From hindsight, actor Todd Lowe could be categorized as a brooding, laidback guy with not a care in the world. As you get to know him, there’s something really alluring about him. There’s a sense of naiveté that clearly resonates in his demeanor and the way he carries himself. With an extensive theatre background from The University of Texas at Austin under his belt, Lowe has parlayed his craft into the world of television by landing guest starring roles on WALKER: TEXAS RANGER and WITHOUT A TRACE.
In 2002, Lowe landed a part as a recurring character and a cult following on the WB hit series GILMORE GIRLS as Zack van Gerbig. He found himself acting opposite Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham. Eventually, due to the popularity of his character of Zach, he became a series regular. With the success of the show under his belt, he was able to pursue being a musician. He even got the chance to play guitar and sing on the show as well. Now, Lowe has created quite a buzz as sympathetic yet obscure war vet Terry Bellefleur on Alan Ball's HBO hit vampire series TRUE BLOOD acting opposite Anna Paquin.
I had the pleasure of interviewing this charismatic individual who I’ve come to have known for a number of years. What makes Lowe really fascinating is that he is genuinely a great guy with an obscure and funny personality that is infectious. As we were setting up a meeting place for our personal interview, instead of sticking to the original plan of meeting at a local coffee shop in Hollywood, he phones at the last minute to change the meeting place to where he could have a drink. Needless to say, I felt like William Miller did when he chased the band Stillwater in the film ALMOST FAMOUS.
As we chatted over Irish coffee at a local dive bar/restaurant in Silverlake under heat lamps, we reminisced about the good times back in Austin, Texas and caught each other up on mutual friends who have migrated to Los Angeles. Needless to say, the evening was filled with laughs that range from talks about martial arts, to waxing rhetoric and (in true Texan-esque form) lighting cigarettes with space heaters only because there weren’t any available lighters around.
Jerod Williams: Fans know you as Zack from THE GILMORE GIRLS. Are you being recognized even more ever since joining the show TRUE BLOOD?
Todd Lowe: Not really. There were a few people that would come up to me and say nice job on the show and Terry is funny and it’s flattering to hear their comments and I take it in stride. It’s not been a huge problem for me and I hope it doesn’t become one. I haven’t had to go into hiding yet.
JW: Tell us about your character Terry Bellefleur on TRUE BLOOD.
TL: In the Charlaine Harris books, Terry is a war veteran and when I auditioned for the part he was written as a Vietnam veteran, in the series he is updated as an Iraqi vet.
JW: How does this character compare to any other character you have played and what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself for this role?
TL: I based my character on homeless people I encountered in Austin who were war veterans, particularly, my encounter with one when I was a student at UT Austin. I thought back on one guy who said he would sell me a sonnet for a cigarette. I gave him a smoke and he said “My mistress' eyes were nothing like the sun . . .” and that was some Sting song, I think, and I gave him the rest of my pack and made it to Shakespeare class on time. When I auditioned for Terry, I had him in mind. A sympathy seeker who hustled me out of my smokes. ( laughing out loud).
What's it like working with the actors on the set?
TL: It’s great and everyone on the set is very professional and I feel privileged to be among this talented group of people. They are all prettier than me and that makes me feel doubly flattered.
You don’t think you’re a pretty person?
TL: I try to retain water. I work at it, but not as hard as I should.
Todd and I are laughing out loud as he lights his cigarette from a space heater that is keeping us warm while drinking Irish Cream coffees.
What can the audience expect for Season 2 of TRUE BLOOD?
TL: I am contractually bound not to disclose any upcoming spoilers for Season 2. I’m dying to tell someone. I can’t even tell my mom who uses my cousins to get information out of me. I can tell you this much just based on last season that Terry’s coming back and appears to have a developing relationship with Arlene (played by Carrie Preston).
JW: Does your theatre background work better for you in either television or film
TL: I would have to say television. Television is a medium that I prefer and I am able to improvise. There is a rhythm and an arc and a pace that feels comfortable. There is something about doing a television table read that feels like reading a stage play. I’m thankful for having a theatre background because as an actor, you can sense the pulse of your audience whether it is with the director, the writer, the studio heads, etc. At this point in my career, I haven’t done enough film to know if I am good at it. I’m more of a character actor and I put a lot of myself into playing oddballs.
People know you as an actor, but not many people know there's another side to you and that is you are a musician.
TL: I have been playing country music on the guitar since I was 23. I started playing rock music on the guitar when I was 17. When I was in college, I learned that country music was a lot easier. I like singing songs and making them funny and if I can get anybody to play with me, I say let’s put on a show. I love to entertain.
What is the name of your band?
TL: Pilbilly Knights.
How did Pillbilly Knights come together?
TL: Pilbilly Knights first came together when a good friend of mine named Padrick Peper heard me play and he started inviting me to his house and to play at parties with him and his harmonica. We were encouraged by the positive response we got so we recruited a high school friend of mine, James Lane, to play drums and he sings great harmonies and then finally another friend of a friend of mine who is a television editor named Jacob Morgan plays a mean bass guitar and now he's a really good friend. I love it and I play for my friends and with my friends. If you email me and want to come sing a well known song or ANY country song, you just might get a chance to perform it at any of our shows. You can keep up with our band on our myspace page (Pilbilly Knights) and our music is on iTunes. Our record “ DUI” is getting played on XM radio.
What can one usually expect when they come see a Pilbilly Knights performance?
TL: A fun place to drink with lots of whooping and hollering and a down home suburban Texas atmosphere. Our music is best described as cowpunk music, country music without the O. ( laughs). Not to mention my girlfriend, Sasha, is a dancer and she brings her hot a** friends to dance to our songs that she personally choreographs. She’s wonderful.
Which do you enjoy the most, being a musician or being an actor?
TL: An actor because it pays and a musician when it does, get back to me on that one.
What is the typical day in the life of Todd Lowe entails?
TL: Wake up and hope that I don’t have a headache from the night before from playing five games of chess on Yahoo! Server. I play guitar, call Sasha, call mom, crash. . .
JW: ( laughing)
TL: I’m trying to make it poetic and have a rhythm. I’ve never had anyone ask me what my day is like. ( laughs)
JW: You are cracking me up.
TL: I also do some kind of cardio at 4:20PM. I’m taking several different martial arts classes to firm up my hands. After years of playing the guitar, my wrists dangle so I am taking martial arts classes to firm up my hands and know how to put a knife into someone’s larynx if I have to.
laughs) Are you gonna have to do that anytime soon?
TL: Sure. ( coyly).
JW: So what is next for Todd Lowe?
TL: I just finished shooting a small part in a film called SKATELAND starring a friend of ours from Austin, Heath Freeman. It’s got one of the kids from the vampire film TWILIGHT ( Ashley Greene) so that makes two degrees of vampire separation. The script was pretty good and we hope that the movie does take off. I’m working on a web series with Justin Tanner called AVENUE 43 and it’s basically a sexy, sordid, gentrified, East L.A. webisode about people and, of course, the band will write a few more songs – two to be exact.
JW: Todd, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview and continued success on TRUE BLOOD and your other upcoming projects.
At the end of our interview, we decided to head inside the bar from the patio where we were joined by Todd’s girlfriend, Sasha and shared Irish coffees and laughs until closing time chatting off the record. Even though he has now set up his life in Los Angeles and is firmly ensconced in the entertainment industry, he hasn’t changed who he is as an individual and that is what makes him endearing. A man who has not allowed the industry to dictate who he should be and that is a hard thing to come by.