Lauren Bowles takes us behind-the-scenes of HBO's hit series, its last three episodes, and into season 4
True Blood has become a phenomenon over the course of three seasons on HBO. The show only has two more episodes left before season three comes to its shocking conclusion on September 12th with Episode 3.12: Evil is Going On. But before that happens, there's quite a bit more story to tell. Much of which centers around new cast addition Lauren Bowles, who plays Holly Clearly, a single mother and burgeoning Wiccan that has recently joined the wait staff at Merlotte's.
Though important to the ongoing storyline that will take us through the season ending climax and into season four, Lauren is contractually shackled and committed to silence on the subject matter of all things True Blood. She can't tell us too much about Holly Clearly and her intentions. But we did get her to reflect on Holly's known relationship with Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parrack), where her friendship with Arlene Fowler (Carrie Preston) might be headed, and what exactly is happening with season four and its recently announced villain Hallow Stonebrook.
Here is our conversation:
You can't throw a stick in Los Angeles without hitting a waitress that is a practicing Wiccan. Were you aware that there were so many in the area, waiting tables?
Lauren Bowles: I had no clue. I didn't realize it was tied to that profession. However, I do know that Wicca is tied to a bunch of funky new religions that are popping up. I know there is much interest in the Wiccan world. My guess is that there are lots of hostesses, and lots of trainers practicing it.
Have you peered into this world to see what that atmosphere is like, and how Wiccans function in day-to-day society? I know Holly adheres to a Wiccan lifestyle, but she does not exactly call herself a witch.
Lauren Bowles: She does not. That is true. I haven't gone to Wiccan ceremonies, I must admit. I have done my own perusing. Way back, I had a friend that was way into the Wiccan world. I was also a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As you know, Willow was a big witch. I didn't want to be Wiccan. I haven't gotten to know any. Are there support groups for such a thing? Are there churches? I don't really know.
Oh, yeah. There are churches and shops all over downtown Los Angeles. You can go in there, buy a candle, have a spell put on someone.
Lauren Bowles: Oh, I am sure!
I don't have any interest in it, but I have seen some scary stuff. I know there are quite a few covens just outside of Hollywood.
Lauren Bowles: I wonder what their ceremonies are like. When people started comparing it to a religion, I never thought of it as that. I always thought of it as spells. I thought it was much more active than just praying to a God or a Goddess. I thought that you were always trying to do something, with all the spells. Weren't you?
I don't have a clue. I am not versed in the religious or technical aspect of it at all. I know one thing they do is they get that Sage...It stinks so bad. They dust it all over you to get rid of any evil you may be carrying into their personal space...
Lauren Bowles: Hmm!
They are obsessed with dusting you down with it.
Lauren Bowles: Then you're like, "Okay! I am out!"
I can't stand the smell of it!
Lauren Bowles: It's so funny. I know that smell well. Because I just moved into my first house. I had been told that it was a real cleansing thing. You need to burn sage. It does all kinds of stuff. So, there is a little Wiccan in me. Because I did burn that sage all over my new house. I know that smell quite well.
This is your third True Blood episode coming up this Sunday. How heavy of an impact is Holly going to have on the climax of the season three storyline, taking us into the fourth season?
Lauren Bowles: Let's see? That, I am not allowed to tell. God, I have to be so careful, just because this is the best job I have ever had. And they are so crazy about releasing any information about it. Truly, this is no joke, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement about it. The last thing I want to do is piss anyone off. I don't want them to say, "ah, screw her!" So, what can I say? Holly? I will definitely say that her and Arlene have a budding relationship. She tries to help Arlene out. I can say that much.
I certainly don't want to get you in trouble with the fine folks at HBO. Here's a pretty base question: Is Holly going to have more of a presence in the upcoming weeks leading into the finale? And will her witching powers begin to emerge?
Lauren Bowles: You will definitely see more of what she is into. She is being introduced and presented in order to set up her presence in the fourth season. That's what I know, but please don't forget: I don't know that much! I only know exactly what I am doing once I get my script. In terms of season four, I know Alan Ball came out and released a statement that next year will be "The Year of the Witch". But in terms of what his exact plans are? That, I quite honestly have no idea.
He did reveal that Hollow Stonebrook would be making an appearance next season...
Lauren Bowles: Exactly. I think that is our big villain.
In regards to her, do you think that Alan will be sticking to what is in the books? Because Holly is not a fan of Hollow's. Or do you think he will be changing up the narrative?
