Chances are, you’ll recognize Katie Lowes from any number of shows, movies, or musicals she’s been in over the years: As Quinn in Scandal, as Rachel in Inventing Anna, or from her stint in the Broadway musical Waitress with her husband, fellow actor Adam Shapiro. Needless to say, she’s had her fair share of juicy roles, and is now in the midst of the sixth season of her Shondaland-produced parenting podcast, Katie’s Crib.
It also so happens that Lowes is a 40-year-old mom of two, a soon-to-be-kindergarten-bound son named Albee and a 2-year-old daughter named Vera, so she’s really, in many more ways than usual, just like us. So, being a huge Scandal fan, I thought I’d try my luck getting Katie to chat with Scary Mommy about, well, everything. I had a hunch that she’d have some fun things to say about being a mom, about Scandal, and about being a child of the ’80s like me. And I was right! When we chatted via Zoom recently, she was as disarmingly candid as I’d hoped. Turns out, she’s just a mom trying to figure it out like the rest of us.
SM: I’m taking us back for a second. Watching that delivery scene in Scandal was terrifying. Had you already had your first child when you delivered your Scandal baby?
KL: No, I had him three weeks later. Shonda is such a champion of motherhood, however you get there. We had done six seasons of Scandal and [Shonda and I] were hanging out and she was sort of like, “What are you doing?” And I just was like, “What do you mean?” And she was like, “Do you want to have a family?” And I was like, “I think so.” Of course, my husband and I had been together for a billion years already, and I just was terrified. I’m terrified of change. And she just was like, “Well, I want to let you know that Scandal will not be around forever. I definitely know the ending – I always have since I started it – and it won’t be around forever. And if you want to get this done on my watch, you know I will take care of you.” And I literally ran home and told Adam to take off his pants. And then it was a magical experience where I got to be pregnant on set. I had the things you would never dream of happening in Hollywood.
They built me an entire porch outside of my trailer because no one wanted me to be taking the steep steps in and out in case I slipped. And then I had the baby.
I brought my baby every day to set. They gave me a whole other trailer with the whole nursery set up. I mean, Shondaland had whole rooms that were cribs and play toys and all this stuff for Viola’s daughter and Kerry’s kids. And it was just, like, I don’t understand why it’s not like that everywhere else.
SM: So how did Katie’s Crib come to be?
KL: Shonda was like, “I think you should have a podcast. I think it should be called Katie’s Crib.” And that was six years ago. I really am so lucky because I get to use it on a personal level; I’ve used it for every avenue of when I’m stumped, which is quite often. And we do everything from C-sections and high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, to a lot of work on postpartum depression because I had that. And then also when George Floyd was murdered, talking about race with your children or talking about really, really trying to make changes in the ways that we can. But I have to say the Katie’s Crib community is like — I get approached by fans and they’re rabid and awesome. Scandal fans are the best. But there’s something about Katie’s Crib fans where the world stops and we hug each other.
SM: So I finally just watched Scandal all through for the first time — I know, I know. It’s soooo good.
KL: It’s so good. I’m watching it for the first time. I feel so lucky that I’m hosting the Scandal rewatch podcast with Guillermo Diaz, who played Huck. And I had pitched the idea a couple years ago, mostly because Guillermo Diaz is my best friend… But in all honesty, I was like, “The only thing I don’t want to do is go back and watch the show. I don’t really like watching myself, blah, blah blah.” And I was like, “You know what? I’ll get over it. Let’s just watch it.” And I started watching it, and the greatest gift has been I didn’t really watch it when it was on. We had to live tweet every episode. So I really didn’t focus. And at the time, you’re so concerned about what you look like and how your performance was and what they edited out or what they kept in or whatever.
Now I just sit back and it was 10 years ago, and I don’t remember anything. It’s just long enough that Quinn comes into a scene, and I’m like, “What am I doing here?” I get to watch these actors and writers who have become my best friends, and we’re such a close family and they’re so good…
I’m so uncomfortable by Fitz and Olivia’s chemistry because they’re such good friends of mine, and I can’t believe how hot it was. It was insane. And they’re not like that at all. At all. They’re dorky. It’s bizarre. And it’s the hottest thing ever.
SM: OK, on to some parenting questions. The best and scariest part of parenting is watching your kids grow. What’s surprised you?
KL: Albee was really my shocker. Nothing could compare to that first kid. I mean, I’m such a people pleaser, and I really am conflict averse. And my son was that kid on the public playground who was hitting babies for no reason. This is a nightmare for me. I had to really come to terms with understanding my kid is not a bad kid and learn how to advocate for him and what he is trying to express. And also being brave enough and strong enough to, even if it’s a stranger mom, just explain that I’m going to stay really close here and if he starts really wanting a toy, I’m going to be just putting my arm up in between them. I would get really good at catching it before it would happen.
It was a phase, and it ended, but it was such a lesson in “Wow, parenthood is going to bring about all your sh*t to the front.” This isn’t even about him… He’s a loud, dynamic, energetic kid. And I had to really look at myself and be like, “Why am I so triggered by this?” I would lose nights and nights of sleep, Googling “Why is my kid a hitter?” It was wild. This is going to be as much your journey as it is his. And you better really take a freaking hard look at yourself and your own f*cking issues.
SM: Are you a baby person?
KL: I’m not a play person. Babies really rocked me. I don’t see babies and go “waaah.” I just don’t. And I love that I have friends that are like that. Some of my most ice-princessy friends who are tough as sh*t turned out to be the most baby gushy people I’ve ever known. I love people. I’m huggy. I’m touchy. I love all that. I was not a fan of babies.
SM: Tell me about having a baby during the pandemic.
