Julie Bowen: Mother of three times two, on TV and in actuality

David Hiltbrand
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

Julie Bowen apologizes for conducting an interview from Los Angeles on her car phone.

"This is pretty much the only time I can call," the actress says.

At the moment, she's driving from home, where she is the mother of three, to her job on the season's breakout comedy, ABC's "Modern Family," on which she plays the mother of three.

So, yeah, she's got her hands full.

"The real-life parenting thing is tough," says Bowen, 39, now the mother of three sons under 3 after giving birth to twins this year.

Her pregnancy necessitated concealing a double baby bump when she was first working on "Modern Family", the insouciant, critically hailed sitcom that is averaging more than 10 million viewers a week.

"Did you see the pilot?" she asks. "Every shot is me hiding an 8 1/2-month belly. I was dressed in these massive shawl-like sweaters."

Camouflaged or not, Bowen brings the same extra-sparkly girl-next-door quality to her new show that she has been displaying on TV since starring opposite Tom Cavanagh in 2000 on "Ed."

From that series, she went on to "Boston Legal" while appearing in recurring roles on such shows as "ER," "Weeds" and "Lost."

How has she managed to be on the tube more than Billy Mays over the last decade?

She cites her obliging spirit.

"I'm happy to read for roles and I'll jump through hoops for producers and directors so they know it's OK to hire me," she says. "A lot of people reach a point in their careers where they don't feel comfortable auditioning anymore. Not me."

It was that willingness, and an unseemly amount of enthusiasm, that got her cast as the ex-wife of Jack (Matthew Fox) on "Lost."

"I got that job as a fan," she says. "I was such a 'Lost' geek. I sent out Christmas cards that played the 'Lost' theme. One of them ended up on the desk of a 'Lost' writer."

Bowen, adept at comedy and drama, uses a little bit of both on "Modern Family." As Claire, she acts primarily as the anchor to Phil (Ty Burrell), her flighty, desperate-to-be-hip husband.

Addressing his scene-snatching character, Burrell says, "None of my idiocy would land if it wasn't for her being so grounded. The bonus with Julie is she is incredibly funny."

A Baltimore native born Julie Luetkemeyer, Bowen broke into TV work with small roles on soap operas.

"It was good because you learn all the stuff you don't learn in acting class," she says. "They don't teach you how to get over your fear of cameras swirling around you.

"What was horrible," she adds, "was that everyone was so tiny and skinny. One wardrobe woman called me a cow. Soap people are the littlest people in the world. They are tiny, tiny people."

Despite her many high-profile acting credits since, Bowen is still often identified for her role as Adam Sandler's girlfriend in the 1996 comedy "Happy Gilmore," one of those fluky films you can find on one cable channel or another at any hour of the day or night.

"It was my first movie," she says. "I let the lovely hair people bully me into this crazy helmet of Princess Di hair. Had I known (the film) would live forever on cable, I would have fought for better hair."

Bowen is one of those rare TV actresses who will confess to being a fan of the medium. In addition to "Lost," she identifies "So You Think You Can Dance," "The Colbert Report," "Hung" and "Mad Men" as her current favorites.

"It's because I have no life," she says. "All I have is kids. There is no event worth paying $100 for babysitters that can't be beat by watching TiVo."

Of course, that only works if you remember to set the DVR. Since the twins joined the household, Bowen admits to being more than a little forgetful.

"It's kind of amazing. You can't think," she says. "I've shown up for appointments on the wrong days. I've invited people over that I forget about.

"It's gotten bad. I reminded my husband," businessman Scott Phillips, "yesterday about a party we have to go to tonight. He said, 'Honey, I mean this in a loving way: Are you quite sure it's tomorrow?'"

Real life to sitcom life. It's a short drive for Julie Bowen.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.