Actress Katie Lowes is best known for playing Quinn Perkins on ABC’s hit “Scandal.” But when she’s not playing a gladiator opposite Kerry Washington, Lowes is the co-artistic director of the IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles. Starting March 28, she will star in an upcoming production of “A Dog’s House,” a play written by Micah Schraft and directed by Trip Cullman that runs at IAMA through April 26. Tickets are available online.
You’re going to be in “A Dog’s House.” Describe the play. What’s it like?
The play starts out really light and fun, and then of course just rips your heart out, which is what you want from any lovely theater experience. When you leave, you have to actually think about what you witnessed, and it’s not like you can just move on. It’s not an ignore-able piece. I think it’s important and it’s about relationships, and the dog is kind of like the way in to get underneath everything else that’s going on.
So wait… You’re not playing the dog… are you?
That’s happened in people’s careers! Sarah Jessica Parker played a dog in the ’90s. It was famous when I went to theater school because people would be like, “Well Sarah Jessica Parker played a dog and she was amazing at it.” I fortunately am not taking on that task. I am not playing a dog. You can expect to see a very different character than I play on ‘Scandal.’ I am very fortunate to — in this play — get to play around a lot with comedy.
Tell me more about your character.
Her name is Nicole. She’s married, but I would say not happily married. Things aren’t always roses and white picket fences with her husband, who is played by IAMA company member Dean Chekvala. I haven’t been in a play with Dean since five years ago, so it’s wonderful that I get to work with him, and we trust each other and it’s all off the cuff. But [Nicole] is kind of like a Suzy Homemaker type, I would say, and you just get to watch her fall apart. When the play starts, her dog is missing. I don’t want to tell you where that dog has gone, but it’s not good. If you have a dog, you have to come see this play. If you don’t have a dog, you still have to come see this play because really the play is about people.
What are your favorite memories from growing up in the theater? Were you in community plays and high school musicals?
That was my whole thing. From the age of 2 or 3 I was in little dance recitals, and then 5 and 6 I was in little “Wizard of Oz” plays in town. I can remember being about 10 and begging my father for an agent and him saying, “Over my dead freaking body.” So I ended up going to NYU to study theater, and that’s when everything took a major turn. In high school I was a happy, happy musical theater child — my parents were constantly seeing me tap across the stage with a huge smile across my face. And then once I get to college, it’s all experimental — I’m rolling around on the floor, there’s nudity involved and people are painting their bodies. Whatever you can think of as the most stereotypical we’re-18-and-this-is-art shenanigans is kind of what was happening. And [my parents] were like, “What happened to our musical theater baby?” Which I think is really funny because now that I’m on “Scandal,” not that it’s experimental by any means, but they have to see me constantly go through kind of horrific things between seeing me have my teeth ripped out, or having really intense, weird and crazy sex scenes with Huck that are not so romantic but more S&M-y. It’s like I’m right back in college.
One of the trademarks of “Scandal” is the fast-paced dialogue. Have you always been able to speak so quickly?
I’m a New Yorker, born and raised. Every part I’ve ever played people have asked me to slow down. I remember being in the first audition with the brilliant Shonda Rhimes and she told me to speak faster. I had never been asked to do that in my entire life, and it was almost freeing that I could just be myself — and in fact push myself — to go as fast as humanly possible. That’s literally in the stage directions sometimes: “Quinn: speaking as fast as humanly possible.” That’s what it will say. It’s part of making sure you know your lines really freaking well. You don’t know them that well if you can’t do them at ‘Scandal’ pace.
There was a video going around of your “Scandal” audition when you found out you got the part, and to be honest… it’s pretty adorable. Have you gone back and watched it?
My mother watches that video all the time. If she’s having an even remotely [bad day], she watches the video. She’ll be just sitting around with five minutes to kill before yoga class like, “I’m going to watch the video.”
I hadn’t seen it in a long time because it brings me right back to being really nervous. It’s weird. I have anxiety. I’ve been on this show for a while, and it takes me to a time when I was an auditioning actress, a babysitter and a caterer. I was just praying to anyone who would listen that that would change. And it’s insane that the moment that everything changed for me is on video. And I look so bad when I cry, let’s be honest. I’m hysterical crying, there’s like snot down my face. I really lost my sh—t. I can’t believe it happened to me. That’s why IAMA is so important to me. My theater is my roots. That’s why it’s so important that even around my ‘Scandal’ schedule I am in the plays as much as I can, and when I can’t be in them, I’m behind the scenes.
Have you ever eavesdropped on someone talking about “Scandal” in public?
It happens all the time, and I try to run. I was in the nail salon by my grandma’s house on Long Island, and I just needed a quick manicure because I have to fly back the next day and go right to work. And the women behind me talking about “Scandal” and I was like oh my god, oh my god. It’s just an out of body experience, and people are just so passionate about the show, and your characters and have really strong opinions. When I got my teeth ripped out… I get stopped by people in the street asking to check my teeth. It’s like become a thing in my life where I have to open my mouth as a joke and show people that my molars are still there.
Do you have a favorite “Scandal” moment?
Because it’s important, I think that when the kid Brandon’s corpse got ripped open in the Ferguson type episode (season 4 episode 14) that we did a few weeks ago, woah. That was the moment where I was just like wow… This is not just about television. We are not just making a TV show. This is important.