One-time Hollywood bad boy Rob Lowe has had a long and varied career with its share of road bumps.
A member of the so-called Brat Pack of hot young actors in the 1980s, he crashed and burned like so many hard-partying celebrities, his career eventually tanked by a sex-tape scandal involving an underage girl.
But he staged a fairy-tale comeback with two critically acclaimed television series: the political drama The West Wing (1999 to 2006) and sitcom Parks And Recreation (2009 to 2015).
And the 57-year-old keeps going. He now plays a firehouse captain in the procedural drama 9-1-1: Lone Star (2020 to present), in which his character is saving lives one minute and dispensing skincare advice the next.
Speaking to reporters at a Los Angeles press day, Lowe – whose own skin is impressively youthful up close – hints at some of the reasons for his longevity.
9-1-1: Lone Star is a spin-off of producer-director Ryan Murphy’s 9-1-1 (2018 to present) series about firefighters, policemen and paramedics, only this time set in Austin, Texas.
Lowe plays newly appointed fire captain Owen Strand, a character Murphy and co-creators Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear had written with the actor in mind.
“Ryan and Tim and Brad wrote this part for me. And that’s good news and bad news because I’ll get the scripts and go, ‘Wait a minute, where did that come from? Oh, right.’
“So my personal obsessions – skincare, my hair – it’s all in the show. And it’s fun because you don’t usually get that kind of humour in a first-responder show.”
The actor has always had something of a “pretty boy” image, but Lowe has embraced it, launching his own personal care line for men, Profile, in 2015.
So, when his character volunteers skincare tips to a fellow firefighter, it is not too far from the truth.
“Well, I own a skincare line, so I do know a lot about it. I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time and people ask for tips, ” says the star, who is also a proponent of healthy eating and a spokesman for a low-carbohydrate diet brand.
“That’s why I built my line and people seem to like it, ” says Lowe.
“Also, guys don’t know anything. You ladies know everything. We need help.”
Lowe’s roles have run the gamut from romantic lead to comedy to drama. And with the new show, he gets into action-star territory.
“It’s up and down the fire ladder, in a harness, hanging from a building, fireballs going off in my face. I love it,” says the star, who also has a podcast in which he interviews A-list guests such as Oprah Winfrey and Chris Pratt.
To prepare for 9-1-1: Lone Star, Lowe trained with real-life firefighters and rode along with friends who are first responders.
“So I know what makes those real heroes tick. And I love that in an entertainment landscape that is increasingly about superheroes, I get to play a human being who’s a hero.”
“I’ve had a show on network television every year since 1999,” he says with pride.
“It’s a good streak and I thought it was over this year – then this came up.”
He and Murphy – one of the most prolific creators on television with hit shows such as Nip/Tuck (2003), Glee (2009) and American Horror Story (2011 to present) – had been trying to find a project to do together for 20 years.
“And (co-creator) Brad Falchuk’s wife Gwyneth (Paltrow) is godmother to my son, so it’s all sort of in the family.”
Lowe’s son, 26-year-old John Owen Lowe, also co-wrote some episodes of 9-1-1: Lone Star.“We just finished filming the episode he wrote. It was his first produced episode of television. I’m a very proud papa,” says the actor, who has been married to make-up artist Sheryl Berkoff, 59, since 1991, and has a second son aged 28.
“He had worked for Ryan before I did – on American Horror Story for two seasons – so he put in a good word for dad.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network
9-1-1: Lone Star is available on Disney+ Hotstar which kicks off its service on June 1.