Katie Lowes describes starring on ABC's Scandal as 'magical'- and one can see why! The drama, created by Shonda Rhimes, is so cleverly-written, fast-paced, and full of non-stop scandals that it is no surprise it has become a huge hit for ABC - even recently winning the NAACP Award for 'Best Drama Series'. Starring alongside Kerry Washington, Lowes plays Quinn Perkins: a young associate working at Olivia Pope's (Washington) crisis management firm that helps to 'fix' problems before they turn into scandals. Lowes has definitely been on a ride with her character; Quinn, herself, is still trying to navigate away from her own “scandal” from her past that led her to ultimately have her identity changed and be framed for murder.
A graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Lowes's past includes a heavy theater background, a handful of films, as well as guest-starring roles on some of television's biggest shows, including: The Soprano's, Castle, NCIS, The Closer, and Leverage. In what one can say was almost like a foreshadowing to her future, Lowes first entered the world of “Shonda-land” television when she guest-starred on both Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice.
Speaking with Lowes, you definitely get a sense of how dedicated she is to her craft as an actress. Prior to her on-screen career kicking off, Lowes co-founded a Los Angeles theater company, IAMA Theater, as a way to keep acting alive in her life. IAMA now puts on several plays and readings throughout the year with various talent from both the stage and screen world.
In a recent interview, Lowes discussed her journey as an actress, what she enjoys most about working on Scandal, what's ahead for Quinn, as well as why she says joining Scandal for her was similar to Quinn joining Olivia Pope and Associates!
What is the best part about being on a show like Scandal? You know when Oprah comes to your set and does a special on your show, you're on something special!
Katie- From start to finish, it's just been such a dream job. From how I booked the part-which you can see on the season one dvd- they taped it when Shonda Rhimes told me that she was going to give me the part. From then on it's just been magically blessed the entire time. It's the most wonderful working environment. It's incredibly supportive and yet challenging. The material is so complex and exciting. I just couldn't be happier to be on a show where I'm surrounded by powerful, brilliant, intelligent women. They're all my mentors. Every actress on the show; from Darby Stanchfield to Bellamy Young, to Kerry Washington to Shonda Rhimes, and Betsy Beers, and Judy Smith-who is the real-life Olivia Pope- everyone. I'm just so inspired by and rocked by them all daily.
I would imagine that has to be so great to work with intelligent and talented people whom you get along so well with.
Katie- That's the best part! People ask me all the time on Twitter, what's your favorite part about playing Quinn? And don't get me wrong I love her, but my favorite part about being on Scandal, is by far: the cast, the writers, and the crew that I get to spend my days with.
What do you enjoy most about playing Quinn?
Katie- I love Quinn. I think Quinn parallels myself in so many ways on this journey. That's what I think is so wonderful about her. When Quinn was first hired by Olivia Pope, I was being first being hired to a prestigious network drama; so a lot of the wide-eyed and newbie vibe that Quinn had, I also had on set. And I was just trying to learn as much from Kerry Washington as Quinn is trying to learn from Olivia Pope. So there were a lot of parallels in that way. What I love about Quinn is that she's changing and very complex and has a lot of layers. And I think a lot of television characters don't have that. They sort of come in as one person and they stay that way for years and years. Like, if you're the sarcastic character, you just stay sarcastic the whole time. And I think Quinn, with what we've seen and what we're continuing to see, she's evolving so much. She's now worked at Olivia Pope's office for about two years. She's getting stronger. She's getting her feet in. She has stood up to people. She's getting good at her job. And she's really finding a place to fit in. Especially, since she's completely cut off Lindsey Dwyer and completely sort of assumed the role of Quinn Perkins. I think she's really looking for a place to fit in. And that's what I think is great about this show, and the characters, and Quinn, is just that they're complex. They're not black and white. They're totally gray. They do bad things. They do good things. And Quinn is human, in that she's changing and she's learning. She's not stuck in how we first saw her-which I love. And I have the writers and Shonda Rhimes to thank for that.
Quinn has definitely been on a journey on the show. She was framed for murder, then we saw her escape back to California. We recently saw her try to pay Huck to kill the man who set her up. Do you think she really has it in her to get revenge?
Katie- I think she does. I think when somebody has nothing else to live for really, and everything has been taken away from them and their entire identity has been stripped away, I think that's a pretty desperate place. If you have somebody to blame for that, you can really take it all on one person. I think that Quinn definitely was walking on a tight rope at that moment, and if it were not for Huck, I think she definitely would have figured out a way to do it.
What can you say about what's ahead for her?
Katie- We're only two episodes ahead of you guys so we don't know anything. It's really kind of amazing when I do interviews, they think I try to tease stuff. And I'm like no literally, what's amazing about this show is we don't know what's going on on plot-lines either until we get the scripts. And, we normally a lot of times get them at the table read, so we read them for the first time in front of everybody and our jaws are on the ground, and it's so fun because we react the same way the audience reacts when they see it. But what I can say so far is that Quinn, she's sort of finding a place to fit in at Olivia Pope and Associates and I think she feels closest to Huck at the moment. She feels like she might have somebody to rely on in the office. With everyone in the office it's always unclear who's crossing who, who's on people's good side or bad side. So at the moment, we've got Huckleberry Quinn going on is what I like to say! But again, I have no idea. It could all blow up in my face next week! (Laughs)
Do you have a favorite moment with Quinn? The most challenging or fun for you as an actress?
