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Decoding Quinn

Katie Lowes on the highs, lows and over-the-top insanity of life on “Scandal”

Over the course of its four seasons, Scandal has become something of a behemoth. The show draw in millions of viewers each Thursday night, and it riles up countless more on the Twitterverse as the show’s cast live-tweets its twists and turns. In addition to the show becoming a hit, the members of its cast have become regular fixtures in living rooms (and on phones, tablets and laptops). And of those actors, perhaps none have seen a greater change than Katie Lowes.

The actress plays Quinn Perkins, a shadowy D.C. operator who’s gone from naïve naïf to deadly assassin in record time. And while Perkins is undoubtedly a bit deranged, for New Yorker Lowes—who’s also appeared in Royal Pains and The Closer and has lent her voice to Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph—playing the character has been nothing but fun.

Here, she dishes to DuJour on Quinn, fan feedback and how she’s using her Shakespearean training.    

So, you’re in the middle of filming season four of Scandal. How is it being back at work?

It’s the best place to be. It takes us about eight and a half days or so to shoot an episode during the week, and our scripts are amazingly, beautifully much longer than regular drama scripts.

Is it a completely different animal than the other series you’ve worked on?

It’s definitely the best job I’ve ever had, hands down. It’s the people that make it so amazing—and the material. It’s rare to play a part like Quinn, who is so complex. She started one way and now we’ve completely peeled all these different layers of her, and we’ve got a completely different set of rules that she plays by. I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to go along on this journey with her.

It’s probably rare for an actor to be surprised by a character as many times as you have. 

I’m literally surprised every single week. There’s nothing wrong with it, but a lot of times the character you fall in love with will stay the way you met them, but that’s not the case with Quinn.  She’s changed and evolved and has seen some pretty horrific things. Every time we get our table read scripts, it’s the first time we’ve ever seen the script or know what’s coming down the pipeline for our characters, so I’m usually shocked. You know, whereas Quinn is kind of a badass and wouldn’t be shocked, Katie, myself, is shocked. I’m shocked by other character’s storylines, too.  I’d definitely say I have a jaw-dropping moment at least a few times during a table read. 

How do you feel you’ve changed playing her?

I think that my evolution has sort of paralleled Quinn’s. That’s not to say that I am now a torturer on the sly, but it’s to say Quinn started out as the bright-eyed newbie, which is definitely how I started. I had been on other series before, but Scandal was the first that had a lot of attention and buzz around it. I think if Quinn has become more grounded, layered and strong, I think I have as well in my acting.

You are classically trained. Does that sort of background help on a show like Scandal? 

I really think that Scandal calls upon my training more than any other job I’ve ever had.  I think that is especially true because of the pace in which we speak and the diction. In college, I spent eight hours a day learning and performing Shakespeare, and that’s what I use when I speak on Scandal. It’s the same thing. 

It sounds like the show is time-consuming to say the least. Do you get to have much of a life outside of work?

I’m artistic director and a founder of a theatre company around here in L.A. called IAMA Theatre Company. It’s something I started with my friends. We all went to NYU together and then moved to L.A. and were all waitressing at the same restaurants like eight years ago, and we’d look at each other like, What the hell are we doing? So, we created this little theatre company that is doing really well, and it’s a huge force of inspiration and creativity in my life. 

My husband and I also just bought a house a year ago, and so that’s super adult and scary and takes up a lot of time.  We’ll be like, Oh, my God, we have to buy our first couch that’s not from Craigslist! No offense to couches bought on Craigslist.

Scandal has a lot of fans with strong opinions. Do you hear from people on the street about what they’re thinking?

People have really strong opinions about Quinn, which I love. I think it’s a true testament to Shonda Rhimes’s writing in that none of her characters are actually ignorable, they’re all a mess and they all make people feel things, which is the point.  So, when I walk on the street, people just make their opinions known. Girls in their twenties will be like, ‘Oh, my God, I just love Quinn,’ and then some women will say, ‘She’s too nosey and up in everyone’s business.’ And then there are some men who are just like, ‘She’s crazy.  We don’t know what she’s going to do at any minute, but she scares us,’ which I also really enjoy. It’s funny, because I really pride myself on not being a crazy person but, you know, I get to take that out on Quinn a little bit.