Chris Lowell has never had a problem attracting women. First he wooed no less than Veronica Mars. Now he's got the ladies on ABC's Private Practice (premiering Wednesday at 9 pm/ET) all hot and bothered. But there's more to this 22-year-old stud muffin than meets the eye. We caught up with Kate Walsh's youngest costar to dish about becoming a sexy symbol, jumping on the Grey's Anatomy bandwagon and teaming up with TV veterans.
TV Guide: What attracted you to Private Practice?
Chris Lowell: Well, all of my friends are in med school and I felt shallow in comparison to them. So I figured if I got on a doctor show and got to be a doctor before them, I would feel much better about myself. That's actually kind of where I went wrong because no one had read the script since it was so top secret. I ended up calling all of my buddies and rubbing it in their faces that I was going to be a doctor before they were. Then, when I got cast as a receptionist, that was kind of a slap in the face. My friends won't let me live it down!
TV Guide: Have you asked them for advice about practicing medicine?
: Yeah. One of my friends was a midwife in Madagascar. She had quite a lot of input. I've definitely spoken with a lot of friends about it. I've had several conversations with practicing midwives. I found out that there's all different kinds. I think the midwifery that Dell is studying is the degree that you get after you get your nursing degree. If you stay for another year of school, you can get a midwifery license so you can practice in a hospital.
TV Guide: What kinds of questions did you ask your friends?
: At first, it was questions like, "How much school are you in? What are the hours like? How overwhelming is it? How tired are you at all times?" Then the questions became more like, "Is it completely a turnoff when you see a baby come out of a woman's vagina?"
TV Guide: That's hilarious. Did the show hook you up with any real midwives, too?
: Yeah. They have researchers on set researching cases and keeping up with doctors in all different fields. There's also always one doctor on set to make sure that everything we're doing is accurate and also to explain things to us when we have no idea what we're doing. They explain if it's a drug we're referring to or a procedure. It's nice to be on a show where you can learn a few things as well.
TV Guide: Nobody seems to have auditioned for this show. Did you audition for the role of Dell?
: I think I was the only one to audition. My audition was a scene from an old Grey's episode. That's how little they were revealing. I remember going in for it, too. I had a couple of days off from Veronica Mars and I didn't want to go on any auditions. I'd already turned down a few because I said, "I just don't want to do it. Just let me have a few days to relax." Then my manager was like, "Just go in on one!" Grey's Anatomy was the shortest audition. It was only one page so I said, "Oh, fine. I'll do this one!" I was very relaxed in the audition and I think that's half the battle a lot of times. But I never went to the studio or network, which is normally the procedure. So I get this phone call a few days later while I'm on set. It's my agent telling me that I got the job. I'd almost forgotten I'd even auditioned for it! It was the most lovely, surprising phone call to get.
TV Guide: What scene did you do from Grey's Anatomy?
: I did a scene from the first season, I think. It was an episode about all of these crazy punk bicyclists who have this day in Seattle where they race to a pub or something like that. There's all sorts of injuries that happen. Anyway, this guy gets impaled in the side and he's on the hospital bed trying to sleep with Meredith and she's just putting up with him. It was so funny because I was like, "Yeah, I so remember this episode!" I was lying. I was like, "It's too bad he dies!" Betsey Beers, who's one of the creators, was like, "He doesn't die. I'm sure that's the only episode you missed though, right?"
TV Guide: Honestly, did you even watch Grey's before your audition?
I did, but you know what it was? It was that show that killed other plans for me. I was always bitter about Grey's Anatomy because I'd be with my friends on a Thursday night like, "Let's go to this concert!" And they'd be like, "Well, we want to watch Grey's." I was always like, "What do you mean you want to watch Grey's? Screw Grey's! I want to go dancing." So I sort of had a little bit of a boycott against it for my own personal gain.
TV Guide: Has the boycott been lifted yet?
What happened when I got cast was my roommate had the first two seasons on DVD. So I went out and bought the third one. I wish I hadn't because now I'm like a rabid wolf waiting to see the next episode. I'm going nuts! It's so frustrating especially when I see other people in the cast. They don't want to talk about the show but I just want to find out what the hell is going to happen. It's embarrassing!
