Grant Bowler solves questions about his origins by describing himself as an "Aussiwi". Born in Auckland and proud of his Kiwi roots, he grew up in Queensland, and by 2010 was finding himself working all over the globe. "The funny thing is that I'm a New Zealand citizen and an American resident, I actually have no official connection to Australia," he told The Dominion Post in 2008. "It's quite disconcerting because I've spent most of my life here."
Bowler is best known in New Zealand for Outrageous Fortune, and his portrayal of charismatic hard man Wolfgang West. Jailed in season one, Wolf spent later seasons battling a new suitor (a cop) for his wife Cheryl's affections. Bowler enjoyed the propulsive nature of his character. "It's part of the culture of the show that the characters don't prevaricate, they don't soft shoe anything, they come in hard at anything ... that's a lot of fun to play. I enjoy that pure, straight-ahead energy."
Bowler grew up in Queensland, to a tradesman and an insurance agent. At university he studied communications, then got a job writing commercials. When the actor failed to show up for an ad he was working on, Bowler was drafted in to do the lip-synching himself, and "caught the bug." Later he moved to Sydney, and graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1991.
Bowler got his screen break two years later, playing one of the policemen on new cop show Blue Heelers. He followed it with a run of Australian series, finding time amongst them to star as an ad executive on the slide in 1999 movie A Change of Heart.
Early attempts at breaking into acting in America saw Bowler cleaning elevators in Los Angeles, and losing his house just as his then wife got pregnant. More attempts to win roles in the States followed, after he began acting in Outrageous Fortune in 2004. Then he got a call in Auckland, inviting him to join HBO comedy series Twelve Miles of Bad Road. The show was curtailed by bad luck, including a writer's strike; but the trip to Los Angeles at least gave him the chance to successfully audition for Lost; Bowler "had an absolute ball" playing captain of a freighter, and staying up all night filming fight scenes.
In 2009 he got an ongoing role on hit show Ugly Betty, as the executive who romances Vanessa Williams' character. In an interview that year he praised the show, plus the feeling of "starting all over again working in a new industry". Ugly Betty taught him that comedy is partly about simplicity. "You can't layer it in the way you can a dramatic performance. Which is why it's more difficult than drama – you don't have so many tricks."
By 2010 Bowler's career had jumped into an even higher gear. That year he worked on the final of Ugly Betty, played a werewolf on episodes of hit show True Blood, and acted in four movies. He played an SAS man in actioner Killer Elite, took a key role (as magnate Henry Reardon) in a part-adaptation of Ayn Rand magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, and headed to Perth to star in heist tale The Great Mint Swindle.
Bowler also has his share of experience hosting and narrating for shows (including Australian hit Border Security). Given the plum role of hosting the Australian version of The Amazing Race, he found himself rushing between 12 countries in 28 days.
In 2013 he nabbed the starring role as a town peacekeeper in post-apocalyptic series Defiance. Developed by Farscape's Rockne S O'Bannon, the show ran for three seasons. Bowler followed it with two eyeopening roles. In Peruvian jail tale City of Gardens he played an inmate who thinks he is Jesus Christ; in cable TV romance Liz and Dick he brought his distinctive voice to bear as screen legend Richard Burton. Lindsay Lohan played Elizabeth Taylor.
Bowler went on to act in two crime shows shot in Australia: Harrow and Reef Break.
Profile updated on 8 September 2019
Kelly Andrew, 'Wolf has some catching up to do' (Interview) - The Dominion Post (TV Week liftout), 17 June 2008, page T3
Kathy Buchanan, 'Grant Bowler Takes on the World' (Broken link) (Interview) - Jetstar Magazine, June 2011
Cassie Crue and Shelley Leigh, 'Interview: Grant Bowler' - Chemical Magazine, 23 August 2011
Greg Callaghan, '10 questions - Grant Bowler' (Interview) - The Australian, 28 May 2011
Andrew Murfett, 'Aussies on the run' (Interview) - The Dominion Post (TV Week liftout), 13 September 2011, page 5