Friday, 13 May 2011

April Bowlby It Takes a Smart Actress to Play a Dumb Character by Jay S. Jacobs


April Bowlby has somehow latched onto a very odd specialty as an actress. It was nothing she was looking for or planning to pursue, it just sort of happened.

The former model has become noticed for playing sweetly naïve and just slightly stupid beauties. It is a time-honored Hollywood type, going back to Gracie Allen, but it was not really one the Bowlby was looking to specialize in. However, she is so good and sympathetic in the role, it has kind of stuck.

The first notice came when Bowlby took a recurring role as the gold-digging but sweet short-lived wife of Alan (Jon Cryer) in the popular sitcom Two and a Half Men. She followed up with a recurring arc as one of the trusting-but-slow romantic conquests of Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) in How I Met Your Mother.

This led to her current role as Stacy on the hip Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva. The story tells of a former model that is mistakenly taken to heaven when she has not yet dead, only to have to take over the body of a heavy-set, emotionally fragile but very competent lawyer. That character is played by theatrical actress Brooke Elliott and Bowlby plays her best friend from before the accident, a beautiful (but sometimes dim) woman who is the only one who knows the secret.

“I love April!” her Drop Dead Diva co-star Elliott says. “She’s really great. She’s really funny and every supportive. She’s always there for you 100% and I love that about April. She’s a great person.”

About a week before the second season debut of Drop Dead Diva and the release of the first season on DVD, Bowlby was nice enough to give us a call to talk about her series, her career, why she thinks she is a little typecast (but in a good way) and what to absolutely not do on a first date.

'Drop Dead Diva' cast: (l to r) April Bowlby, Margaret Cho, Josh Stamberg, Brooke Elliott, Jackson Hurst, Kate Levering, Ben FeldmanHow did you first get into acting?

Well, I was real lucky. I started modeling and I moved to LA. My modeling agency had a commercial agency connected, so I started doing commercials and then I got into acting classes. Once I started acting classes, I was in love with it, because it was such a freeing, beautiful art that I had never experienced before. I was like, fun! Got to do it.

Though now you are known mostly for comic roles, early on in your career you did dramas like guesting on CSI, CSI: New York, the TV movies Sands of Oblivion and All Roads Lead Home. Do you prefer comedy or drama? Is there one you find easier or harder?

I don’t have a preference. I like them both. But, I feel like comedy is a little easier for me. I don’t know why, (laughs) it just is. I like to move. I like to keep it going. It’s hard for me to keep still and get focused. So that might be why.

The roles you have been known for most so far are beautiful but kind of dumb women. You are very good at that kind of role, but you went to college and have done a lot of studying over the years. You are probably a very smart woman. How did this kind of specialty come about?

I think it just kind of happened that way. Maybe I’m successful at it because they are a little dumb… obviously yes, that’s what they are… but when I play it, I don’t play it like they are dumb. I just play it like they really just want the best and just don’t quite grasp the difficulty of things. They are just naïve, I think. So, I guess I play that okay. (laughs)

Do you ever hope to totally break that mold and play a nuclear physicist or a MENSA member?

Well, yes. I would love to! (laughs)

April Bowlby as Stacy in 'Drop Dead Diva.'The first role you did that people really noticed was probably your recurring role as Alan’s short-lived wife Kandi on Two and a Half Men. How did that role come about and how exciting was it as a young actress to get such a significant recurring role on a hit series?

It was so amazing. The role… I had just read for one episode and I got it, which was amazing and exciting for me. I was like, yay! Then I went and did a good job and then maybe, I think a month and a half later, they had me come back and I lost my mind because I was so excited. Then two weeks later they had me come back again. I was just very blessed with writers who felt like they could use me and they did, so it became this beautiful experience that I could have never had guessed would have happened when I walked in and did my four lines the first day.

You also did a recurring role on one of my favorite series, How I Met Your Mother.

Oh, yeah.

Between Men and Mother you have worked closely with two of the best actors on sitcoms today – Jon Cryer and Neil Patrick Harris. What were they like to work with?

Amazing. I love them both so much! They are just incredible. They are kind and they are helpful and completely there. If you have a question they are approachable, so you’re never afraid of them. They were just lovely, lovely human beings, and completely beyond talented. They are amazing.

April Bowlby as Stacy in 'Drop Dead Diva.'Barney certainly mistreated Meg in Mother – giving a fake name, address and eventually getting her and her family arrested. So what is the biggest jerk move that a guy has ever done to you or someone you know?

Let me think…. Oh, I will tell you! (laughs) I just remembered. I went on a date with a man and for some reason his manager was there, which I thought was a little strange. Then his publicist arrived, too, which I thought was odd as well. But, that was okay. But what really bothered me was he got up in the middle of dinner and left. Like, disappeared. (laughs again) So, I was sitting at the table with his representatives. Like, wow!

Yeah, that sounds pretty bad….

Pretty bad, right? (chuckles) So, men, please don’t do that. Ever. To anybody.

