The live-action adaptation of the classic DC Comics series Doom Patrol premieres on the DC Universe streaming service this Friday, February 15, and last weekend we had the opportunity to interview April Bowlby who plays Rita Farr a.k.a. “Elasti-Woman” in the eclectic show that we’ve deemed one of the best DC TV pilots in years.
The actress whose credits include Drop Dead Diva, Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother and the CSI franchise first played Rita in a Titans episode last year on DC Universe which was called, appropriately enough, “Doom Patrol.” That episode gave audiences a taste of what to expect, and what we see on the Doom Patrol’s own series is something pretty amazing.
You can find our interview below.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: What kind of preparation did you do to play Rita Farr like an old-school movie starlet?
APRIL BOWLBY: I watched a lot of movies from the Fifties. I read the Rita Hayworth biography, and it’s fantastic. A lot of preparation came even with the clothing. Our super-suits department were so amazing. They gave me Fifties-style pantyhose, which is like compression hose, so it takes like ten minutes to get on. They are super tight. They go all the way up to under your boobs, and then you put on a girdle, and then you put on a bra, and then by the time that’s all done, you can barely bend over. So you’ve got this whole new behavior in your body as well, and then you put the transatlantic accent on, because there’s a cadence to the Fifties movie stars. The Bette Davis, and Gloria Swanson… and then, you just have this amazing character who’s in your pocket.
It appears that Rita starts melting when she gets really emotional, and there’s a particular scene in the pilot where she is at a restaurant and someone is talking about her and brings up an urban legend about the famed actress doing something unsavory that makes her fall apart. Can you talk about that?
Thank you for saying that was an urban legend. I appreciate that, because I was like “is it true? Is it not true? I don’t know!”
I think Rita is like any human, and this is what I like so much about her character. When she experiences anxiety or something feels out of control to her, she blobs out. She loses all control. And I think it’s so interesting, because her whole life is control. That’s why she never leaves the house. That’s why she watches her movies seemingly obsessively. It’s because she has an image to portray. She must portray the image, and as soon as the image is rocked, or she’s feeling some kind of stress, it all falls apart, and I feel like human beings do that too. We want to be perceived a certain way, and as soon as there’s a little chink in the armor, then we all fall apart, and so I think it’s important that we watch Rita’s evolution in accepting herself, and then hopefully she won’t blob out so much, because she won’t have to control so much if she can accept the darkness that’s inside of her.
She’s literally a blubbering mess.
She destroys towns because she’s so upset and out of control.
When you did the Titans episode last year, did you have any inkling that they were thinking about spinning you all off?
There was an idea, but like with everything in our business, an idea can turn into dust in an instant. So, it was a nice idea, but I held it very cautiously, and the fact that it turned into its own show was very exciting and unexpected.
Does this series’ version of Rita Farr know Garfield Logan (Beast Boy)?
No! We don’t know him. It’s a completely separate thing than Titans.
So it was like a backdoor pilot in a way, where things change?
Can you talk about working with Glen Winter as the director of the pilot?
He’s a doll! He cared so much. We owe so much to him, because he established it all. He held our hands. [For example], that diner scene, we did a few different ways, and he had the best notes. He was like “what if Rita is affected this way? What if you do it like this?” He helped us all create our characters with the depth that it needed.
Can you talk about the actors who play the physical on set versions of Negative Man and Robotman?
There’s Matthew Zuk who plays Negative Man, and there’s Riley Shanahan who plays Robotman. They are incredible. They are so dedicated. They have made all of their choices. They’re passionate people. From their behavior, my behavior changes, and vice versa.
Have there been times when you’ve been doing ADR with Brendan Fraser and Matt Bomer in those roles?
I did do ADR with Brendan in the very beginning. Diane and I and Brendan were all in a session together, and it was so much fun. It was the beginning, too, so we got to see “what is that person doing,” and then it was funny, and then it was sad and we were like “oh no!” So, all of the feelings.
Does Jane drive Rita crazy?
Yes. Here’s the thing: I feel like they love each other, but they hate each other. Like sisters that are so different, almost. You’ll see that there is a bond that forms throughout the series, but certainly, I feel like Rita does not like that Jane just comes in and leaves whenever she wants. She actually, I feel like, takes attention away from Rita, because now there’s another woman in the house and she can’t boss her around. And I also think — this was a personal choice that I made about Rita — that I think, as an actress, Rita is always looking for inspiration, and then you have Jane who has 64 different personalities, and I think Rita’s jealous. I think she’s like “how do you have all those personalities? How do I get one? What are you doing over there?”
But also, Rita as an actress has probably played 64 different characters. Is she jealous that it’s so simple for Jane to be somebody different?
Maybe she is jealous! Maybe she’s like “HEY. Stop it! Don’t leave me back here! What are you doing?”
Do you think we’ll ever see Rita being able to do some of the things she can do in the comics, like becoming a giant person?
I do. I have hope. I do think this is in our future. I don’t see how it couldn’t be. I imagine there will be that evolution.
Who do you think would make for better roommates, the Doom Patrol or Alan & Charlie Harper? (Bowlby had a recurring role on Two and a Half Men)
Oh! Well, obviously the Doom Patrol! The Doom Patrol is going to be a party every night. There’s going to be lots of laughs. I mean, Alan and Charlie Harper… you just probably are going to have, maybe like a good party, like some sexy cats coming over to say hi, and that’s fine, but the Doom Patrol, for sure.
What was your impression when you saw the final cut of Doom Patrol Episode 1, especially when the town is being destroyed?
Oh my gosh. I felt vulnerable! I really felt embarrassed for Rita, because she blobbed out, and I actually feel like it was a piece of me. I was like *gasp* “You guys, close your eyes! Don’t look at this! It’s terrible!” So I feel like on that level, they hit it out of the park, because I was so affected, that I was like “oh no!” And it wasn’t even me; it’s just CGI, but I was like “stop! Don’t look at it! Give her her privacy!” But I love that this show was all about the origin story of our characters, and where they came in, how they came in, why they are the way they are.
As an actress, is there a sense of relief when you’ve been in something and realize that it’s good?
Yes! And also, I saw the trailer yesterday, and I had this epiphany. I was like “THAT’S OUR SHOW?” Because when you’re doing it, you feel like it’s good, and our hearts are souls are in this, and you hope that it all comes together magically. And then I saw the trailer and I was like “oh! I think it came together, you guys.”
Is this the second show that you’ve filmed in Atlanta?
Yes! I always find myself in Atlanta. I shot Drop Dead Diva in Atlanta about six years ago.
Is there something that draws you to series where you can’t judge a book by its cover?
I didn’t know I did that, but I guess I do. I like the truth. I want to find the truth. I think that’s what our show does; it unearths the truth in yourself.
You can see a teaser for Doom Patrol below. Keep an eye on KSiteTV for more cast interviews in the coming days — a gallery of photos from the series premiere can be found here.