Interview with April Bowlby of ‘Drop Dead Diva’ and ‘Two And A Half Men’

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Viewers of prime-time TV might best know April Bowlby as Alan Harper’s ditzy girlfriend, Kandi, on Two And A Half Men but it’s her comical turn in fun series Drop Dead Diva – as the best friend to a wannabe model whose soul lands in the body of a plus-sized attorney – that she is currently being praised for.

Bowlby’s comical flair stems from watching veteran comediennes religiously on the small screen: Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore…

Aside from comic series – which also includes a stint on How I Met Your Mother – Bowlby knows when to turn on the drama having appeared Psych, CSI and CSI:NY. She has also featured on celluloid, in comedy (From Prada To Nada) and drama (All Roads Lead Home), and looks like seeing her star shine brighter this year.

Antonino Tati chats with April about the actors she looks up to, the differences between working for TV and film, and what Charlie Sheen is 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 and we lived 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 that planted from that.

 

Who did or do you enjoy watching most on the television?

I like Betty White and loved watching Golden Girls.  Also Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball: beautiful, talented, hilarious women.

 

Indeed, you have many fabulous comediennes guest-star on the show you’re currently in, Drop Dead Diva.

Yeah, we get amazing people on there: Joan Rivers, Liza Minelli, Kathy Griffin, Rosie O’Donnell. The list goes on and on!

 

Have any of these veterans given 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 when she said it 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 very 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 very well.

 

Apparently you got the role within just 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 quite wild to you?

When we chatted 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.

 

The show itself comes across as very much a ‘boy’s club’ whereas in Drop Dead Diva it seems the girls are more prominent.

That’s right. I like to keep my projects different to each other.

 

In the Drop Dead Diva, you play the best friend of the main protagonist who was once a fashion model, and the model dies but her soul enters the body of a plus-sized lawyer… have I got that right?

That’s right. It’s a complicated thing to explain but you did very well. I play her best friend, and she tells me her secret that she’s in a new body, so I have to help her navigate through her new life. Basically I’m her support system throughout the show. It’s a very quirky, easy-to-watch series.

 

You’ve appeared in a long line of other prime-time series, like CSI and How I Met Your Mother. Quite a variety there. But you’ve also been in film. Most recently I enjoyed watching you in From Prada To Nada, playing the bitchy character, Olivia. Do you enjoy playing bitchy parts?

I’m so glad you saw that movie! 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 and it’s just so much fun.

 

But you wouldn’t want to be typecast and always play the bitch, would you?

No, you’re right, it would probably get old pretty quick, but it was fun for the two months that I got to play it.

 

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 television 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’s organic while television’s 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’s a huge hit there. Whereas here they only ran one season I think.

 

Well the Aussie version has been adapted as a film now, so you’ve got to go see it. It’s called Kath & Kimderella and it’s pretty funny.

I’m totally going to see it. I love my comedy in film.

 

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 nitpick is good and I think you can learn from everything you do.

 

And what about other actors? Who do you admire watching on the screen?

Of course you’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!

 

Drop Dead Diva airs on Gem on digital and TV1 on cable.

Two And A Half Men is regularly re-run on Channel Nine.