One of the great things about Drop Dead Diva is while it is a very funny show it also has some very dramatic moments. Is it fun to get back in a role where you can show range like that?

Yes. It’s really lovely. Stacy is so well written, because she has the naïveté and she has the super-bubbly personality, which can kind of make her seem a little dense. But then she has these moments of genius where she literally solves the case without even realizing it. She’s got Jane in her life. That can be a great thing or it can be – just like with human beings, we don’t get along all the time. So we get our little tiffy scenes where we fight and cry and be girls and emotional, which is really lovely to have that option and that color in there.

Brooke Elliott as Jane and April Bowlby as Stacy in 'Drop Dead Diva.'I just interviewed Brooke a couple of days ago. What is she like to work with?

Amazing. She’s so talented. She cares about the quality of her work so much… and the quality of the shows. She’ll fight for it. She’ll really get in there and figure out the problems and work it out. Beyond talented and a joy to work with. She’s really funny. She can laugh at herself, which I think is extremely important in this business. She’s awesome.

The show is obviously strongly about the shallowness of using attractiveness as a human barometer about people’s worth. Coming from sort of the other side, you are obviously a very attractive woman. Do you find that people sometimes treat you differently because of that?

Umm, I guess. I don’t know, because I only have my [own] experience. Yeah, I’m sure that there are probably [people who are] maybe nicer to me. But, sometimes people have the opposite effect. Sometimes people just brush me aside, because, “Oh, there’s that girl who…” whatever their ideas of me are. So I think it goes both ways. I think I probably get some nice attention and I think I probably get some bad attention.

Do you think that the show helps to sort undo some of the stereotypes about beauty that are out there in the world?

I think that is a possibility. I think that if people are conscious of it and our show presents it in a fun way, but also a real lovely way, it’s possible. I say, why not?

If you had the opportunity come back as anyone, what would you like to come back as?

Oh boy, that would be something, wouldn’t it? (laughs) Maybe, I think a man. I’d like to be in a man’s body, just to see what it’s all about, see how you guys really think.

It’s interesting, I just asked that of Brooke the other day and she gave me the same exact answer.

Did she? (laughs) That’s really funny. It is a curious thing though. I wonder about you guys.

Well, we wonder about ourselves sometimes, too…

(She laughs harder)

April Bowlby as Stacy in 'Drop Dead Diva.'Drop Dead Diva is your first show on a cable network, Lifetime. Obviously you had worked on CBS for Two & a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother. Why do you think that some of the most adventurous series on TV are showing up on cable now? Does working on a cable series give you more artistic freedom than a network show?

Oh, yeah, I think so, for sure. I think we are really lucky to be on our network, because we don’t need the massive amounts of viewers to get a second season. They actually let us get a following. We have time to attract people to our show and bring people in without having to get 13 million viewers in the first two weeks – if we’re not we have to stop production. We get to grow as a show each year and hopefully our numbers will grow. Lifetime gives us opportunities to do that. Also, they are very open to ideas and if we don’t understand something, they help us. It’s just a very creative forum for us, which is nice. It’s not a giant machine, but it’s a little machine. There’s still room for growing and playing in our little machine.

What kind of interesting developments can we expect for your character – and the series in general – in season two?

Yes, well, Fred the Angel comes back, which is very exciting. I get a love interest. Stacy gets a love interest. I invent something. Brooke gets several love interests – a bunch of men loving her. It’s exciting. Oh my gosh, we get to meet Harrison from Harrison and Parker. That’s a big reveal. It’s growing. Our characters are growing into dimensional, lovely characters.

Beyond the new season of Drop Dead Diva starting, the first season is coming out on DVD. Did you do anything special for DVD extras, or do you know anything they are doing?

I have no idea. I hope there are some bloopers in there, though, because that’s my favorite part. I love those blooper reels.

April Bowlby as Stacy in 'Drop Dead Diva.'I just recently saw you in the movie The Slammin’ Salmon with Cobie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother, as well as the Broken Lizard troupe. What was that experience like? Is movie acting different than TV?

Oh boy, it was so much fun. Those boys, those Broken Lizard boys, are amazing. It was like a party. Every day at work was like a party. Film and TV – I found that film to be obviously super mellow with great chemistry and comedy and funny and slapsticky, but you get to take your time in film. In our show, it’s an eight day shooting schedule, so it’s very regimented. There are certain things that must take place within the week. So there are those constraints. On Broken Lizard, we just got to play. (chuckles)

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Oh, well that my favorite food is a French fry. (laughs) I guess I love junk food. I don’t think it’s a good thing. I’m trying to be more healthy and food conscious.

Looking back at your career how would you like people to see your work?

I think I would like for them to look at it and when they watch, be inspired in some way and just be like, “Wow, that girl, she’s real talented.” That’s what I would like.

Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up?

I don’t know. Who’s saying something? I don’t know if there are any misconceptions. But if there are, I will definitely address them

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