Co-star of top-rated TV shows Lost, True Blood and Ugly Betty, Kiwi actor Grant Bowler is making a name for himself globally on the small screen and big screen, after fame in New Zealand and Australia early in his career. He’s also a natural when it comes to style.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Taylor Bass
Interview: Yudith Ho
With a background in Shakespearean theater, consummate actor Grant Bowler is on the up.
The 42-year-old antipodean tells DA MAN about his favorite actors, the intensity of celebrity culture in America; and his eclectic roles, past and present.
DA MAN: You were born in New Zealand then moved to Australia and now work mainly in the U.S. Where do you spend most of your time now?
Grant Bowler: Most of my time is spent in the U.S. these days. I get back to Sydney to see my kids as often as possible, so I am there at least once a month, but Los Angeles is my base right now.
DA MAN: You studied at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. What are some of the best things about the craft that you learned here?
Grant Bowler: I learned everything I needed to know about the craft of acting. Afterward, I went out into the industry to learn how to be professional, and to develop my own instincts. Like many actors, I have grown into myself as an artist over the years.
DA MAN: With credits in Lost, Ugly Betty and True Blood, you’ve now become a familiar face in Hollywood. Is it different from being a star Down Under?
Grant Bowler: Yes. I’ve been at it a long time in Australia, so people tend to recognize me there. But Aussies are very cool about that stuff. They tend to give you a nod or a smile and get on with their day. In the U.S., it’s a lot more intense. They seem to have a much stronger relationship with celebrity as a culture.
DA MAN: In True Blood, you play Coot, the biker werewolf. Would you tell us more about your character? How did you prepare yourself for the role?
Grant Bowler: Coot is a redneck biker werewolf, who is the leader (alpha male) of a particularly nasty bunch of werewolves. To get into Coot, I let go of all of the niceties of being a civilized man, and do whatever feels good, in an id-driven way.
DA MAN: Who have been your favorite cast-mates from True Blood and do you hang out with them off camera?
Grant Bowler: My favorite cast-mates have been Steve Moyer, Anna Paquin, Brit Morgan, Dennis O’Hare and Joe Manganiello. I hang with them all the time.
DA MAN: Will you have a larger role in True Blood if it goes to a fourth season?
Grant Bowler: Who knows? It’s all in the lap of the writing gods. I hope so.
DA MAN: In Ugly Betty you play Connor, who, as we last saw, got into a ‘relationship’ with Wilhelmina, what can you tell us about that?
Grant Bowler: Connor returns, and he hasn’t let embezzlement get in the way of a good relationship. He definitely has a part to play in the new season. But if they think they’re getting all that money back, they’ve never been to Australia!
DA MAN: Who is/has been some the more interesting co-stars on those hit TV shows, and why?
Grant Bowler: There is no single person. Vanessa Williams, Eric Mabius and Michael Urie from Ugly Betty are all dear to my heart (as well as the rest of that bunch; I love them all!!), and Anna and Steve from True Blood. I got to do the most exciting stuff on True Blood with Steve Moyer and Brit Morgan, so they’re great mates and close to my heart.
DA MAN: What do you most love about acting and/or showbiz? What annoys you the most?
Grant Bowler: I love playing with actors and directors … love it! What annoys me is the days I’m not acting.
DA MAN: If you were not an actor, what would you be?
Grant Bowler: I might have stayed where I was; a copywriter for an advertising firm.
DA MAN: You began your acting career as part of the prestigious Bell Shakespeare Company in Australia; how was that experience?
Grant Bowler: Starting out a career in a Shakespeare Company was the best grounding I could have wished for. I fell in love with the classics, with touring and with performing in repertory. Doing three different plays in the space of 36 hours is a challenge I’d love to take on again at some point in my career … now to find the time!
DA MAN: What is your favorite Shakespeare line or quip?
Grant Bowler: ‘Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,’ from Hamlet.
DA MAN: What is it about that one that resonates for you?
Grant Bowler: That’s living a happy life, right there, wrapped up in a nutshell.
DA MAN: When and why did you move into television?
Grant Bowler: After I drank all my theater wages.
DA MAN: You’ve worked in theater, television, film, documentaries and more; which do you like best?
Grant Bowler: I love all of them; it just comes down to the script and the role. I go for what interests me in terms of material, not the delivery method.
DA MAN: You’re also filming an indie drama, The City of Gardens, playing a schizophrenic Jesus Christ; what was it that appealed to you about the role?
Grant Bowler: I’d never played anyone quite that extreme in terms of their psychology.
DA MAN: How are you preparing for City of Gardens?
Grant Bowler: Basically, I’m walking around just being Jesus, seeing how that feels, asking myself why a person would choose to believe that’s who they are. I tend to start at the result and work backward with characters.
DA MAN: Another project in the offing is The Killer Elite, where you’ll be acting alongside Clive Owen, Robert De Niro and Jason Statham. How did you feel when you got that prestigious role?
Grant Bowler: Very excited, and very determined to do a good job!
DA MAN: Do you ever get nervous about an acting role?
Grant Bowler: All of them: I never sleep before the first day of a job.
DA MAN: Which actors/directors do you wish you could work with in the future?
Grant Bowler: [Clint] Eastwood and [Clint] Eastwood.
DA MAN: How do you hone your craft?
Grant Bowler: I am a compulsive people-watcher; observation and daydreaming work for me.
DA MAN: What do you do in your spare time?
Grant Bowler: I box, and I hang with my friends … but I never box my friends.
DA MAN: How would you like to be known by your fans/the public?
Grant Bowler: As an actor who always adds something to the job he’s doing.
DA MAN: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Grant Bowler: As excited and determined as I am right this minute.
DA MAN: What is your idea of happiness?
Grant Bowler: Loving exactly where I am, and making sure I am seeing it and not living in the past or the future.
DA MAN: Do you live to work, or work to live?
Grant Bowler: I work and live; it’s a balancing act. Organic.
DA MAN: As a TV/film star, you are looked up to for what you do and wear; what sort of fashion statements do you like to make?
Grant Bowler: I don’t really know. I like it when other people tell me what works for me. I’m very lucky these days that I get to wear some fantastic stuff. Once I know some clothes work well on a shoot, I try to steal them!
To see the full feature with full-sized hi-res pictures, pick up the back issue here.
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