Billie Lourd is getting candid about what it was like growing up with her mother, the late Carrie Fisher.
The 25-year-old actress covers Town & Country's September issue, and in an interview with her American Horror Story co-star Sarah Paulson, opens up about the lessons she's learned from both Fisher and her grandmother, the late Debbie Reynolds. Lourd says her childhood was balanced by her father, Bryan Lourd, who had more structure, and her mother, who was famously eccentric.
"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," Lourd recalls. "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!"
Lourd admits she sometimes had a problem with her mother -- who wrote five books and a one-woman show -- being so open about their personal lives.
"I had a hard time with it in the beginning," she shares. "I was very protective of my dad and would stop her and be like, 'Can you take out that thing where you say, 'I turned him gay.' Can we not have that on Broadway?'"
However, she notes that Fisher did listen to her requests for privacy.
"Debbie did it to her, so anytime I came up to her and said, 'Please tone this down,' she would, because she went through it with Debbie and knew how hard it was," she explains. "Now, looking back and watching her interviews, I try to model what I do after her. 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.'"
But a cautionary tale she says she's learned from her mother is to not live "too out in the open."
"It's good to be authentic, to help other people, but if it's not helping other people, then don't do it," she muses. "There were a couple incidents I wish she could have kept to herself. But, you know, that was the beauty of her."
As for her childhood, Lourd shares that it was unconventional to say the least. She reveals that at one point, they tried to adopt a sibling for her, but had trouble with the screening process.
"I always wanted siblings," Lourd explains. "I was bummed that I didn't have any -- even just to be a witness. Sometimes when crazy things were happening, I wanted to ask, 'Is this just me?' My mom tried to adopt a kid. You know when you ask for a puppy? I asked for a sister. One year I was like, 'Hey, Mom, I want a sister.' We tried to adopt -- like, we did a whole thing, and, no, the home study was not strong."
Lourd is blunt about growing up with Fisher, who was famously open about her struggles with mental illness and drug addiction. The Scream Queens actress was similarly honest in her statement after her mom's death, which in part read, "My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases."
Lourd has no regrets.
"It ultimately helped so many more people, and that's why I made that statement," she says. "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."
"And it's such a common thing, and people really don't talk about it," she adds. "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."
Fisher and Reynolds both died in December, and Lourd says holding on to her sense of humor is what got her through her grief.
"If life's not funny, then it's just true -- and that would be unacceptable," she explains. "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."
Lourd reveals she is now living in Fisher's home and is having a couple of friends move in with her. Though she strives to uphold both their legacies, she also acknowledges that she now gets to be her own person.
"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 says. "I love being my mother’s daughter, and it's something I always will be, but now I get to be just Billie."
Earlier this month, Lourd split from her Scream Queens co-star Taylor Lautner after seven months of dating.