In December 2016, the world was stunned to lose two Hollywood legends in the span of a week. Only two days after her daughter Carrie Fisher died, actor Debbie Reynolds passed away, with both stars leaving a hole in the entertainment community. News of their passing spread around the world as fans grieved, but the person who reserved the right for the greatest amount of devastation was Fisher’s daughter and Reynold’s granddaughter, Billie Lourd.
Now eight months after her mother and grandmother’s sudden passing, Lourd is opening up for the first time in an interview with her American Horror Story costar Sarah Paulson. The intimate new interview appears in the September issue of Town & Country, which features the 25 year-old Lourd on the cover for the first time.
Paulson, who met Lourd when she was only 10 years old, recalls buying a computer in 2002 so that she could begin an email correspondence with the famous Carrie Fisher. Paulson remained friends with Fisher and her family, recounting her memories of watching Lourd grow up in a world led by two extravagant women.
Recalling the stark contrast between spending time with her father, businessman Bryan Lourd, and her mother, Billie says:
“He gets home at the same time every day, and we eat dinner together, we do homework together, we watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and cry, and then go to sleep. At Mom’s it was like, ‘Let’s put Christmas lights in the palm trees at 2 a.m.’ Do you remember when Sharper Image was 24 hours? We went there all the time, 1 a.m. or 3 a.m., just picking up little trinkets as if that was what you do!”
Hoping to follow in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps, Billie says that although she knew she wanted to be a performer from a young age, her family did their best to dissuade her. “I think in a normal family they would have looked at me and been like, ‘Hey, this kid’s a performer.’ But I was so scared,” says Billie. “I was embarrassed, honestly. Because they were like, ‘This is going to be a really shitty lifestyle, and everyone’s going to be scrutinizing you deeply and constantly.’ My mom wrote five books and a one-woman show; they didn’t want more things for people to be able to Google about me.”
But after Fisher introduced her daughter to J.J. Abrams and helped Billie book her first role on 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fisher realized her daughter had a calling. “The thing is, I was bizarrely comfortable on set,” says Billie. “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.'”
Billie tells Town & Country that following her Star Wars role she saw a shift in her family, who now supported her dreams to act, with Fisher championing her daughter’s acting up until her final days. “The last time I saw her in person, this episode of Scream Queens was on, and it was a big episode for me. 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,” Billie tells the mag.
“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.'”
Growing up with a famous family and a mother who was known for her honesty could at times be difficult, admits Lourd. “It’s good to be authentic, to help other people, but if it’s not helping other people, then don’t do it. There were a couple incidents I wish she could have kept to herself. But, you know, that was the beauty of her,” says Lourd.
Billie says that she hopes to release her first album before she’s 30, with both her mother and grandmother encouraging her to sing as well as act. But for now, she’s busy starring in her second Ryan Murphy series, first with Scream Queens and now filming the upcoming season American Horror Story.
Lourd is also still trying to adjust to life without two of the biggest forces in her life. “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,” says Billie. “I love being my mother’s daughter, and it’s something I always will be, but now I get to be just Billie.”