After decades of work on television in New Zealand and his native Australia, Grant Bowler came to Hollywood where he launched a slow-burning but consistent career. American audiences first came to know Bowler as the authoritarian Captain Gault on the hit series "Lost" (ABC, 2004-10), but he was perhaps best known as Connor Owens, the corrupt CFO and love interest of Vanessa Williams' villainous Wilhelmina Slater on "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-10). Splitting his time between the United States and Australia, Bowler continued to entertain antipodean audiences as the host of "The Amazing Race Australia" (ABC, 2011-12), but it would be his work as the biker/werewolf Cooter on "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-14) that would keep him at the forefront of American television. Having built a following on "True Blood," in 2012, Bowler stepped into a lead role, playing the late Richard Burton opposite Lindsay Lohan's Elizabeth Taylor in the notorious television biopic, "Liz & Dick" (Lifetime, 2012). His early decades as a hardworking, sometimes struggling actor proved Grant Bowler to be a resilient, grounded talent whose strength and tenacity ran deeper than his matinee idol looks.
Grant Bowler was born on July 18, 1968 in Auckland, New Zealand, one of two sons born to a young single mother who struggled to support them. Bowler's mother frequently moved their little family in search of work, eventually settling in Brisbane, Australia, where she met and married Bowler's adopted father, a florist. Bowler's first job out of high school was writing copy for an advertising agency in Brisbane. It was his first taste of show business, working on commercials with people whom he had seen on television growing up, but it would take an accidental turn of events to put him in front of the camera. When an actor did not show up for a local TV spot he was working on, Bowler was asked to stand in. He found the work easy and exciting, and soon moved to Sydney to attend the National Institute of Dramatic Art, from which he graduated in 1991.
It would be three years of auditioning before Bowler landed his first role, a series regular on the Australian police drama, "Blue Heelers" (Buena Vista, 1994-2006). That break led to consistent television work over the next decade on such Australian series as "Medivac" (B.I.G., 1996-98), "Something in the Air" (ABC, 2000-02), and the Australian edition of the reality show, "The Mole" (7 Network, 2000-05), on which he served as host. He would also appear in a number of made-for-television movies during this period, including "Close Contact" (1999), "On the Beach" (2000) and "Change of Heart" (1999), on which he met actress Roxanne Wilson, whom he married in 2002.
By 2003, after 12 years of work on Australian television, Bowler decided to take on the challenge of moving to Hollywood. His arrival in Los Angeles would be inauspicious, however. His wife became pregnant just three weeks after their arrival, eliminating her own ability to land acting work and putting an even greater onus on Bowler to support his new family. Having no luck securing work as an actor, Bowler took on odd jobs, for a time cleaning elevators to scrape together rent. Within the year Bowler was broke, had lost his house, and gained nothing but $60,000 in debt. With the little savings they had left, Bowler moved his new family back to Australia, determined to work and save enough money to take another try at Hollywood. He would try and fail twice more, both times returning to Australia to work on television, including stints as a series regular on such shows as the medical drama "All Saints" (7 Network, 1998-2009) and the New Zealand-based series, "Outrageous Fortune" (TV3, 2005-10).
In 2006, Bowler returned to Los Angeles alone, sleeping on friends' couches and auditioning for whatever he could. At long last, he was cast as a series regular on HBO's Lily Tomlin vehicle, "12 Miles of Bad Road" (HBO, 2007). His triumph was short-lived as the series was cancelled, a victim of the 2007 strike by the Writers' Guild of America. By that time, however, Bowler had made himself known in Los Angeles. He would soon be cast as Captain Gault in three episodes of the hit series "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010) and would join the cast of "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-2010), playing Connor Owens, the love interest of Vanessa Williams' villainous Wilhelmina Slater. Having successfully broken into American television, Bowler would find work as the recurring characters of biker-turned-werewolf Cooter on Allan Ball's hit vampire series, "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-14), and Mason Massey on "GCB" (ABC, 2012). He also broke into feature film with supporting roles in the Robert De Niro/Jason Statham action film, "The Killer Elite" (2011), and the independent horror film "Remains" (2011).
Though Bowler's career in Hollywood was at last underway, he would still find time to return to Australia to visit his children, Edie and Zeke, who lived with their mother, whom Bowler divorced in 2010. On those visits, Bowler also continued his long-established career in Australian television, appearing in TV movies including "The Great Mint Swindle" (2012). That same year would be the busiest of Bowler's career to date, appearing as a regular cast member of the Syfy series "Defiance" (2012), in supporting roles in two features films - "I Do" (2012) and "City of Gardens" (2012) - and playing the late Richard Burton opposite Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor in the controversial biopic, "Liz & Dick" (Lifetime, 2012). Though most of the press ink for the unintentionally hilarious project leaned toward his tempestuous, troubled co-star, critics found Bowler's performance one of the projects rare bright spots.
By John Crye