Just a few days prior to the staff of C Magazine heading to Los Angeles for this month’s cover shoot, another magazine hit the newsstands with a cover story on the entire cast of Desperate Housewives. It chronicled a day of drama; tempers supposedly flaring, egos out of check and requests to be fulfilled prior to any click of a camera. It was a Hollywood production in its truest form.
While all of that may have been true and it makes for an extraordinary story, thankfully, the only drama experienced during our shoot with Columbus’ own Desperate daughter Andrea Bowen, (one of the youngest and perhaps sweetest teenage actresses in the business) was the fact that our catering order contained decaf coffee instead of the high octane stuff. Nevertheless, as with all first meetings, one is never quite sure what to expect. This is a girl who has spent her entire young life in the limelight, and from an outsider’s point of view, she’s living a charmed one at that. Not only does she have a resume longer than most actresses twice her age (she’s appeared in countless Broadway productions, television shows and movies); she is currently sitting pretty as Teri Hatcher’s clever daughter, Julie Mayer, on the #1 show on television. For someone who isn’t even old enough to drive, this girl appears to have it all.
But as the flames of gossip surrounding her cast mates continue to ignite page after page of the tabloids, any preconceived notions of teenage diva-ness are quickly diminished as Bowen’s boundless enthusiasm and genuine nature are revealed early on as we almost bump into her and her mother as they try to maneuver through the photo studio’s maze of hallways. “This studio is kind of crazy, isn’t it?” she says brightly after greeting us. We laugh out loud, mostly because we totally agree. It was a little out of the norm. But this was L.A. and as long as she was willing to roll with it, so were we.
The youngest of six children to Peggy and Guy Bowen, Andrea was practically raised in the theatre mostly because her big brothers and sisters (Jessica, 24; Graham, 22; Jillian, 20; Alex, 18, and Cameron, 16,) were enthralled by the stage early in their own lives and appeared in countless local productions for the Davis Discovery Center and the Columbus Children’s Theatre. “I guess it looked like they were having a good time,” says Peggy. “So I guess she was just waiting for her chance to shine.”
Baby Bowen’s first shining moment came during a local talent competition for the Fox 28 Kids Club when she was just three years old. It was a moment her mother remembers fondly. “She had been sleeping on my shoulder and I remember waking her up and telling her that if she wanted to get up and sing she could, but it was totally up to her,” says Peggy. “She was up and ready in a second and then she put her little head down to the mic and sang. When it was over, she just kind of stood there and took it all in.”
As her success continues to surpass anyone’s expectations, that first moment would be something she would always carry with her. As she listens to her publicist read back her schedule for the upcoming week, it’s easy for us to get sucked into her teenage fairytale and forget our own journalistic composure. What kid, no, what person wouldn’t want to spend their days working on the set of a hit TV show and their nights attending movie premieres? While it all sounds glorious to us she readily admits she’s learned to take a step back into the reality of it all. “It is hard sometimes, especially when everything is going so well and everything is perfect and you are having such a great time. It’s easy to get lost and a little ahead of yourself,” says Bowen. “But my siblings are always telling me to not get an ego. It’s hard for me to not stay grounded because all of them are so supportive and definitely keep me in my place.”
Her unassuming personality isn’t lost on her on-screen mom either. “Andrea handles herself so professionally in a cast of mostly adults, that I sometimes forget that she is only 15,” says Hatcher. “She always comes to the set well-prepared and ready to work and I respect her many talents! Plus she always can be seen with a warm smile on her face - I love that about her.”
From 42nd Street to Wisteria Lane
Just a few short years after Bowen’s first taste of the spotlight her family packed up everything and left Columbus for the Big Apple. There, the Bowen children found enormous success and Andrea became the youngest performer ever to take on the role of young Cosette in Les Miserables. She was six.
Now with so many roles under her belt, the acting veteran was pleasantly surprised when Desperate Housewives’ popularity took on a fan base of worldly proportions. “I thought it was going to do really well just because the cast (including Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, James Denton and her on-screen mom Hatcher) is so amazing and the writing is so intelligent,” she beams. “I knew people were going to relate to the characters even though things are taken to the extreme on the show, but I never thought it would be this and become this huge phenomenon.”
She may be one of the few teenage cast members of the Desperate cast but Bowen still finds herself quizzed by adults and kids alike about upcoming plotlines. Sometimes they stop her just to proclaim their devotion to the show. “I love that people are so into the show,” she says. “It’s such a compliment to have people come up to you and tell you how much they love your work.” It’s especially gratifying because Bowen loves her character. “First of all she has a great relationship with her mom and it’s a total role reversal where she’s totally the mother and Susan (Hatcher) is more of a crazy lost teenager who needs the help,” she muses. “ It’s different than so many other teenage type relationships on TV and it’s so much fun to play because she has so many elements to her and she’s not this one-dimensional character.” Bowen also loves the fact that Julie is written to be extremely smart, sarcastic and very mature for her age. “She’s probably the most sane one on Wisteria Lane,” she laughs.
Just a little bit of Julie’s sarcastic charm comes out in Bowen later on as our Photography Director attempts to keep the mood light. “What’s your name again?” he asks as she emerges from the dressing room for a second round of photos. At first, she looks slightly stunned by his remark, mostly because they’ve just spent the past hour shooting. Then she sees his sly grin emerge from behind the camera and she quickly recognizes his jest. Almost on cue, she rolls her eyes with fake annoyance before they both break out into fits of laughter. In addition to learning how to balance work with school and friends, it’s nice to know she’s learned a thing or two from her older sisters on how to deal with the lads.
As we step outside of the stuffy studio and into the California sun for more photos she doesn’t hesitate to throw a few more witty punches at him, always assuring us it’s all in great fun. We are reminded again of her mother’s story of her first performance because Bowen seems to take everything in and enjoy every moment.
Hatcher confirms what’s already obvious to us in just one day. “Although Andrea carries herself in the most professional manner, she is the most down to earth 15-year-old you have ever met,” she says. “Often times in this business, you run across so many affected kids, Andrea is not one of them. She treats everyone with respect.”
That Ohio Thing
Ok, now here is the portion of the story where we deliver our soliloquy about how every celebrity from our great state displays qualities that are truly – well, remarkable. While this may start to sound tired and boring to some, it’s just a plain fact that we can’t ever ignore. In this case, the Bowen’s are true Ohioans—as warm and gracious as they come. It’s something that is further confirmed by those who knew Bowen and her family, long before the big cities of New York and L.A. claimed them as their own.
“It was really a commitment on every single family member’s part to make it work,” says long-time family friend Katie Grové of the Bowen’s choice to make the big move over a decade ago. “They really had to work together. They are just loving and wonderful people and I can’t tell you how impressed I have been with them.”
Bowen herself only spent a small portion of her life in Ohio, yet her mother still believes experiencing just a little bit of a “normal” upbringing has made her and her siblings who they are today. “They all grew up in Ohio, where we lived in a nice neighborhood and there was a pool around the corner and they rode their bikes and had their friends over,” she says of her children. “They had a big backyard to play in. It has a lot to do with what they do with their downtime and the choices they make.”
This is a business that Bowen was truly born to be apart of and her own excitement and her family’s support continue to drive her. But as Grové points out, Andrea pursued this way of life because it was something she enjoyed, not just because of her siblings or her parents influences. “Andrea just has a deep love for it, with no pushing,” she says. “No one has ever pushed her. She’s just always wanted to do it.”
Desperate Housewives airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on ABC.