Photography by Charlie Rubin
Words by Nicole Bailey
Britt Lower is an actress and artist who hails from Illinois and now resides in Williamsburg. She can currently be seen as Tanya Sitkowsky on the CBS drama “Unforgettable.” We sat down over a cup of coffee (well, she had tea) and chatted about girlie things, face painting and the time she met Patti Smith.
WC: So Britt, where are you from?
BL: Twenty minutes south of Normal, Illinois. It’s a town called Heyworth. There were like two thousand people total, forty-five in my graduating class. You know everybody’s middle name, everybody’s your neighbor.
WC: Did you always know you wanted to act?
BL: My senior year of high school, I had to choose something, and I was flirting with the idea of acting and doing plays. I think I wanted to be everything, which is probably why I’m an actor.
WC: Do you think that’s what drew you to improv?
BL: For me improv is the best tool as an actor because you are just going out there with nothing and all you have is the other person and a suggestion and it’s like you’re essentially playwrighting on your feet. I’m on an all lady improv team called Funkle Todd. We perform weekly at a comedy club in Queens and host a monthly show in Manhattan. I call them the ‘ladies of my heart’ because they are just the funniest chicks I’ve ever met. We have so much fun together and we all have the same goals and Chicago improv language. I think as improvisers, ladies just listen to each other in a different way than men do.
WC: At Northwestern you majored in both theater and art. Why both?
BL: I definitely went to school for theater, but I didn’t want to go to a conservatory because I wanted to have a liberal arts college experience. I designed sets and costumes and I’ve always been a maker of things. I felt like I was missing something in my life my sophomore year in college, and it was painting and having a studio. The other funny thing about me is that I have been a face painter for the past eight years.
BL: I can show you pictures! My mom is a really vibrant and amazing spirit and she was a school teacher for twenty-five years. When she retired she made face painting her small business. We started face painting together during Renaissance fairs and festivals. We went to this body painting convention in Florida and we met the guy who I now work for here in New York at Agostino Arts.
WC: So artistically do you feel like you need another form of expression besides just acting?
BL: I think I do. That’s a really keen observation. I’m a visual person. There’s something nice about not having to choose a total focus. That’s why I’m a huge fan of Patti Smith.
WC: I’m reading ‘Just Kids’ right now!
BL: It blew my mind. I’ve read everything she’s done. I’ve read all her poetry. She’s always reinventing herself as an artist and I really connect to that part of her. I’m working on the play ‘Cowboy Mouth.’ My friend and I just fell in love with it and I wanted to pay tribute to this amazing relationship that she and Sam Shepard had. They wrote it over the course of two days in the Chelsea Hotel just passing a typewriter back and forth. We did a run through at Webster Hall a month or two ago. We want to do it in different literary hotel rooms around the country, like a road trip. Do it like a performance installation.
WC: I feel like everyone is talking about Patti Smith right now.
BL: Oh, definitely. I met Patti actually! A friend and I snuck into Webster Hall and we climbed up into the rafters with some blueberries and beer and we caught the tail end of her show. It was amazing. I hadn’t seen live performance like that. It felt like a political statement. I ended up staying after and sneaking into the V.I.P. section and there were all these French people who were obsessed with her. Finally, everyone left except me and this little French guy. She came out, so exhausted; it was like two in the morning or something. The guy that was sitting next to me the whole time looked at me and said, ‘You’re too shy.’ And I thought to myself, ‘He’s right.’ So I walked up to her and I put my hand out and I said, ‘Hi Patti, I’m Britt.’ And she just said ‘Hi, Britt’ all cool and rock-and-roll like. And that was it.
WC: One of the things about Patti that I love is her tomboy image. Do you identify with that part of her?
BL: I do. I think it’s really funny that this is the Girl Issue, because I don’t necessarily think of myself as very girlie. I once played this art gallery owner (on CBS). It was this really feminine character where they styled me in these 4 inch heels and this $300 bra. I was looking at myself and was like, man, I look like a lady! And the stylist was like, ‘Well, yeah, you’re a woman!’ It’s surprising to me to be seen in that way because I don’t really think about what gender I am, I think more in terms of what spirit animal I am. Hah! But I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great female mentors and I also work with some amazing women. I really like the word lady … it feels like a bird.
Styled by Siri Thorson
Hair by Marcel Dagenais
Makeup by Candace Henderson