Lilan Bowden first came on our radar when we heard of the Disney show, Andi Mack. It caught our eye in particular, because it’s the first ever Disney show to star an openly gay character. Being true to yourself is exactly what we’re all about at Taylor Magazine, and we think in this day and age, being comfortable in your own skin is an extremely important matter to address, whether you like boys or girls. We wanted to chat to someone from the show, and had the opportunity to chat with Lilan, who plays the main character’s mother.
Although we wanted to hear all about the show from Lilan, we discovered that not only does she star in a show with a pretty cool concept, she is also pretty cool herself! She’s always wanted to be an actress since she was a little girl, but often struggled to get parts due to her heritage. She’s now determined to break the mould, and we found out about all about her role in Andi Mack, what she gets up to outside of acting and what’s next for her career in acting…
“That’s the joy of acting – to be able to live in completely different worlds to your own.” – Lilan Bowden
Taylor Magazine: Start by telling us about you and what you do.
Lilan Bowden: I am an actor on the Disney Channel show, Andi Mack. I play Andi’s mother, Bex, and it’s a cool storyline. In the very first episode, I’m introduced as Andi’s sister, but that’s a lie. The family has been keeping it secret that who Andi believed to be her older sister, is actually her mother. So, it’s been a really fun ride! We’re shooting season three now and season two is currently on the air!
Taylor Magazine: Sounds like a really interesting storyline! How did you first get started with acting and get into the industry initially?
Lilan Bowden: I’ve always wanted to be an actor since I was a little girl. I had many different kinds of interests, but acting always seemed to be the one that prevailed over everything. When I was around nine or ten, I expressed this wish to my parents, and they got me involved in local workshops in the California Bay area. At that point, I did a few auditions for local commercials and booked a couple, but that kind of fizzled out and I just stuck with acting through school. I was part of the drama programme in high school, I joined the improv club, etc. I joined the University of California, Irvine and I continued to study drama – I would say I’ve only been professionally acting for around seven years now because after you get your education, you have to go to Hollywood or New York and start your hustle!
Taylor Magazine: That must be the hardest part?
Lilan Bowden: The hardest part of acting is definitely the business side of it. There is not much that can prepare you for it besides just getting out there and doing it, trial and error, rejection and a lot of exciting successes!
Taylor Magazine: It does seem like a challenging industry for sure! Going back to Andi Mack a little bit – it’s the first Disney show to focus on an LGBT character. Why do you think it’s important to address this and how has the response been?
Lilan Bowden: I think the story line of Disney’s first LGBT character is really important because it reflects real life. The show tackles a lot of issues that kids are experiencing now in real time. It’s comforting for kids, teens and parents who are watching the show to see examples of real life reflected in a positive and empathetic way.
“The story line of Disney’s first LGBT character is really important because it reflects real life. The show tackles a lot of issues that kids are experiencing now in real time. It’s comforting for kids, teens and parents who are watching the show to see examples of real life reflected in a positive and empathetic way.” – Lilan Bowden
The response that we’ve had reflects that as well – this is a new venture for Disney. There was a lot of anticipation on how it was going to be received and I am so relieved and delighted to say that it has been overwhelmingly positive. There have been a lot of people that have said that this show got them back into the Disney Channel – it’s revived their love and interest in it. There has also been so much positive feedback from kids – whether they connect to Andi or another character, there are so many different parts to the show that represent different things that I feel like there is something for everyone.
Taylor Magazine: That must be so rewarding for you guys on the show to know that the response has been great! We also know that you do a bit of comedy too. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Lilan Bowden: I started doing improv comedy in high school – I really fell in love with it. It’s so gratifying to be able to make things up on the spot and make people laugh right away. I kept up with it in college and joined their improv club. It was such a great experience and we did shows every other Friday. I did that for four years in college and then in L.A. I started studying with a theatre called the Upright Citizens Brigade and they do a style of improv comedy where you get one little suggestion from the audience and you make up anywhere from a 15 to a 40-minute show on the spot! It’s definitely challenging, and it takes a lot of years to even be semi-good at it, but being able to do that, and pull it off, is so rewarding!
I’ve also been doing sketch-comedy – something similar to what you would see on Saturday Night Live. I’ve done that with the Upright Citizens Brigade, I had a group called Bonafide and I also do it with my best friend Wilder. It’s so much fun! Before either of us were getting jobs in acting, all we had was the content that we were creating. I think that’s what a lot of actors have to do to feel sane – get out there and create their own content. We’d get together our friends, film a sketch, edit it ourselves, put it on websites, get feedback and we continue to do that now!
Taylor Magazine: Sounds like a lot of fun – and to do it with your best friend must be really cool!
Lilan Bowden: It’s really cool! Something that makes it great as well, is that she’s also the dialogue coach for Andi Mack. When I booked the show, we didn’t have to stop hanging out because she was out here too!
