From showrunner Jeremy Carver, the TV series Doom Patrol (available to stream at www.DCUniverse.com) follows a team of uniquely quirky and downright odd superheroes who have all suffered a horrible accident that’s given them abilities, leaving them more anti hero than anti-hero, as they work together to find their purpose while investigating weird phenomena. After bringing together Robotman, aka Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser), Negative Man, aka Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer), Elasti-Woman, aka Rita Farr (April Bowlby), and Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), mad scientist Niles Caulder, aka The Chief (Timothy Dalton), mysteriously disappears and Cyborg (Joivan Wade) presents them with a mission that will force them to face their own fears, if they are to succeed.
While at the Warner Bros. portion of the TCA Press Tour, actress April Bowlby talked about figuring out who Rita Farr is, the first time she saw what she’d look like as a melted blob, her character’s incredible wardrobe, how Rita Farr feels about what’s happened to her, what it’s like to shoot in Doom Manor, how much this cast is like their characters, shooting underwater, and how cool it is to be a part of something so unique.
Collider: I really enjoyed this show! I had no idea what to expect, and I thought it was hilarious and fun.
APRIL BOWLBY: Oh, yay! I’m so glad. It’s a very weird and quirky show, but it’s got humor to it. I think they found a really good balance with it. I don’t know how they did, but they did, and it works.
Was that evident from the script? Did you know what sort of weird, wacky tone of humor it was going to have, or were there lots of questions?
BOWLBY: There were a lot of questions. We all got the Grant Morrison version of the Doom Patrol comic, and we got the first script, which was very off the wall. After the first read, I was very nervous. I was like, “I don’t understand. How do we do this? It’s very dark.” And then, after the second and third reads, the ideas started to come to me. It was all working together in the writing, and I’m so happy that it translates very well to the screen.
How do you get into the head of someone who essentially melts into a big blob?
BOWLBY: I feel like it’s not that hard. I feel like I possibly do that, emotionally, maybe once every two weeks. I watched Sunset Blvd. with Gloria Swanson, and looked at the strong women from the ‘50s, who were holding themselves together by trying to emanate an energy and quality, but you can’t hold onto that because we’re all just human beings, trying to figure it out. The cracks in the surface start to come apart, and then you just blob out and lose control.
What was it like, the first time you saw what that would look like?
BOWLBY: I was a little embarrassed of myself. I saw it, and I thought, “Oh, no, somebody get her a jacket! Help her! Hide her! Get her inside!” That’s how I know that they did it right. It felt like a very exposed thing. It was like, “Oh, this poor girl is a mess!” There’s a lot of shame in that. People don’t show their messes, and that’s what we do in this show. You see people’s mess.
How complicated and tricky was it to shoot some of her various stages of melting?
BOWLBY: Luckily, it’s all CGI. We’ll do a take, and then, after we get everything we need, they come in and put the CGI dots on my face, like make-up, and we’ll do it again. And then, the beautiful people behind the scenes create the melting. I just have to pretend that it’s happening.
Your character certainly has a fabulous wardrobe and is very put together. Is that something that really helps you find her and get into her space?
BOWLBY: Yes, it’s very Rita Farr. We have an incredible wardrobe department, and part of Rita putting herself together. I wear compression hose, from the ‘50s, that keep everything so tight. And then, on top of that, I put on a bodysuit. And then, on the bodysuit, I do a bra. All of that is holding her together, underneath all of the clothes, which keeps her tight and sitting upright, and creates her behavior. And then, to have these beautiful period piece clothes on her body, you just can’t move like you’re in 2019 when you’re in them. You have to cross your legs a certain way, and you have to sit up. I think it gives her so much charm. Her costumes are part of her character, for sure. It’s really special. These characters are trapped in their own eras, and they have to come together in the current time and work together, throughout the season. Everyone works together in a different way, which is interesting.
How does Rita feel about what’s happened to her, and that she’s now stuck with all of these very odd people, as a result?
BOWLBY: I feel like she’s over it. The cool thing about Rita is that she’s so narcissistic. Eventually, she warms up to people, but it takes the whole season. She very much likes her own space. She likes things done a certain way. She believes that her way is the proper way, and she’s repelled by anything that goes against it. She just has no time or patience for it. She’s very narcissistic and vain. If you have an issue with her, she just looks the other way, or she’ll walk out of the room. She’s a broken, flawed character, and that’s why it’s so fun to play her.
What do you enjoy about the relationship with Timothy Dalton’s character, The Chief?
BOWLBY: Gosh, Timothy Dalton is so talented. In this story, The Chief is very much a father figure and a therapist. He’s the one who has brought us all together and who has accepted us, with all of our faults, disfigurements, and whatever issues we have. He’s collected us and takes care of us, beautifully. When you meet him, he’s a warm person, in general, and he brings that into the scenes. He’s just so kind to everyone, in his fatherly way. It’s very magical. And I love how the writers wrote it that he’s the center point. He keeps us all tethered. Without him, everything falls apart. You have no throughline. He’s our person.
What’s it like to be in Doom Manor?
BOWLBY: It’s awesome. We actually shoot in a manor, and there’s something really cool and haunting about it. It sets a mood, for sure. It’s haunting but grounded, and warm but disconnected. There’s almost a quietness that comes because the ceilings are so tall. Where we shoot was owned by the man who made Coca-Cola. It has quite a history, and you can feel it. We’re lucky that it’s layered with all of that energy.