The “AHS: Cult” star revealed how her life has become “surreal” following the passing of both her beloved mother Carrie Fisher and grandmother Debbie Reynolds last year. Plus, Billie dished on meeting her “Scream Queens” boss, Ryan Murphy.
It’s been quite a year for Billie Lourd. The 25-year-old actress has hit her stride in Hollywood: She appeared in the series Scream Queens and is starring in the latest installment of American Horror Story (which premieres this month on the FX network), and she’ll grace the big screen in the upcoming films Billionaire Boys Club and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
But she has also faced huge personal tragedies. Last December her mother Carrie Fisher and grandmother Debbie Reynolds—who were both stars in their own right but also beloved as a charming, squabbling duo whose unique relationship was the subject of a recent HBO documentary—died within days of each other. Here, in a wide-ranging conversation with her friend and Horror Story co-star Sarah Paulson, Lourd opens up about her life with and without her mother and grandmother, and going into the family business against the wishes of her mom and dad (the talent agent Bryan Lourd). She also explains how following some of her mother’s famously frank advice has helped her navigate her more difficult moments.
Sarah Paulson: I met you in 2002. How old were you in 2002?
Billie Lourd: I was 10. What is that story?
SP: What happened was I met your mother at a dinner party. It was me, David Spade and his wife, the executive of a show I was on, your mother, and just a few other people. We bonded because I had finished an episode of Touched by an Angelwith your grandmother a few weeks prior. When we were leaving the party, we drove down Coldwater Canyon, and I was going to drive one way and your mom was going the other way, and she leaned out the window and said, “Do you want to come to a party?” I was like, “What?” And she said, “Do you want to come to Gore Vidal’s makeout party?”
BL: Oh, I remember Gore Vidal’s makeout party!
SP: I said, “Yeah, I guess so.” She said to take down her e-mail. I didn’t have a computer. I didn’t have e-mail at this point. I bought a computer so I could have an e-mail correspondence with your mother.
BL: No way!
SP: So then we started an e-mail correspondence, and she had me come to this party at her house, and I basically didn’t leave. Your mom did that thing that your mom does where she was like—
BL: “Move in with me.”
SP: I did. I stayed. I was never really living there. I would spend the night, but I never had a toothbrush. You were the coolest 10-year-old that ever existed.
The New Potato– If you see us rocking a pair of ear muffs this winter, you can thank Billie Lourd for the inspiration (her character in Scream Queens, Chanel #3, is known for rocking them). There were many reasons we were excited to meet Lourd, all of which were amplified upon meeting her. We even forgot – if just for a moment – our long and enduring fandom for her Mom, Carrie Fisher.There are some women we meet that absolutely fit in with us potatoheads: huge foodies, big travel buffs, fashion obsessives; Lourd is one of them. Read below for her restaurant recommendations, which Instagram accounts to follow ASAP, and stories from the set of her upcoming Star Wars movie…
From start to finish what’s your ideal food day?
My ideal food day would probably start with breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants – Gjusta. I am passionately obsessed with their egg sandwich – it has pretty much all of my favorite foods on one beautiful English muffin – collard greens, bacon, avocado, hot sauce and a fried egg. How could you not start your day with that?!
After that I’d probably take a light nap then head to lunch at another one of my favorite restaurants in LA, Cha Cha Chicken. I looooove Caribbean food and am a self-proclaimed chicken connoisseur, and I must say they have the best jerk chicken I’ve ever had. My go-to dish is definitely the jerk chicken enchiladas. Sometimes I’ll branch out and go for the coconut fried chicken because it’s always hard to say no to a good fried chicken dish, but usually I stick with the enchiladas cause they’re INSANELY delish.
I’m also a huge fan of sushi (what sane person isn’t?!), so for dinner, I would go to my number one sushi spot – Kazu Nori. They have the BEST hand rolls ever. The rice is warm, the seaweed is crispy and the fish is supafresh.
