Julie Bowen has always played the showbiz game her way – and now, as a star of the ABC’s megahit Modern Family, she’s enjoying the rewards of never giving up. Julie talked to More for the September cover story. The issue hits newsstands this week. Highlights include:
On the Glorifying Motherhood: “At the time I only had one kid, but with two on the way, I was always hearing talk about golden mystical baby things and precious time. And I was like, ‘Who the f*** are you talking to?!’ This isn’t golden and mystical. If you could see me naked, you would weep. I weep on a regular basis. Children are like crazy, drunken small people in your house.”
Being called fat at her first professional gig, the ABC daytime series Loving: “Between scenes, [a costar] would say, ‘Can you believe how fat you are?’ ” Bowen recalls. Rather than allowing her confidence to be sapped, she sought support from the segment of the showbiz community that forever bears silent witness to the talent’s bad behavior. “I thought, go talk to the crew, and you’ll find out that they hate her, too.”
On not wanting twins and not having in vitro: “I was terrified. I did not want twins as a second go-around. I should have been much more cautious. I should have had . . . half sex?” On top of her emotional reaction, she recalls endlessly fielding questions from those who assumed the twins had resulted from in vitro fertilization. “Everybody asked me, ‘How many did you put in?’ and I’d be like, ‘Just one penis. Thanks!’ ”
She misjudged her own Funny Breasts on TV: Once, on Lopez Tonight, Bowen showed a snapshot of herself double-nursing the twins, provoking Internet uproar. “I thought it was funny,” a dismayed Bowen protests. “You didn’t see nipples, just this blurry picture of two heads stuck to my boobs. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ You couldn’t get me out of the house for about a month after that. I felt so embarrassed and misunderstood.”
Almost having a baby on the set of Boston Legal: “I was pretending to be in labor, grunting and groaning. They’re like, ‘Cut!’ and my water breaks, and I’m standing in a puddle,” she remembers. A teamster was assigned to rush her to the hospital, but Bowen insisted that they first swing by her house so she could wash her face and change into street clothes. Her reasoning: She was afraid the admitting staff “would think I was Froot Loops, showing up in my own hospital gown with full hair and makeup.”
On Phil Duffy: “This is a man who lives in Utah. In this industry, most people are committed to Hollywood or Beverly Hills or Malibu. This is a man who is committed to Utah. He is also the scariest person I’ve ever worked with because he’s so good that you don’t know what is going to come out next.”
On her role as Claire Dunphy: “I really related to this woman. It was like, ‘You’ve just got to get it done.’ It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her family. She wasn’t getting condemned [by the script] as a bad mother. This was the lead mom, and she wasn’t romanticizing parenthood.”
Her family’s “Modern Family” drinking game: For the pilot, producers had to hide Julie’s pregnancy with folding laundry, popping her head up around a doorway, etc. “Every time you realize that Julie was doing something to hide her pregnancy, you had to drink,” recalls Julie’s older sister Molly.
She’s NOT part of Hollywood’s in-crowd: “Hollywood is nothing but every prom queen and cute girl in America,” says Bowen. “People like to pigeonhole blondes as the cute girl next door. I was never good at that. I was always better once they let me be a bit acerbic or have just a touch of a dark side.”
On her real last name: “I had this idea that I would probably fail and that that would be Julie Bowen’s problem and I’d just bury her and go back to being Julie Luetkemeyer.”
On romantic chemistry with Adam Sandler while filming Happy Gilmore: One would think it would be a great challenge to generate some romantic sparkle with Adam Sandler’s character, a maniac golfer with a horny preadolescent’s view of the opposite sex. But Bowen wasn’t stressed. “For me to manufacture sexual chemistry? No big deal,” she says, pointing out that she could meet a costar, such as Matthew Fox or Paul Rudd, and within minutes be kissing him passionately on camera.
Bowen’s heart condition: Bowen received a diagnosis of hypervagotonia (which causes her heart to beat too slowly) and was outfitted with a pacemaker. When the doctors broke the news, she remembers having “a big crying fit” about needing a device that’s “for old people.” Since then, she’s come to realize how lucky she is that a serious medical problem could be remedied in a way she considers “no big deal”: Every six months, she goes for a checkup; every seven years, she has surgery to replace the heartbeat-regulating part of the apparatus. “That’s kind of a pain. It’s a full operation,” she says. “They give you a new pacemaker but [not the wires that carry the electrical signal] so they don’t have to actually go into your heart.”
She’s nanny-free on the weekends: “I have three kids. I should know how to take care of them,” she says. Nonetheless, TGIF soon lost its shimmer. “We’d be like, ‘Here comes Saturday. It’s going to be a long-ass weekend.’ All we did was poop patrol for 48 hours. When Monday would come, we’d be like, ‘Thank God.’ ”
Getting her big break: “I always thought I was lucky to work at all. I’m keenly aware of the odds of succeeding in our business…Honestly, I feel like a lot of times, the only really bad choice you can make is one that closes doors. I have good relationships with the people in my life, both professionally and personally. If I wanted to chuck it all tomorrow and move to Michigan and live on a farm, I could do that—and I don’t think anybody would be mad at me.”
Bowen’s proud moment: “I’m constantly shocked that I am successfully taking care of this family and that I’m capable of putting their needs in front of mine,” Bowen says. “I don’t think I could have done it in my twenties.” Because she is very satisfied with her life, she wonders why others suggest she should push for more. “Why is ‘good’ the enemy?” she asks. “Why push it past good?”