It’s just a little past noon in Hollywood, and inside Sunset Boulevard’s Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles restaurant, Billie Lourd who you know as the apathetic Chanel #3 in Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens, sits in a corner side table, waiting for me. The location? her choice, and in retrospect, it could not have said more about how the interview would turn out.
24-year-old Billie Lourd is many things. She’s a college graduate, a New Yorker at heart, the offspring of famous parents, and currently she makes up one of the four living Chanels in the FOX comedy. It’s a gig she’s both appreciative of and in love with. “I think the show is so unique and daring. It’s insane to me that it can be on Fox and be that cynical, and smart, without being censored,” she says. Scream Queens premiered with a two-hour debut on September 22nd, growing in audience and in body count, week to week. Touching on necrophilia, cold-blooded murder, and the never-ending conversation of Stereotypes. Bending them and oftentimes using them for the sake of blood-sprinkled comedy and fun.
Her road to pastel furs at the fictional Wallace University was a unique one. In March of 2015, after sharing a meal with the illustrious Show-runner [Ryan Murphy] at a Birthday soirée, her agents called her with the news that Ryan Murphy wanted to meet her in his office. Not only that, but he had an offer for her on his upcoming series.
“I thought he wanted me to audition, and so I was just very relaxed and casual about the news. I didn’t think he wanted to hire me, I knew that’s not how things worked,” she says. “The next day, they told me, you know that offer you didn’t sound too excited about? It’s an offer, not an audition. I flipped out. I didn’t know how he was doing this! The next week I was in New Orleans.” Her very first day of work as the sometimes loyal Chanel #3 would require her to film a scene with Emma Roberts, Nick Jonas and Abigail Breslin. “It was a trip showing up there and realizing I was on the same playing field as all these insanely talented, successful people,” she remembers. “I expected them to give me some somewhat of the cold shoulder, because there I was beside them, actors that have all been working since ever they could remember. I was lucky to have not only them understand my situation, but the entire cast. Particularly because of how they’ve been treated in the past.”
Our waitress comes to the table and we order the same dish. The Waffle & Leg, simple and sweet, and not the least bit of fancy. We top it off with an Arnold Palmer, one of the best I’ve had in my years as a casual restaurant-goer. The food doesn’t take much to come out, and before I know it our friendly and attentive waitress is back with our plates. “This is also the fastest place ever,” the LA native says. “You spend most of your time eating. not waiting! I have’t done the leg in a while,” she adds, while picking up her utensils. “I usually tackle the thigh, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that much Chicken right now.”
Original Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Dean Cathy Munsch is another invaluable piece in the killer-comedy’s puzzle. Lourd goes head to head with Dean Munch in one of her personal episodes to film—Black Friday. A scene, she confesses she underwent much preparation for. “That episode was tremendously fun, but also intimidating for me. Up until that point, I hadn’t worked directly with Jamie, or at all really. The night before I was like, oh my God, I’m working with Jamie, I really have to be on the ball. I was super nervous and so I apologized in advance in the case that I forgot my lines, and told her how I had prepped for her. She couldn’t believe it and was so sweet and told me to have fun and treat her as if she were one of the other girls.” Lourd purchased the multi-colored fur her character wears during Black Friday, admitting that the Number 3 in her isn’t far off. “They kill the fashion on the show. Now I’m much more inclined to add a fur collar to things. Or don’t hate the idea of some sparkly, soft earmuffs. My friend’s tell me I’m confusing realities, [laughs]. They could be right, during filming, it got to a point where we all knew our characters so well that we’d be surprised by what came out of our mouths sometimes.”
But where was the girl with a personality so clearly made for the screen before she stepped onto the scene? After high school Lourd attended Wesleyan University in Middleton, Connecticut. “I thought I wanted the idealistic liberal arts school,” she recalls. “When I got there, I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Everyone was doing things I had done as a teenager. I did a semester and called my dad and told him I didn’t know what I’d do if I had to go back there. He says to me, what does that even mean? What are y0u going to do? Is that a threat?,” she explains, unable to hold her laugh.
“I left so subtlety,” she says. “When I went back to pack up my stuff, they were like, hey what’re you doing? I told them I was just hanging out in my room. I was in New York City the next day.” She laughs even harder this time, I can’t help but do the same.
Lourd would soon enroll at NYU’s The Gallatin School, designing her major, calling it Art & Business As Religion.
“I took Philosophy of Religion, Psychology classes, Acting, Music classes. It was the dopest thing ever. Their formula was perfect. When you’re 18 you don’t know what you want to do. At Gallatin you can create your space. Before going there I toyed with the idea of majoring in philosophy, because it was what I was most interested in, but what would I do with that? Become a teacher? NYU helped me find a place for those things.”
“I could’ve stayed for 900 more years. It was so much fun,” she says, thinking back on her years in academia. “You can’t beat going to school in the city. Because you’re taking class in New York City and then when you’re done with class, you’re just in New York City! Gallatin was also the kind of place where you could choose to be with your classmates all the time, or you could choose to have a life outside and work. I worked at HBO for a year and a half. I worked on Documentaries because I thought I wanted to do that. I would work from 10-6 and then go to class from 6-9. I was doing a different thing in New York than where I’m at now. I was doing different things every week. There was no stopping it. At Wesleyan those options just weren’t there for me.”
Not many actresses Lourd’s age have walked the various shoes she has. But even for her, the thought of her life now seems a bit surreal considering the steps her parents took to shield her from Hollywood. “My parents didn’t bring me to set, this was the last thing they wanted me to do,” she says with a giggle. “My dad desperately wanted me to get an MBA and go to Stanford. My idea was to to try auditioning, and doing the creative thing, and if that failed then we could hit up Stanford. Remember, this is the man that came to see me at summer camp and to his surprise I was Marian in The Music Man.He was so confused and asked me, I thought you didn’t like this stuff? I told him I was doing it for fun. Meanwhile I’m the lead in the camp musical.
in May of 2014, Lourd graduated from NYU and came to the conclusion that she wanted to try her hand at acting once and for all. “I was embarrassed to say this is what I wanted to do because of how I was brought up.” That following November the graduate would fly to London for a month to film Star Wars; The Force Awakens beside her mother, Carrie Fisher in a much hushed about role.
“I don’t know why But I fell in love with being on set, and once I was back in the states I started auditioning, fully committed this time. Two months later I would have my meeting with Ryan. I’ve been blessed” The past year and a half have been nothing short of a world-wind for Lourd, and if the amount of girls that dressed up as her onscreen counterpart for Halloween is any indication, there’s no telling where this charmed one will make us laugh next. Right now, it’s any Chanel’s guess.
Photography Yoni Goldberg | Creative Direction DIO ANTHONY
Styling Lisa Cera, The Rex Agency
Hair Creighton Bowman, Tracey Mattingly Agency
Makeup Kira Nasrat, The Wall Group