Adrianna Tate-Duncan, her famed character on 90210, was a hardcore drug addict, and it’s a testament to her acting ability that someone as fresh-faced and untroubled as Jessica Lowndes could make her so believable. The talented Canadian actress and singer, who originally appeared as a guest on the show but was made a permanent member of the cast by popular demand, hails from Vancouver, British Columbia. A born entertainer who started performing at a young age, Lowndes has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, including the 2014 action flick The Prince with Bruce Willis and John Cusack.
Lowndes, a naturally gorgeous brunette with 750,000 Instagram followers (@jessicalowndes), has also written several hit songs, and is now putting her fame to good use, launching a charitable clothing initiative that she discusses here in detail for the first time. And it’s only a matter of time before Lowndes lands a really big role worthy of her talents and truly becomes a household name, but we think she’ll always be the down to earth girl from Canada who almost seems too innocent for Hollywood.
How did you get to be comfortable in front of a camera and on stage at such a young age? Where does your confidence come from?
My dad always says “whatever you can conceive and you truly believe you will achieve”. My parents have never held me back from anything and I’m extremely grateful to have such an awesome support system. I was a very expressive, outgoing kid. Singing to strangers in Speedos (yes, there’s an embarrassing home video) and always living in my own dream world of make believe— from building forts and talking to myself to flipping my imaginary fins like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, making up my own songs and dressing my Barbies up to go to the Oscars… I always had to be doing something creative and my Dad was always there with his video camera to document every second of it.
The summer before 12th grade, I booked my first lead role in Tobe Hooper’s episode “Dance of the Dead” on Showtime’s Masters of Horror. After the shoot, the producers, who were also a management company, approached me and said in their smooth-talking LA way, “We want to represent you when you’re finished high school.” I had gotten a taste of my dream and the taste was still in my mouth. I couldn’t picture myself sitting in a classroom for an entire year. So, I graduated early. I went home after that meeting and announced to my parents “I don’t want to go back to high school.” It’s like they both knew it was coming.
My mom said to my dad with a huge smile on her face (hers is my favorite smile in the world by the way) “Dan, go email her school principal.” And my Dad, very nonchalant about the whole thing, agreed with her, “Okay, Suzanne.” My Dad never held me back from anything. He holds the teenage record for running across Canada and he told me when he did that run he didn’t have much support, so he made it a point to always support and believe in me no matter how outrageous the dream.
I home schooled online. Had online teachers, an online principal, and three months later I graduated. The day I got my driver’s license, I drove the 22-hour drive to L.A. with my dad, who cried the whole second day of the trip… happy tears, scared tears, supportive tears, but they were still tears nonetheless and there was nothing manly about it. My dad is my role model. He’s one of the most incredible people you will ever meet and has worked so unbelievably hard. I love him and wouldn’t have been able to do half of the stuff I’ve done without him.
Are you more focused on acting or music these days? What is most satisfying?
I’m lucky to be in a place where I’m able to focus on both. I have always known my whole life, without a shadow of doubt, that I wanted to be an entertainer. It’s this innate thing that has been inside of me since I was little that I can’t really explain, but I’ve always had a love for entertaining. I love being able to provide people with escapism. I love telling stories and I’ve always had a need to express myself. Acting and singing both give me the opportunity to emote and are such perfect outlets for me. They’re my true passions.
The most satisfying thing would have to be the work and being on set. I find it incredibly inspiring. Less so would be the grueling audition process to get the work. I actually don’t mind auditioning but so much comes down to things that are out of your control. Music is something that is 100% in my control. I’m an independent artist and not signed to a label so whenever I feel like writing, recording and releasing new music, I do.
Was it difficult playing such a turbulent character on 90210? What other projects have been challenging?
90210 has definitely been a highlight thus far. I’ve learned so much about myself and I feel like I’ve really been able to grow as an artist. I don’t know if I can think of one scene in particular but I have definitely done a lot of scenes out of my comfort zone, so that’s definitely a challenge, but I thrive on things that scare me. I loved the drug addiction and pregnancy scenes on 90210 and portraying an airplane pilot In Altitude was something I obviously didn’t have any personal experience doing.
I shot a film called Eden on a desert island in the South China Sea and we had to fight natural ailments like monsoon storms and extreme humidity so that was difficult in a different way but rewarding. My character Adrianna on 90210 had many dramatic story lines and I was able to take risks and explore and push boundaries which in turn made me trust my instincts more.
What did you have in common with your most famous on-screen persona?