Lauren Bowles: That is such a good question. This is how good Alan is, because you cannot pin him down. There are a lot of things that he has stuck to. But Lafayette died in the first book. As we all know, God, he's not going anywhere. I think he takes...I am guessing this, by the way. It's not like he and I have had a long conversation about it, but I think he uses the books as a spring board. Creatively, when he feels like he wants to go in another direction, he absolutely does. I know he uses the books as blueprints, but he veers story wise when he feels it is best to veer.
A lot of fans expected to see Holly appear in the second season. Why do you think she was such a late addition to the series in terms of the way Alan wanted to utilize her?
Lauren Bowles: My guess is because the second season was so much about Maryann and that whole world. This year is so much about the year of the werewolf. I feel like...And again, this is pure speculation...I was such a huge fan of this series before I ever got cast...This is me speaking as a fan. I feel like, when he enters a new world of what a season is, he really enters that world. Do you know what I mean? He goes in fully. My guess is that's why Holly came in later. In his mind, he figured out that season four was going to be about the witches. Okay. He'll introduce Holly at the end of the third season instead of earlier. I must confess. I have not read the books. You can be so much more varied when you are immersed in a novel. It's a lot harder when you are in the narrative of a script to focus on so many different things.
The fans want to know about Holly and Hoyt. Do you see them coming together before the end of this season? Or do you think that romance is being saved for season four? Or, again, is this one of those things that you feel Alan is going to play with and change as the series progresses?
Lauren Bowles: All of that is possible. That's what is so crazy. I am guessing. But Hoyt and Jess? People love them together. Alan might stick to the book and bring us together. Or, I could also see him veering. These two, Jess and Hoyt? They are working so well together. Everyone loves it. I don't want to break them up. If we do, we break them up for just a little bit, and then we get them back together. I don't know. I personally love seeing them together. Then again, I love my Hoyt. I wouldn't mind being matched with him.
So that is your hope, personally? That the storyline falls in place somewhat with the books?
Lauren Bowles: Yes! I would have absolutely no problem with that.
What do you think a sense of authenticity brings to a show like True Blood? One that has such seemingly fantastical elements to it? Do you think a sense of reality is important? Or flippant? Or does it matter in a situation like this?
Lauren Bowles: I think the show does a good job in creating its own reality. Its funny. Because its so big and over the top. When I find myself out in the world, I start to view it through those eyes. It doesn't seem so over the top anymore. Do you ever find yourself in a convenience store? People start to seem like characters from the show? Its funny. It doesn't seem so over the top any more. Real life is crazier than fiction. I don't know. I go back and forth between thinking the show is over the top, and not. Obviously, it does bring in all of these otherworldly elements. Most of them are analogies for the real world.
You're not hinting to me that shows like True Blood and movies like Twilight are actually trying to assimilate us to the fact that vampires are really out there? That they exist in this world?
Lauren Bowles: Oh, no! No, no, no, no! I just think that vampires are the ultimate symbol of the bad boy outsider. And that's an iconic image that resonates with a lot of people. Whether you feel that you are the outsider. Or if you are drawn to the dangerous outsider. Whatever side you fall on, I feel that it resonates with so many people. Because it symbolizes something in all of us that we can relate too. No, I don't believe that vampires are real!
I didn't actually think you did. I was just talking earlier with a friend about how the new film Paul is being used to assimilate humans with the fact that Aliens are real and about to make their presence known to us. The same could be said here. You guys are using True Blood as pro-vampire propaganda to help ease us into the upcoming onslaught.
Lauren Bowles: Did your friend think that vampires were real?
No, just aliens.
Lauren Bowles: Well, aliens. Of course you could believe that. I do see the similarities there. With all that ooh-ooh, la-la that is out there? It scares us. The bumps in the night. Mysterious stirrings. Maybe its true.
You mentioned Arlene and Holly's relationship earlier. How do you think their friendship is going to continue to grow and transform as we ease out of this third season and into season four?
Lauren Bowles: I can't say too much, exactly. But I can say that they are obviously growing closer. They are both single mothers. They both work at Merlotte's. There are real similarities there, but their personalities are very different. Its not a far stretch to see that there is a blooming friendship there that will grow. That is for sure.
You were such a huge fan of the show before you were ever cast. What does it mean to be a part of this phenomenon? Was it nerve racking to come into the middle of a story as it is progressing, already knowing that it is so popular? Or were you more relaxed knowing that it already had such a strong fan following and such critical praise?
