Viewers of prime-time TV would know the face of April Bowlby. She played Alan Harper’s ditzy girlfriend, Kandi, in Two And A Half Men, and then a wannabe model in the very fun series Drop Dead Diva.
Bowlby’s comical flair stems from watching veteran comediennes religiously on the small screen: Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore…
Then came an onslaught of small screen roles, with stints on How I Met Your Mother, Psych, CSI and CSI:NY, The Big Bang Theory, Mom, Heathers, Titans... Heck, April even played a minor role as a stripper in the American version of Kath & Kim!
Now her star is shining brighter, playing a Hollywood vixen-turned-superhero in DC Comics’ colorful series Doom Patrol.
Based on the superhero team of the same name, April plays Rita Farr in Doom Patrol (a carry-over character from her role in Titans). Farr is an Olympic medalist who ventures into acting and is one day exposed to dangerous volcanic gases while shooting a moviein Africa. When she recovers, she has become ‘Elasti-Woman’ – possessing a superpower where she can expand or shrink her body at will — from hundreds of feet tall to mere inches in height.
Yep, things have gotten kind freaky for this thespian.
Antonino Tati chats with April Bowlby about the actors she looks up to, the differences between working for TV and film, and what Charlie Sheen was really like…
What was it like growing up in California; were you surrounded by people in the film industry?
No, no, no. My mum worked for the government and my dad was a registered nurse. Also we lived fairly far from LA.
So, what inspired you to get into acting?
Watching television and film. My mum used to have us watch the half-hour comedies and my dad was just a naturally goofy guy, so I think it was, like, a seed planted from that.
Who do (or did) you enjoy watching mostly on television?
I like Betty White and I loved watching Golden Girls. Also, Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball: beautiful, talented, hilarious women.
You had quite a few fabulous comediennes guest-star on Drop Dead Diva when you were shooting that show…
Yeah, we got amazing people on there: Joan Rivers, Liza Minelli, Kathy Griffin, Rosie O’Donnell. The list [went] on and on!
Did any of those veterans give you good tips?
I once asked Joan Rivers for advice and she said to never put your agent in a corner; never make them choose between you and other things. It was kind of a random thing to say but I understood it.
The TV role that threw you into the spotlight was playing Alan’s girlfriend Kandi in Two and a Half Men. Your character had a different name in the first episode she appears in, why is that?
For her first appearance the character’s name was Kimber but then producers said they wanted to feature more of her in the show, and realised they didn’t like the name, so changed it to Kandi.
What drew you to that role?
I just thought she was a fun character. She could get away with anything and was super-lovable. She’s also very naïve but in an appealing way. I think the writers wrote her part well.
Apparently, you got the role within months of your first Hollywood audition. That’s pretty impressive.
It was very exciting, let me tell ya. I was very nervous but, luckily, when you’re just starting out, and if you have a good team – which I did, you go on all sorts of auditions and you just hope you’re booked for a role. It was like a numbers game but with Kandi, the character really worked for me.
What was it like working on set with Charlie Sheen; did he seem relatively wild to you?
When we chatted [off-camera], he was actually laidback with a very dry, raw sense of humour. He and Jon Cryer were very charismatic with each other. The show was at its peak when I entered the picture; a well-oiled machine with everyone getting along.
You’ve appeared in a long line of other prime-time series, from The Big Bang Theory to Titans, and now of course you appear regularly in Doom Patrol as Elasti-Woman. That’s quite a variety there.
That’s right. I like to keep my projects different to each other.
I must say, though, in your earlier roles you were regularly playing a bitchy character. Do you enjoy playing bitchy parts?
It’s just so much fun to be the bitch. It’s the best role that you could play. It’s, like, you want to do that in life but it’s not appropriate, so you do it in film [or television] and it’s so much fun.
Even in Doom Patrol, Rita starts out as a bit of a bitch. In the first couple of episodes, she hardly lifts a finger while a whole town is being destroyed.
[Laughs] Yep, everything people try to get her to do, she refuses to do it, but she doesn’t want to be left alone either. But I like it that Rita is so resistant to change.
Ultimately, she does change for the better.
Indeed, she does. But in real life I’m also fairly resistant to change. In fact, I had to get a tattoo that actually says ‘Change’. So that’s life imitating art right there!
Excellent. And you wouldn’t want to be typecast to always play the bitch, would you?
You’re right. It would probably get old pretty quick.
“You’ve got to be careful about [reviewing your own acting] because you can become pretty critical of yourself; just a gentle nit-pick is good … I think you can learn from everything you do.”
Would you like to play somewhat deeper, sombre kind of roles a la Meryl Streep so as to get even more variety onto your CV?
I would love to. Hopefully as I grow as an artist, my roles will grow as well.
What do you see as the major differences in acting for TV compared to acting for film?
With film, there’s a lot more time and you can sink your teeth into a character. Your days are longer and you take more time to shoot things. But with television it’s all very fast. You do an episode in a week and so you don’t have as much time to really enjoy yourself.
Would you say making film was a more organic process?
Exactly. Film is organic while television is all “pick up the pace, keep the story going”.
On TV, you actually had a small role as a stripper in the American version of Kath & Kim. Have you seen the original Australian version of that show?
I haven’t but I’ve heard it was a huge hit there, whereas here they only ran one season, I think.
Do you review your scenes once committed to film and see where you might adapt or change your acting/technique for future roles?
A little, but you’ve got to be careful about that because you can become pretty critical of yourself. Just a gentle nit-pick is good, and I think you can learn from everything you do.
And what about other actors? Who do you admire watching on screen?
Of course I’d have to say Meryl Streep because she’s flawless. Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet. It’s definitely mostly women. I get inspired by watching some men, like Sean Penn, but I’m really inspired by strong women.
And finally, what are three of your favourite films of all time?
You know the film Arthur with Dudley Moore, the original? Well, I love that. I love Bridges of Madison County because it’s so romantic. And I love The Breakfast Club!
‘Doom Patrol’ airs on Foxtel and streams on Binge.
‘Doom Patrol: the Complete Second Season’ has also just been released on DVD.