TV Guide: Have you asked Kate [Walsh, Addison] or [series creator] Shonda [Rhimes] for scoop?
I don't bother with Kate or Shonda. With them, I want to know what's going to happen on our show. The way it's been, we get the scripts the day of and it's like, "OK, this is what we're doing? Let's go!"
TV Guide: How challenging is it to memorize last-minute scripts?
It's crazy. I'm surprised we even get them that early considering Shonda and a lot of the writing team are doing both shows. I don't know how it's even possible.
TV Guide: You should ask if you can visit them on the Grey's Anatomy set to get spoilers. Ever thought of that?
Yeah. That's not weird, is it? It's so sad. It's like a heroin fix!
TV Guide: I know it's early but how does Private Practice compare to Veronica Mars?
It's funny because there are a lot of parallels between the character and me as an actor. Without rival, [the cast of] Veronica Mars was one of the greatest, most welcoming groups of people. We were all about the same age. Everyone was in great spirits and we always wanted to help each other out. We shot down in San Diego so it was almost like being away at college. We all got along and we were always hanging out outside of the set. Coming to Private Practice was a complete shift because I'm in the city I live in and I'm with all of these very renowned, professional actors with a ton of incredible work under their belt. It was incredibly intimidating for a long time. I was sometimes very uncomfortable on set because I was so worried being around these actors because they were so much older than me. I was confident but I was just always trying to prove myself. I think that almost exactly translates into Dell's plight. He's surrounded by these professionals whom he greatly respects and he really just wants to prove himself as much as he can, so he's frustrated when he can't. He really just wants to show them that he can be an asset to the group. That's exactly how I felt.
TV Guide: Why do you think Veronica Mars got canceled despite the fan base?
I think that show had such an unfair series of obstacles thrown at it. From what I understand, there was never a time when you could take a breath. From the first season through the third season, there was always an overwhelming threat that, on any day, it could get pulled. I think what kept it alive was the fans, which is why I'm sure they were so upset when it ended. If it meant taking a bullet so Veronica Mars could stay on the air, I guarantee you there would be a line of people with blindfolds on.
TV Guide: Do you think the Veronica Mars fans will follow you to Private Practice?
For a while, I think people just wanted me to end up at the bottom of a lake somewhere because I was the character interfering with the Logan-Veronica love duet. I was like the plague, man. People did not like me for a while. But they turned, I think. I've gotten some very sweet support from people who hopefully will come over to Private Practice.
TV Guide: Is it true that there might be a Veronica Mars movie?
I've heard little rumors going around but I haven't heard any official word on it.
TV Guide: So there's no script?
No script out there.
TV Guide: How will Dell evolve this season?
Dell is very driven. He's not cocky but he's very confident and he is very assertive. Sometimes that gets him into situations where he's in a little bit over his head both in his personal life and his professional life.
TV Guide: You were sort of eye candy in the Grey's episode. Will Dell get involved with any female doctors on the show?
It's a Shonda Rhimes' show so I think there definitely will be some fooling around in broom closets. As long as I don't have to fool around with my shirt off in extreme slow motion, I'll be OK. I don't know if I could go through that again. It was cold!
TV Guide: Were you surprised when you saw that scene?
We read the script and I remember thinking, "OK, I can do this." I was ready to go but, when it came time to do it, the director was like, "We're going to do it in super-slow motion!" I've seen Grey's episodes and anytime anyone's topless, it happens in real time. The one they milked the most was McSteamy coming out of the shower. So I felt like, at the worst, it would be something along those lines. Then the director was like, "No. This is going to be a Britney Spears music video circa 2001 and you're not going to be moving too quickly at all."
TV Guide: Think you'll score a nickname?
Lowell: USA Today published a nickname for me: "McNipples." That was actually David Spade's reference to me in the pilot. Hopefully that won't stick. Hopefully it'll be more like Mc-I-Want-to-Cast-Him and Mc-He's-Incredible. But that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
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