Last December, Billie Lourd, the 25-year-old daughter of Carrie Fisher and granddaughter of Debbie Reynolds, faced an unthinkable tragedy: losing Fisher and Reynolds within one day of each other. But humor has helped her cope after the passing of the two most beloved women in her life, she told Sarah Paulson in Town & Country's September issue.
Paulson recalled when Fisher told her, "You've got to find the funny, Paulson. If you don't find the funny, you're doomed."
"Oh, it's so important," Lourd agreed. "If life's not funny, then it's just true-and that would be unacceptable. Even when she died, that was what got me through that whole thing. When Debbie died the next day, I could just picture her saying, "Well, she's upstaging me once again, of course-she had to."
Fisher was one of the reasons Lourd went into acting in the first place. "My mom actually pointed me toward it," she recalled. "The first thing I did was Star Wars: The Force Awakens. J.J. Abrams called and said they couldn't find anybody for this one part and would I come in and read for it. I didn't get the part, but I got another extra part with three lines. The thing is, I was bizarrely comfortable on set. My mother would pull me aside and be like, 'It's weird that you're so comfortable here. This is the most uncomfortable environment in the world. If you're comfortable here, you should do this.'"
Fisher also taught her daughter to be authentic in the industry. "Now, looking back and watching her interviews, I try to model what I do after her," Lourd said. "She was so good at it. She would get so annoyed with me if I ever did a fake interview. She'd say, 'Tell the real story.'"
And while her mother was tough, she was also encouraging when Lourd was overly critical of herself. One memory is vivid to Lourd: "The last time I saw her in person, this episode of Scream Queens was on, and it was a big episode for me," she said. "I had tons of scenes, and I was so hard on myself about it-I hated how I looked, hated my performance. I was really frustrated. She told me, 'Come over right now. I want to watch this with you.' And she made me sit down and watch it, and she forced me to see the good parts. She was incredible like that. But she was really hard on me, saying, 'Shut up, you're great in this. Have faith in yourself. Be more confident.'"
With the passing of both women, Lourd is now standing in her own identity. "I've always kind of lived in their shadows, and now is the first time in my life when I get to own my life and stand on my own," she said. "I love being my mother's daughter, and it's something I always will be, but now I get to be just Billie."
"Is it scary?" Paulson asked.
"It is. It's a lot of pressure, because she had such an incredible legacy, and now I have to uphold that and make it evolve in my own way," Lourd said. "And a lot of people have had experiences like mine, too. Tons of people grow up with mentally ill parents who have drug problems. I read this incredible book, Adult Children of Alcoholics-it's not a great narrative, but it's a fun psych book....it's such a common thing, and people really don't talk about it. She talked about being mentally ill and having issues with drugs, and a lot of people don't talk about what it was like growing up with that."
Read Lourd's full Town & Country interview here.
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