Lauren Bowles: I've basically guest starred on every show that you can imagine. I am pretty used to being the new kid in school. That has been my modus operandi for the past few years. That element of being able to come in...The bummer on some sets is that you arrive, and it's just like high school. It's a nightmare. I'm not bullshitting when I say, this here is the coolest group of people. It really starts with Alan, and then it trickles down from there. He only hires people that are easy. I get the best scuttle from the hair and make-up people. I asked them what the vibe was like on set. They were like, "Really? Everyone is a dream." And it was true. It's not a great sound byte, I know. Because everyone wants the juice. But it's the coolest group of people. It really is. And knowing all of these characters, its crazy too. When I hear Jason talk in his real voice, I'm like, "You're not Jason Stackhouse? What?" It's so shocking to hear his actual accent come out, because I so fully believe in these characters. They are an awesome group of actors who are there to play. That's what it feels like. It feels like recess.
I know you have only appeared on two episodes thus far in the run, but what has the fan reaction to your character been like?
Lauren Bowles: Its been pretty positive. I am pretty anal about not crazy Googling myself, and searching. I am sure there are all kinds of horrible things being said that I am not aware of. But all of my friends were crazy fans as well. We would get together and watch the show. So they all died when I got cast on the show. Everyone's reactions so far have been nothing but positive.
Alan Ball has such a clear-cut vision for this series. Do you ever feel the need to question some of his story choices, or do you just go with the flow?
Lauren Bowles: I am so down for the ride. Because he is the kind of writer that he is. I was a fan way before True Blood. I was obsessed with Six Feet Under. I was obsessed with American Beauty. I was an enormous fan of Alan Ball. I trust his stories, and how he wants things to go down. I am completely along for the ride. It hasn't happened yet where I've gotten a script and though, "Um? Really? Are you sure this is the right way to go?" Every time I get a script, I am screaming, "Oh, my God! I can't believe this is happening!" It's so great.
You and Rob Corddry stole the show in The Heartbreak Kid. You're working with the Farrelly Brothers again in Hall Pass. What do they have you doing this time around?
Lauren Bowles: The film is basically about a group of guys that have gotten a Hall Pass from their wives, which basically means that they have a week to dabble, if you know what I mean? In a biblical sense. I basically play a rich bitch that is not granting my husband the luxury. A couple of them do not get the pass, and my husband is one of them. Most definitely. I think Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are totally crude. I want nothing to do with them, or their whole scene. I got to walk everyone around our McMansion. We shot the film in this giant house, and it was an insane twenty million dollar home. You can't believe people really live that way. It was a lot of fun. I love Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Those are my boys. I have such a blast working with them.
In working on so many varied series throughout the years, and with a lot of those jobs focusing on comedy, do you enjoy getting to step into a world that is a little bit more dramatic?
Lauren Bowles: I've done quite a bit of dramatic work. My joke is that I've cried on every single hour long you can imagine. If you go back and look, I have done Grey's Anatomy, I have been on every incarnation of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, I have played the battered mom, I was on Private Practice as the schizophrenic mom...I have played my fare share of dramas. But it's interesting, because people ask which is more enjoyable. That is hard to answer. When your playing drama, and you're in the moment, and you can nail the emotion that is called for, it just feels like a smooth thing. It's so great. There is nothing like getting a laugh, though. When you can make people laugh? I guess if you had my back up against the wall, I would have to go with comedy. But, you know, there are comedic moments in True Blood. Because the world is so over the top. Its not like we're going for laughs. But don't you find that some of the characters aren't too serious?
That's the thing with HBO's series. They are very dramatic shows, yet they all have a strong current of humor running through them...
Lauren Bowles: Absolutely. If we are really presenting reality, it can be so crazy and tragic. But below the tragedy, there is a laugh to be had. It doesn't even need to be had. It just happens naturally. It can get so real, you can't help but find something to laugh about. Six Feet Under had that. American Beauty had that. Alan Ball has a very dark sensibility, but it's a twisted, funny one that I really gravitate towards.
What do you think running True Blood in the summertime means to the series? As opposed to having it run at any other time of the year? Because it has become a summertime event that is better than a lot of the films we are seeing. We're seeing a tide turn here in terms of how TV is viewed in the midst of a blockbuster summer season...
Lauren Bowles: Yeah. Its true. I don't know if it's just because of where its set, but this is such a steamy show. It just seems to go with summer. Its hot, you're laid back. Everything is going a little slower. There is a rhythm to summer that I think matches the show really well. I think it serves the audience. I think it's a good match.