Katie Lowes on Skin Care, Shondaland and the Art of the Scam

Before she set up shop in a popular place called Shondaland, Katie Lowes was an NYU undergrad student, working on her acting, waitressing on the side and hanging out with the “movers and shakers” of the New York social scene.

Sort of.

“I called on my New York life a lot for this one,” recalls the 39-year-old actress in reference to her role as Rachel—a Vanity Fair photo editor who, among other things, gets swindled out of $62,000 by “a friend”—in Netflix’s just-released Inventing Anna. (Lowes stars opposite Julia Garner, Anna Chlumsky and Laverne Cox in the series that’s inspired by the real-life events of Instagram heiress and con artist Anna Delvey, the latest project to come from the mind of producer-showrunner-screenwriter extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes.)

“In my 20s, I lived in New York and had friends—not necessarily good friends—who were on the social scene. I was working as a waitress and not moving in fancy social circles, but I had some distant friends who, once in a blue moon, let me go on their arm and get into a few things here and there. I just remember feeling like, ‘Wow! New York has this whole socialite scene that’s real and magical—and also wildly depressing if you’re not in it or if you don’t have the right bag or the right makeup.’ For that reason, I could really connect with Rachel and see the access and the door that was open because of her friendship with Anna. Oh, Anna….”

Tawni Bannister

Inventing Anna is the kind of show made for Netflix binging, but the concept is pretty dark. Have you ever experienced that level of deception?

“Absolutely not! The thought is terrifying! At the start of the series, Anna is conning lots of rich people and corporations, and it seems like this sort of Robin Hood–thing…but then it takes a turn when you meet Rachel and you get vested in their friendship. Now, she’s conning just a girl. A girl who makes $25,000 a year as an assistant, plays by the rules and is trying hard to be a good person—not someone who should have ever become a victim of something like this.”

Even with the whole con-artist theme, there is something very fun about the series. It had to be fun to shoot.

“It was such a blast. We got to shoot in New York and my character, Rachel, shot an entire episode in Morocco, so we were in Marrakesh for about three weeks. It was incredible. It was a very global show. It was so, so, so magical, and also weird because we shot half of it before the pandemic and then took all this time off during the pandemic, not really knowing what the deal was going to be.”

And then when you went back…

“When we came back in, I was pregnant. I got pregnant a week before shutdown, so that wasn’t totally lined up. When we came back, my scenes were all, thankfully, shot in LA, which is where I live, and—because Shonda Rhimes is the greatest boss in the world—they pushed all my scenes to the end so I could have as much maternity leave as possible.”

Tawni Bannister

That’s very generous. What is it like to be such a big part of the Shondaland collective?

“I still can’t believe it. I just texted Shonda today saying something similar. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how overwhelmed I am at how much she changed my life 10 years ago. We’re coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the first episode of Scandal airing [Lowes played Quinn Perkins]. And, even before Scandal, I got one of my first big guest stars on Private Practice. Shonda took a chance on me then and for her to continuously support me as an artist and as a mother…it’s amazing.

It’s also so crazy because she’s my friend, too. We FaceTime, we hang out and then I read her scripts at the table read and I’m like, ‘Oh, she’s a genius.’ She’s one of the most prolific writers of our time and a genius and my friend. I feel really lucky.”

Now, you’re pretty much a permanent fixture.

“She does collect people. She’s kind of a theater kid at heart and she has a troupe of people who she enjoys working with on-camera and behind the scenes. There were so many people involved with Inventing Anna who were involved with Scandal—like Paolo, our wardrobe designer, and Tom Verica, who directed a ton of Scandal episodes, and directed Inventing Anna. Two of the writers who were on Inventing Anna were writers on Scandal. It’s become very familial and special—it definitely feels like home.”

It sounds like Shonda is also very supportive of you as a working mother.

“Yes! it was her idea for me to start a podcast when I was pregnant with my son on the last season of Scandal. I was very raw and vulnerable and tired, but I think she thought I was a hilarious pregnant person. She was like, ‘We need to have a podcast where you talk about this kind of stuff, and it should be called Katie’s Crib.’ Now, here we are in the middle of season five of Katie’s Crib, my podcast that’s produced by Shonda in audio.

Tawni Bannister

We talk about this all the time on the podcast: How important self-care is when you’re a mom, yet I’m still, ‘Who has the time? How can I find the time?’ My child came into my bed at 6:15 this morning. I packed his lunch. I got him dressed. We brushed his teeth. I got myself dressed, miraculously. My daughter woke up. I breastfed her. I gave them breakfast. My nanny showed up. I was at work by 7:45 a.m. and I’ll be home by 4:30 p.m.