Katie- Personally, working with my husband (Adam Shapiro) on the flashback episode, with he and I together was like a personal favorite. But just for personal reasons, because I love him so much I just love to be with him! And it was so surreal and a dream come true. But I think acting wise, one of my favorite moments so far was episode 12, where Quinn really grabs the bull by the horns and says, “Okay, this it it!” She takes charge for the first time. She's really running the room and she says, 'Everybody needs to get their secrets out now. This cannot continue on.' I loved working on it because it was a classic Olivia Pope and Associates scene in the conference room. But for the first time, we see Quinn taking charge and calling the shots, and using all the things that she's learned from Abby and from Olivia and putting them all to effect. It's just so exciting for an actor to come full circle like that.
I know you did a lot of theater prior to Scandal, and you've had many various roles and experiences on other shows and films, how would you say you have you grown as an actress working on Scandal?
Katie- Scandal has been for me the most consistent time I've ever logged in front of a camera. I grew up in the theater and I feel very confident and comfortable on the stage and in front of a live audience, but the camera is a very different medium. And although I've been fortunate enough to guest star on shows; when you guest star you do two days or four days work. To have an opportunity to get in front of a camera every single day is just priceless because it gets you closer and closer to being less self-consciousness in front of it and really being human, and really making choices and standing by them. It's essentially like I'm in graduate school. That's what it feels like. I went to NYU Tisch for undergrad and it was amazing. My life then was extremely experimental with acting. I did crazy theater where we would be rolling around on the floor. I would be playing grandmothers, and clowns, and all this crazy stuff. Then I would be doing Shakespeare eight hours a day. And it was all about figuring out how far you can push yourself. Then to book Scandal is like graduate school. It's learning how to harness all those impulses and make them focused-make them more like a precision. And who better to learn from than Jeff Perry, Tony Goldwyn, and Kerry Washington?
NYU's Tisch School of the Arts is such a great school for theater. How was the experience for you?
Katie- It was such an incredible experience. The best thing that it gave me by far was my group of friends. I'm really fortunate in that I moved out to LA with a really tight knit group of actors. We all graduated within a couple years span of each other and we all moved to LA in the same two-year span, and we're all artists. We've been best friends for about twelve years and we started a theater company called IAMA Theater company seven years ago together to keep our playground alive and to keep challenging ourselves. They're my closest friends in the world and that's really the best thing NYU gave me.
I was just going to ask you how the initial thought to start IAMA Theater came about.
Katie- We all moved to LA around the same time. It was a group of about 13 of us. We were all waitressing at the same restaurant. We were all waitressing, and catering, and struggling. We had just graduated from school where we acting eight hours a day, so it felt like somebody had cut off our arms or something. And we just really needed to keep active. So we started putting on small plays in little 45-seat houses around LA and one of the friend's that I went to college with named Leslye Headland came to us and she wrote us seven plays. One for each sin. And the deal was we could all be in them. Each person would get two big roles and one small role in one of these plays. We would go around like that. And the plays ended up being pretty successful. They've moved all over the country to New York, off-Broadway. One got made into a movie called “Bachelorette”, starring Kirsten Dunst. Another one, “Assistance” that we produced, just got bought by NBC as a pilot. So we ended up getting this great writer who was writing us great material. It was edgy and it was about people who had no idea what they were doing with their lives, which was so parallel to what we were experiencing at that time. So we're still going. We've expanded now. We have an artistic director. We have a managing director. We've included new members. But we've been in existence for about seven years and we would love to some day be like a Steppenwolf Theater company; which is that huge Chicago Theater company, that Jeff Perry actually started. So Jeff Perry is a huge Theater mentor to me and to the company.
And I know you sing, too!
Katie- I love singing! I was a musical theater girl in high school. We were always singing and dancing around, and just doing little community theaters and high school musicals. Then when I got to NYU, I focused more on drama. I don't call myself a singer who acts. I'm definitely an actor who sings. But I do love it. One of my closest friends from NYU is a singer, Samantha Shelton, and she sings around town at different bars and I back her up for fun. It's the most fun thing ever! I could never do what she does. I could never be a front woman and write songs. But I try to make it so that singing is a part of my life because it's so different from acting. There's no character on top of you. You can't hide behind anything. It's really vulnerable when you're singing in front of people. I think it's probably one of the scariest things I've ever done. So I try to do it as much as I can. I try to do things that freak me out and make me uncomfortable! (Laughs)
We met before Scandal premiered, now a year and a half later, the show is huge, and something I really respect about you is that you're still the same grounded person. What would you is the best piece of advice you have ever been given that you would like to share with your Scandal fans? Something you always hold close to you in this industry.
Katie- Thank you. That means a lot to me. I just really try to approach everything as joyfully as possible and as gratefully as possible. Everything, I think, is just really about this life ride we're on and I try to not make things so serious and try to be present and experience things for what they are. Always come from a place of joy. That's what I really try to do. And I think as far as having success, I'm so new to having success. It took me so long to get a job and I've had so many years that were really challenging as far as struggling through babysitting and waitressing, and really asking myself, “Oh my god. What the hell am I doing?” It's so interesting to actually get a job and actually have it work out. I'm like, “What's happening? This never happens! This is so weird!” I'm so used to struggle. And I'm so used to just fighting the fight. Everyday I go to bed and I just say thank you.
If you could go back in time and spend a day in the life of anyone from history, who would it be?
Katie- I think I would pick Martha Graham. For the artist that she was. We're working on her a lot right now in acting class. She's on my mind. She was the creator of modern dance. If you ever go back and read her quotes about what it is to be an artist and to live this life; I just think she's so inspiring, and so gutsy, and so risky. Such a mover and a shaker. She was so just in touch with the artistry of this life. I respect the hell out of that.
Keep up with Katie Lowes on Twitter- @KatieQLowes
For more from Katie Lowes: "Katie Lowes from ABC's 'Scandal' speaks to empower women."
Scandal airs Thursday nights at 10pm est/pst on ABC.