I try and give every new character a true emotional life. I try and identify with the role in some way. I think the key for me is to be honest in my work and really come from an honest place. I draw from personal experiences which helps a lot. I’m also a singer in real life. I feel super fortunate that I was able to sing as well as act on the show. It was a terrific platform and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I’m excited!
Would you like to do another action film? Who else would you want to co-star with?
I really loved working with Bruce Willis and John Cusack in The Prince  and would absolutely love to shoot another action film this year. I am a huge fitness junkie so to do something that requires some sort of physical training would be incredible. My dream was always to work with Kristen Wiig and I was super fortunate to be able to be a part of her and Will Ferrel’s lifetime parody, “A Deadly Adoption”. I would die to work alongside Meryl Streep. Any film she touches turns to gold and she’s by far my favorite actress. I’m in awe of her talent.
We love that you called legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Coen “super sexy”. Who else has inspired you musically?
I love Leonard Cohen. I find his writing extremely inspiring. I hope to be half as sexy when I’m pushing 80. There’s this book Stranger Music which I don’t even consider really a book but it’s a collection of his poems, songs, letters… I can’t get enough of it. Every time I read his poetry, I notice something new or it sparks something else inside of me. His writing is full of imagery and it keeps circling back to love. My mom was my first musical inspiration. Being a piano teacher, she was the best kind of mentor to me. Music would be playing throughout our house when I was a kid. I really look up to her. She’s also my best friend.
Is it difficult to write love songs or songs that are inspired by your relationships?
Music just flows out of me. I am absolutely in love with music! I love writing my own stuff. I write poetry on a daily basis and I have recently started writing scripts. It’s my way of expressing myself. I write all the time. When I’m happy, upset, doesn’t matter. If I am sad though, I find writing doesn’t even allow room for myself to be crippled in that mood. I work it out, write it down and feel this release afterwards. I write what is important to me. I’m not opposed to singing songs other people have written but there’s nothing like singing your own.
You also like to paint. How would you describe your art and what are the benefits of having so many forms of expression?
I love to paint all sorts of things. From abstract to pop art to watercolor, I love doing it all. I usually get inspired to paint for the special people in my life. I find painting to be relaxing.
What is the story with your new charitable clothing brand The Lowdown? What causes are you most passionate about?
I launched my blog thelowdown.net earlier this year and I am thrilled to announce the launch of my clothing line The Lowdown, featuring my first collection, Love Fights. Love Fights is a charitable apparel brand, designed to raise awareness and support causes that are close to our hearts. I launched this line for my mom who has MS. She is the strongest woman I know and fights for what she loves every single day. It was important for me to create a brand that wasn’t just about my fight but everyone’s fight. Each shirt is designed around someone’s story and 10% of the proceeds go towards a cause they are fighting for.
So far, we have designed tees for MS, LGBTQ, Greenpeace, Breast Cancer, Best Buddies, Variety Children’s charity, MADD, and Heigl Hounds of Hope. We’re excited to launch our new designs in 2018! At the root of power is consensus, and social media has provided the means by which we can unite, and our voices can, together, be heard. That’s pretty f—king incredible. I believe in love, and in fighting, and constantly evolving. This line will continue to grow with new designs each month based on the stories and battles that everyone is fighting. This line is all about fighting for what you love. Fighting for who you love.
How would you describe your personal style?
Pretty laid back yet classic. I genuinely really love clothes. Wearing them is a form of self-expression and putting an outfit together is creative and fun. What girl doesn’t like to shop?
What is your definition of luxury?
What kind of car do you drive? What car would you most like to own?
I drive an Audi A3 and would love to own a white Porsche 911 one day!
What are some of your favorite places to visit and why?
I can’t get enough of London town! I love the people and I also love the rain. It reminds me of home [in Canada]. I have spent a lot of time in London in the past couple of years doing press for the show as well as writing and recording music for my album. I had a single come out with British DJ Ironik called “Falling in Love”. I just find the music scene in the UK amazing. And yes, my fake British accent is getting better.
If you could time travel to another era, which one would you choose and who would you want to be? What iconic star do you think you resemble most?
I’d love to go back to the 1950’s and be Elizabeth Taylor. The iconic roles she was able to portray, the passionate love affairs… She knew was it was like to live.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years’ time?
I hope I’m still able to be doing what I love, whether that’s acting or singing or even a stint on Broadway which would be a dream come true. I also hope to start a family. If I’m happy and surrounded by the people I love most in this world, then that’s true success.
Photography Peter Svenson