Billie Lourd is one of those actresses that, in the slang of an earlier era, has “moxie” or “spunk.” At just 5’1″, she’s a tiny fireball that instantly fills the room. She laughs warmly while cracking jokes and makes sure everyone around her is at ease. It turns out when your mom is Carrie Fisher, your dad is CAA power agent Bryan Lourd, your grandma is Debbie Reynolds and your grandpa is Eddie Fisher, you learn how to hold your own.
The 24-year-old has made big career moves in a relatively small window of time, appearing alongside her famous mom in a small part in last summer’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens before quickly landing a lead role in Ryan Murphy’s campy primetime bloodfest Scream Queens. Shooting Star Wars was, in fact, her very first time on set and on camera, because her parents had expressly forbidden her from entering the profession until she’d obtained a degree in something else entirely. And so after graduating from NYU’s Gallatin School with a self-designed degree in “Art and Business as Religion,” she nabbed her first role and arrived on the Star Wars set under her mother’s watchful eye. “I walk on set and I’m singing Jersey Boys,” she recalls. “My mom pulled me aside that night and said, ‘You know, it’s really weird that you’re this confident on set. That’s rare. You should do this.'”
With that blessing, she quickly parlayed her way into a meatier reappearance as Lieutenant Connix inStar Wars: Episode VIII, set for release in December 2017, as well as a second season as the droll and deadpan Chanel #3 on Scream Queens. Of this latter role, Lourd says she plans to make her kids watch the show someday, just like her mom once tried to do by placing little Billie on the couch to watch the original Star Wars. “When my kids are pissing me off, I’m gonna be like, ‘Watch Scream Queens,'” she says with a laugh. “Look how cool I was!”
Over the years, television maestro Ryan Murphy has brought some of the most compelling female characters to our screens: Rachel Berry in Glee. The Chanels in Scream Queens. All the astonishing iterations of Jessica Lange in American Horror Story. Now his shows celebrate the women who work behind the camera, too. Earlier this year, Ryan created the Half Foundation, whose mission is to ensure that women — as well as minorities — make up at least 50 percent of the directors on his shows. Billie Lourd, who plays Chanel No. 3 on Scream Queens, recently caught up with the visionary to talk about the foundation, feminism, and the power of females on set. Is his mission working? As it turns out, the end result is even better for everyone involved than he’d imagined.
Ryan Murphy: Your mother, Carrie Fisher, is known for portraying the iconic Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, and she is also a huge feminist. What advice did she give you when you were starting acting?
Billie Lourd: She told me to be true, and kind, and confident in yourself. She raised me to not think of men and women as different. She raised me without gender. It’s kind of the reason she named me Billie. It’s not about being a strong woman — it’s about being a strong person. She once told me, “I never sat you down with a credo. It was more about leading by example.”
RM: You come from a family of rule-breakers. You grew up realizing that you can create your own rules. I love that about you. I didn’t have the same experience growing up.
BL: You’re the number one rule-breaker now! I noticed the effects of the Half Foundation before I realized it was happening: There were more female directors coming around. I ended up Googling it and realizing what you had done.
In rural Somerset, where grassy knolls tumble toward the Welsh coastline, there sits a small, flat-topped mesa over six hundred feet tall—Solsbury Hill—it’s on this mound of profundity that eagles fly out of the night, and where fleeting voices may be heard. It’s also the title to actress Billie Lourd’s most recent of obsessions: “I’m really into Peter Gabriel right now. I’m feeling him and ‘Solsbury Hill.’ Is that weird? I wake up to that [song] every morning and it’s like a breath of fresh air.”
It’s a balmy afternoon in Larchmont, L.A., the air less than fresh, and we’ve just walked to a local café to find outdoor seating; a prime people-watching location with a side of conversation. “Like all kids, I grew up wanting to be a neurosurgeon,” Lourd smirks, “But really, genuinely, I found it interesting.”
Obviously and earnestly so, Lourd is not like most kids, as she playfully puts it. The daughter to film icon Carrie Fisher and esteemed Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd, one can assume Lourd’s parents happily welcomed her to the family business. But to assume anything of her and her family would be selling them short.
“I always secretly wanted to act, but my parents didn’t want me to, at all. I went to performing arts camp and lied to them about why I was going. I said I was going to knit,” she laughs. “I made some pretty damn good scarves while being in The Music Man.”