Taylor Magazine: With acting, it can be a tough industry. What is the biggest challenge you face?
Lilan Bowden: The biggest challenge in acting, that I personally face, is not having control about where your life is going to go. It’s the biggest challenge, but it’s also why I like this career so much. It changes every day – you could have long periods of time where you think: ‘Ok this is my normal life, this is my routine’. Then one day will change and your suddenly working on an indie movie for a couple of months, or a lifetime project, or you’ll be able to work with people you’ve been admiring for years. It’s the biggest challenge, but it also makes the career a lot of fun for me.
Taylor Magazine: Sometimes not knowing what is around the corner is a good thing! What is your dream role to play?
Lilan Bowden: This will probably sounds really cheesy… but my current role in Andi Mack is pretty close, if not it. I love the role, I love the cast, I love the character that I get to play because I get to bring a lot of myself into it. I’m still challenged by Bex sometimes, because in her storyline she really goes through a lot. Outside of this role, I love sci-fi as a genre and I love fantasy. It would be so great to be in a show like Game of Thrones or Westworld where you’re taken to a completely different world. That’s the joy of acting – to be able to live in completely different worlds to your own.
Taylor Magazine: Who would you love to work with – maybe another actor/actress who you admire that you’ve love to work alongside?
Lilan Bowden: Oh my goodness… I feel like the people you watch when you’re a kid and for me, when I really started to think seriously about acting, those people always hold a special place in your heart. When I was a teenager, I watched Saturday Night Live regularly and I was watching Amy Poehler and Tina Fey – they will always stand out in my mind as excellent comedians. It would be amazing to work with them one day!
Taylor Magazine: Other than acting, what hobbies/interests do you have?
Lilan Bowden: That’s it, we’re done! It’s just acting. No, I’m kidding! I play guitar – it’s definitely a hobby, not anything more. I’ve been playing since I was a teen. It helps relax me and at times when I’m really stressed, I’ll totally forget I’ve got this guitar in the closet and I’ll bring it out and feel calmer just playing it. Another fun hobby that the team have picked up recently is roller skating! On weekends, there is a roller-rink a town away and after a long day of work we’ll rally and roller skate until they close. They have to kick us off the rink!
Taylor Magazine: That sounds like such a good way to de-stress after a long week of work!
Lilan Bowden: It’s the best! I haven’t gone roller skating since I was kid until now. It feels like being a kid again – I feel so free and innocent!
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Lilan Bowden: I think I would tell myself some form of ‘this too shall pass’. I think when you’re 16 there are so many big highs and lows. Every moment feels like this is how you’re going to feel for the rest of your life. I would give that advice to me as a teenager, but to all teenagers too. Every day doesn’t have to be the end of the world, and life goes on! I’d also love to tell 16-year-old me that it’s going to be ok, you’re going to do fine, but I’d love to withhold that information for her too because I think that’s why I worked so hard in the end.
“Every day doesn’t have to be the end of the world, and life goes on! I’d also love to tell 16-year-old me that it’s going to be ok, you’re going to do fine, but I’d love to withhold that information for her too because I think that’s why I worked so hard in the end.” – Lilan Bowden
Taylor Magazine: Good point! It would be nice to go back and say everything is going to be fine but those hard points make you a stronger person!
Lilan Bowden: Yeah… I think it’s important to go through that!
Taylor Magazine: We’re all about self-care here at Taylor Magazine. What do you do to take care of yourself when things get stressful?
Lilan Bowden: I’ve never been a big fan of exercise my entire life, but the last couple of years, I’ve started doing hot yoga, so you sweat… a lot. I have been completely wowed – it’s such a game changer! Everything that everyone says about exercise is completely true – it can change your mood, outlook, it can make you feel better, sleep better! All these immeasurable benefits just by doing exercise seems like such common knowledge but for someone that has never liked it, it’s a whole new world for me!
Taylor Magazine: We’re big fans of yoga, it’s so relaxing!
Lilan Bowden: Yoga is extra special because it’s for the mind as well as the body. It focuses its connection on both.
Taylor Magazine: And going back to your career a little bit… what has been the most memorable part so far?
Lilan Bowden: I know I keep going back to Andi Mack, but the show has literally changed my life. I moved to a different state, and I do still go back to Los Angeles, but it gave me a whole new family that I had no idea I would be with for years, and hopefully more to come! Booking Andi Mack has been such a big highlight of my whole career. I’m so thankful for it.
Taylor Magazine: So… what is next for you? What should we expect to see?
Lilan Bowden: Well… we’re shooting season three right now! So for Andi Mack fans, you won’t be disappointed, we’ve got more to come! If you live in L.A. I always try to do one or two live shows when I’m there and I also have a small guest part on the Hulu show, Future Man.