KL: I got pregnant a week before shutdown, and Shonda was my first email because I was shooting Inventing Anna. We had had lunch, and I had said to her, like, “Hey, I think I’m going to have another baby. But don’t worry because it’s March — my character Rachel is totally wrapped by April. So if I start messing around right now and it works, I will only be four, six weeks pregnant, and I’m going to be wrapped.” And I wouldn’t tell anybody anyway because I’ve had miscarriages before. So it wouldn’t mess up. I got pregnant March 8, 2020. March 13, it’s shut down. She’s my first email….
I’m an extrovert. I like community. And I was alone with a 3-year-old who is a super, super active boy, and we weren’t really letting him play because everyone was scared about me getting COVID. So I was his sole person, and I hate playing. I’m an actor, but I hate this. I hate it. I love organizing and making… The way I show love is their lunch boxes and that everything’s organized and planned and taken care of. And of course I love bath time and bedtime and singing songs and reading books and things like that. But if you want to hide and seek and like that or build a volcano, I’m just… oh, my God. I was a nanny for 10 years, and I used to do that stuff, but I got paid for it.
SM: What are your family’s rules for phones and social media?
KL: Monday through Friday, you’re allowed to watch some TV, but the TV has to have a narrative: beginning, middle, and end, like a story. And only on weekends are you allowed to watch [YouTube]. And then he wants to make it. We go to Target, and he’ll ask Adam, my husband, he’ll be like, “Can you take me?” And he’ll be like, “Yo, what’s up YouTube?” Yes. And sometimes, I’m like, “Should I just quit everything?” And we could be making $40 million a year.
SM: Did you watch a lot of television growing up?
KL: Oh, I watched so much television. Oh, my God. My husband [didn’t]… He got paid a hundred dollars a year if he only watched one hour a week. I know. I watched television from 3 to 7 Monday through Friday, baby. [I had a] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle television tray. And I had dinner in front of the television every night, and it’d either be Ellio’s frozen pizza or chicken nuggets where my mother talked on the phone “like this” [fakes deep Queens accent] to her mother. And my brother and I are fine!
SM: Tell me about your first R-rated movie. Mine was Working Girl and I was definitely too young to watch it.
KL: This is horrible. When I was 13 years old, my best friend’s parents for her birthday took us all to see the movie Seven. Are you kidding? That is not appropriate. Am I wrong? So I don’t know if that was my first, but it was… awful. That’s not OK.
I used to watch Dirty Dancing. [I used to] dance when I was like 6, 7, 8, 9. But I would just… I remember fast-forwarding the abortion part or the girl crying in the kitchen. Because I didn’t understand what the hell was going on anyway. I just liked seeing super sexy dancing, which obviously was giving me the feels. But I didn’t know what was going on.
SM: What about TV shows?
KL: Well, growing up I was a huge 90210 fan. I was a huge Dawson’s Creek fan. I loved Saved by the Bell. Seen every single episode. So every single time, I’m always interviewed by AC Slater. Oh, I’m always interviewed by him.
SM: Do you ever call him AC Slater to his face?
KL: Oh, yeah. All the time. All the time. All the time.
SM: So I just turned 40 last year, and I know you did, too. Talk to me about your birthday.
KL: I just liked the ramp-up. We went all out too. But I feel like the ramp-up was so huge. And then you just wake up when you’re 40 years old in one day and you’re like, “Oh.”
SM: So what do you think about your 40s so far?
KL: I had my first mammogram, and now I have to go back, and they need more imaging and all this. And I’m like, “Here we go. I’m in it. I’m in the vortex.”
I had heard from a lot of women that it’s the best decade. They know themselves. You unapologetically take up space, ask for what you want, aren’t bothered by the little things anymore. And I definitely see that for sure.
But I also feel like it’s just going by so fast. And the thing that freaks me out the most about your 40s is dealing with the real grownup stuff. My parents’ friends are sick, and that’s not stuff that you’re talking about in your early 30s. I have a group chat with my 10 best girlfriends that’s called “Remember When We Used To Talk About Dick?” Sorry, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that. It doesn’t literally say that — it’s called RWWTA, and then we all had to guess what we thought it was for… These are my best girlfriends from college 20 years ago where all we talked about was dating and sex and what their penis was like or not like or whatever. And now it’s like, “Oh, my God, that conversation is just… So far out the window” and it’s talking about mammographies. Someone’s sick or someone’s not doing well or someone’s in financial trouble. This is the real life sh*t.
SM: I know you travel a lot with your family. Any tips?
KL: Traveling is my favorite thing to do in the world. It’s like where I feel the most connected to what I’m supposed to be doing… I just love going places where people are different from what I’ve experienced, wherever that is. And my son’s been to 15 countries and he is 5, which is crazy…
People are just so anxious about traveling on planes with kids. I think it’s so much about mindset. It will end. It is not forever. Whether the flight is two hours, four hours, eight hours, or I’ve done 27 hours. But it ends, and there’s ups and downs; my kids have puked on me. I’ve sat in throw-up; I’ve caught his throw-up. You bring a lot of changes of clothes. You bring a sh*tload of snacks. And the other thing I did, which was the greatest thing that I’ve done, and I don’t know how I did this, and I think it will have to change probably, but my kids watch television, but they’re only allowed an iPad on travels. So planes and long car rides are unlimited iPad time. So my kids’ behavior on planes is incredible. Honestly, it’s just survive and try not to control it. My friends who have the hardest time are the ones we want to have them get their nap and this, that, and I’m like, guys: Throw it the f*ck all out the window. Just survive. It will end. And you got to have a glass of wine that will probably be knocked over onto you and just go travel by… Get the crappy seats next to the toilet where you belong.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.