was the first time that I hadn’t played games. We knew each other so well. But if you had told me in college that we would end up together I would have said you were nuts.

He wasn’t your type?

I had to beat myself up first before I was able to place myself in the circumstance I deserved. He was far too loving! I had to go through some assholes first.

You two made a short film together last year, The Test, about a couple taking a pregnancy test.

Patrick had this idea and I wrote it. We shot it last August, and it actually won at the Sun Valley festival! We were supposed to go, but Patrick got an offer to do The Mentalist and we couldn’t. And Jodi Foster would have handed us our award, so we were beyond thrilled.

Did having Julia Louis Dreyfuss for a sister show you a career path or did you feel like you had to distinguish yourself?

It’s all I’ve known. Julia’s nine years older, so I was in seventh grade when she got cast on Saturday Night Live. She’s always been a huge role model in terms of watching her navigate her career, and a great person to turn to for questions and advice. As you can imagine it was a very funny household. My mom was very supportive when I got bit by the bug, but she would not let me do it professionally as a child.

So was there a certain point when you realized this was going to work out for you as a career?

Oh, God, do actors ever achieve that? It never feels like, ‘ah, and now I have arrived!’ It’s learning to be comfortable with the insecurity of it all, and that’s at every level. Even my sister has that. There’s this myth that if you’re Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie it’s like, now I’ve made it. But there’s always something on the horizon.

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