Ever since its intial release on DC’s exclusive streaming service in February of 2019, Doom Patrol made a name for itself in breaking many genre conventions and straying far from the beaten path. Its ever-growing fanbase is a testament to the show’s dedication to its unconventional methods and characters. Among its cast of super-powered misfits and outcasts is Rita Farr AKA Elasti-Women, played by actress April Bowlby.
Before appearing in Doom Patrol and in sprinkled cameos throughout several of DC’s other TV shows, Bowlby has led a successful career on network and cable television in roles such as Kandi of CBS’s Two and a Half Men and Stacy Barrett of Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva. Her skill as an actress and natural charm continues to bring Rita Farr to life as season two of Doom Patrol airs on both DC Universe and HBO Max.
We were able to sit down with April Bowlby for an exclusive interview! We discuss the steps she took in order to prepare for the role of Rita Farr and how Season 2 of Doom Patrol is currently growing from the successes of the first. She teases the show’s dedicated fans that they still haven’t seen the best of what is to come.
To start off, how have you been spending your time in lockdown?
AB: That’s a great question. You know, every day is up and then it’s down. I’m learning patience and to be kind to myself, just take one day at a time. I really am also learning fun things like how to patch holes in the wall. We had to do a little drywall in the house (laughs). I’m painting walls and just, you know, doing some other work around the house. I’ve also been reading a lot and just taking the time to educate myself on what’s happening in the world – what I can do to make it grow and become better, hopefully, in November.
Let’s talk about the beginning of Doom Patrol, how did you first take on the role of Rita Farr?
AB: Oh, so many fantastic things. I got to read the Silver Age original Doom Patrol comics. I read those and then DC gave us the Grant Morrison versions of the books. So that was exciting with the Grant Morrison comic books. Then I got to watch a lot of older films with Betty Davis and Katherine Hepburn. I just kind of went into a deep dive of the 50’s and all those brilliant women leads that play in those films. I also watched a lot of The Twilight Zone because our show is a little quirky.
What about the show and the character drew you specifically?
AB: I think it’s incredible to have the honor to play a superhero for one, and then to play a superhero that’s not been done before. Elasti-Woman, I think she has been in cartoons, but she’s not had her real life moment. That was very exciting, that I could create something that stood alone. And I love the fact that Rita is such a broken character. That she is really lost and wounded. She retaliates with this narcissism and judgment of other people because she’s so broken and hard on herself. A flawed character is a really fun character to play because you find the humanity and the thing that makes them who they are – why they are the way they are. So it was a great thing to follow.
Did you have any input on the writing and designing of your character for the show?
AB: It was a collaboration. Certainly the writing informed my choices and the costumes informed my body movements and so forth. I think my job is to find the humanity in the character and make you root for her, even though she presents herself to be not the greatest person. And I really feel like I got to do that. Then everything else informed my decisions like the clothing and how Rita moved, all of this along with my research. I got to add to a beautiful pie that was just getting layered and layered. I added the behavior and who she is – she’s vulnerable. I feel like I got to bring that part of Rita.
Season one was such a huge success, especially with the fans. What was it like to see such a positive reaction to the show and how did it feel when you got the call for season two?
AB: Oh, man. It was so great because season one I feel is new and we’re finding our footing. We don’t even know what it is until we just finally see the season on television and visually understand what we were doing. It feels right when you’re in the moment that you’re like, “Did we pull it off?” And I think that we did pull it off in season one. I was so excited that we got a second season because our story is such an unusual dynamic. It’s a special story about generational trauma, taking your biggest fears, and having to deal with your past – but blanketed in a superhero story. That we got to explore that more in season two, it made us very happy. It’s just a deeper season overall.
At the end of season one, Rita makes peace with the mistakes she made in her past. What can you tell us about her role in the rest of season two?
AB: Season two is exciting, even for Rita, because I think she really starts to understand that she has a voice. She allows her emotions to comes through in that she’s trying to embrace, she’s healing. She’s looking at her past to heal and she goes to Vic [Cyborg] and wants to be a superhero. She really wants to commit and try to grow, to let go of that old resentment and heartbreak and actually try to help people. So in season two, you’ll see that Rita’s kind of the leader, which is an odd switch, but somehow she rises to the top. Everyone else is dealing with their own PTSD and issues, really trying to move forward. Rita tries to heal her trauma with her past and her mother, and she really does it.
This season has seen you interact a bit more with Joivan Wade as well. How has it been working with him and the character of Cyborg more?
AB: He’s such a generous actor and I think it’s nice for our two characters to lean on each other. I think that Rita really wants to help him, and I think he most certainly can help Rita. There’s this nice slight competition and camaraderie that’s happening between them. I think she kind of admires him and wants to be like him, but refuses to really say it in those words. So he takes her under his wing and all excitement ensues.
This season is also available on HBO Max. What are your thoughts on the series now being available to a much larger audience?
AB: Really incredible, super grateful and excited because DC Universe is where the hardcore comic book fans are, and there’s no other relationship like that. But now that we live at HBO Max, it is kind of the whole world. So we have the best of both worlds at this point. Doom Patrol, a show like no other – breaking genres on all levels.
Oh, absolutely. To wrap things up, what can we expect to see from you in the future?
AB: Well, you’re in for a treat in season two. Rita really comes into her own and there’s lots of magical things that happen to her. She kind of gets in trouble and then gets out of trouble. She stars in her beautiful way that she does. And it’s a really, really fun storyline for her. Then for me, like I said, one day at a time. Just trying to just educate myself, I’m learning and growing. I’m working on a podcast called 75 Reads and it’s basically David Bowie’s reading list. So if you want to read along with what a legend in music that we all love and adore read that’s it. That’s what I’m up to!