When I get home, I will put my phone down and be with them from 4:30 to 7:00. And I will go hard! I will do bedtime. By the time I put them down, I get to check my phone to see what I missed in the last three hours, and then what am I supposed to do? Get a facial? Get on the Peloton? I’ve kind of just accepted that these next few years are not going to be the best in the self-care department. I have a one-year-old and four-year-old and this isn’t how it’s always going to be. At some point, the days will look different.”

What’s the “me time” like now?

“At the moment, it comes in waves. Last weekend, it was my best friend’s 40th birthday and I had planned it for a long time. We went wine tasting all weekend! We hung out, we did Zodiac cards, we played games, we had a private chef come in, and I slept in until 9:00 a.m. both days! My husband was home alone with the kids, so I raged.

I wish I could say I do something for myself every day, but honestly, self-care for me is, ‘Oh, I got to take a long shower, or a bath, or read a chapter of a book.’ I’m a really big power napper. Whether it’s actual sleep or just zoning out, I’ll take either one. Another self-care thing for me is that I have one cup of coffee at 7 in the morning, and then I have another one at 2:30 in the afternoon. I don’t know how anyone is making it without that. Without the caffeine, I cannot get through to bedtime.”

The late coffee can hit hard.

“I have to do it! It’s either the coffee or a little bit of a British teatime at work. Anything to get me geared up for the nighttime. Some days it might be an English breakfast tea with some oatmeal creamer, and, for a moment, it’s just ‘Oh, what a treat.’”

And your current work is a new CBS sitcom. How is that treating you?

“My job right now…I love it so much. I’m doing my first comedy, which I have wanted to do my entire life. It’s called How We Roll, it’s on CBS, and it’ll be out March 31. I pray and hope everyone watches the show because I love it so much.

It’s starring Pete Holmes—he is hilarious—and me. He’s the husband, I’m the wife and it’s a true story about a guy in Saginaw, Michigan who worked in a factory his whole life. He got fired, and he’s a really good bowler, and his wife convinced him to go pro. He’s now a world-champion professional bowler! It’s so heartfelt and loving and hilarious. I grew up watching Cheers, Three’s Company, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, things like that in my household, so this is reminiscent of those. I’ve always wanted to try something like this. I’m just having the best time right now.”

Tawni Bannister

THE LIST

Oil Pull: “When we were filming Inventing Anna in Morocco, we were obsessed with buying argan oil. I bought so much argan oil—it was my goal to be glistening in argan oil. I went into the souk and watched these beautiful older women grinding argan seeds and these argan plants and making the oil.”

Hotel Service: “We stayed at La Mamounia to shoot those scenes, which is the hotel where part of the con happened—it’s one of the most extravagant, most elite hotels in the world. They make a very exclusive scent that they pump through the whole hotel, and I’ve never smelled anything like it before. It’s so beautiful. It’s sort of masculine and it smells like money and it’s amazing. I bought two little vials of it while we were there; I like using them so sparsely because it was my last really fancy trip outside of the country before shutdown.”

Skin Set: “I use a lot of Biologique Recherche; I use their P50, their Extreme 3 and their Placenta Night Cream. I’m a big fan of Mario Badescu’s Olive Oil Eye Cream and I use this oil by my facialist, Nousha. She has this amazing healing Reset Oil that she made during the pandemic—she was actually giving it to the front-line workers who were getting bruises from wearing PPE on their faces so much. The oil is amazing; I use it all the time because my skin goes through a lot on set. I’m on set right now and I’m looking in the mirror and I have so much makeup on. I would never wear this much on a normal day, and it just keeps getting reapplied as the day goes on. My face takes a lot of hits; I have to take off my makeup the minute I wrap. It’s got to go right away. Immediate bye-bye.”

Tawni Bannister

Hydration Pack: “I’m big into going to bed completely moisturized and my husband thinks it’s disgusting. Everything has to be lotioned at all times. The body lotion I use is Kiki Kreme, and it’s what I’ve used through both my pregnancies on my belly to prevent stretch marks and itching. It’s all organic and natural and safe for pregnancies, so I use it all the time. You can even use it on your baby. You could use it on your hair. It has coconut oil, shea butter and jojoba, all the good stuff.”

Extra Credit: “For my hair, I use the Virtue Split Ends Serum, and I shampoo with Bioplex. And my neck cream! I use StriVectin Neck Cream.”

Makeup Mix: “When I do do my own makeup, I use Benefit Eyebrow 4.5 and L’Oréal’s Voluminous Waterproof Mascara. My makeup artist, Jamie Greenberg, has Jamie Makeup Blighlighter, which is a mix of blush and highlighter in one. It’s a quick cheekbone stain and I put it on my lips. I also love Benefit’s Hoola. It’s a brown bronzer and I use that to contour my face because mommy needs some help right now. Other than that, I use old-school Chapstick or a Burt’s Bee’s red-tinted balm.”

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