“When the description says quirky, you have the freedom to be a little weird,” says actress Britt Lower with a laugh. She’s referring to Tanya Sitkowsky, the recurring character she plays on CBS’s freshman drama Unforgettable. Tanya is the tech support for the cops of Queens Homicide — a swell match for Lower, whose recent endeavors include putting new RAM in her laptop. “That was a huge accomplishment for me, but I totally took my whole laptop apart,” she tells me during a recent phone chat.
But before you go geeking out too much, technology isn’t the entire world for either character or actress. In fact, Britt doesn’t even own a TV, which makes the prospect of live-tweeting tonight’s new episode of Unforgettable (9 PM ET/PT) just a bit harder. “I’m going to have to find somebody who has a television so that I can watch it live,” she says. For the record, you can find her on Twitter at @brittlower.
Or possibly playing the trumpet. Or riding her bicycle around New York City. Or maybe even turning someone into an animal, as she’s spent the better part of a decade as a professional face painter.
With all these varied pursuits, how did she decide that acting was going to be her profession? “I don’t know if there was one moment,” she confides. “I wanted to be a basketball player; oddly enough, I wanted to be a physicist when I was in high school. I kind of wanted to be everything.” Therein lay the appeal of acting: getting to try on all sorts of other lives.
That led her to the role of Tanya, the techno-geek who loves big words and also Det. Roe Sanders (Kevin Rankin). “It’s a lot of technical jargon but I was having a lot of fun with it, because Tanya gets a kick out of big words and being very meticulous,” she explains. I really do like the sort of choreography that happens in the lab. I kind of equate it to like, dancing with my hands, because I’m doing a lot of pushing buttons and transferring beakers. That kind of challenge is satisfying.”
The other major perk of the job is working with her colleagues, as she settles into a TV role longer than any other previously on her resume. “I love all of the cast,” she says. “Everybody’s so wonderful to work with. Definitely working with Kevin Rankin is a delight. From the beginning, we had a lot of fun figuring out their dynamic. The writers will add some new little thing that’ll give me some insight into what they think, so I’m gradually discovering [Tanya]. We have a lot of fun.”
Working on a television series is a different medium for Britt, whose background is in theater and who’s worked with an all-female improvisational group. More recently, she’s tried her hand at being an action heroine. “I just shot this film this summer, a female-driven sci-fi movie, and I got to do some action-y stuff a la Ripley in Alien. I got to run around this old abandoned Kodak factory in Rochester. I got to be this tomboyish kind of a badass, and it was a blast.”
Since she’s playing heroine, I asked her who she’d consider her heroes. “Patti Smith is a hero of mine,” she says. “She’s a performer and a visual artist, photographer, writer, and I fell in love with her book Just Kids. It’s kind of an accounting of her relationships. I admire Parker Posey; I think she’s had an incredible career. She’s done indie films, TV, she’s been on stage. I’m watching a lot of Faye Dunaway, [and] I admire her a lot.”
She has a clear admiration for ladies with diversity in their work, and there’s no denying that with her various pursuits, Britt has plenty of that on her own resume. And that’s what I really came to appreciate about her. She’s that person we all secretly wish we could be: the one who jumps at every opportunity that interests them, without worrying about what it might look like or if it fits into our predetermined big picture. Here’s someone who just loves life for what it is and doesn’t overthink it. I’d love to just sit down with a cup of coffee (or several) and just trade stories with her. At least, she’s the only person I know who’s both a face painter and a self-described “science nerd.” But that just means there’s definitely no one else like her.
You can get to chat with Britt yourself tonight as she’ll be live-tweeting during Unforgettable; just follow her at @brittlower. The new episode airs tonight at 9 PM ET/PT after NCIS: Los Angeles.