You can't keep a good man down, let alone a fine actor. Rob Lowe, who famously exited The West Wing during its prime, and then ultimately went on to pass up filling McDreamy's scrubs, is at the fore again, amping up ABC's Brothers & Sisters as a senator who has taken a shine to Calista Flockhart's Kitty. What's more, the former Brat Packer stars with Paget Brewster in TNT's A Perfect Day (premiering Monday at 8 pm/ET), a holiday movie in which Robert Harlan, a newbie novelist, lets fame get the best of him, until a mysterious stranger (Back to the Future's Christopher Lloyd) warns that he only has days to live. TVGuide.com welcomes the opportunity to Q&A Lowe on his projects, both past and present.
TVGuide.com: Rob Lowe, thank you for your time today. It's a pleasure to talk to you. I always enjoy your work.
Oh, thanks. Thank you!
TVGuide.com: This might be a silly question, but when you're reading a script for a holiday heart-tugger like this, do you, a veteran actor, ever get caught up in it? Get a bit verklempt?
I'm not unashamed to say that I like movies that make me verklempt. That's why I like doing these movies, because they're just teed up for you. It's the holidays, and everybody is sort of misty-eyed to begin with.
TVGuide.com: Right. Put some snow on the street, play a carol in the background....
I literally had a discussion with the director where I said, "We need carolers at the end." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Trust me on this. When you're in the editing room, you're going to thank me."
TVGuide.com: Have you ever felt success start to get the best of you, as your character here does?
I was just talking to somebody about this. They said, "What is it about success that screws people up?" It's that you're so conflicted by it. Everybody wants to be liked, and everybody would love to walk down the street and have people applaud them. The problem is that you at the same time know that it's not really authentic, because they don't know you. They're applauding something that isn't really you, so you have these conflicting [feelings]. It takes some people a lifetime to wear it well. Other people never wear it well, and other people [are destroyed by it].
TVGuide.com: But have you ever felt yourself get swept up in it, perhaps early in your career?
I think everybody has that time when they really can get swept up in it. I can't think of any specific thing, other than I am sure that it's happened.
TVGuide.com: At one point, Robert wonders who would play him in a TV-movie. Who would you cast?
[Chuckles] Well, I flatter myself greatly, but it would be great if it were Paul Newman circa Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
TVGuide.com: Good answer. It's one of those funny coincidences that both you and Paget Brewster have new roles on prime time just as this is airing.
It's unbelievable because when we were doing this, neither one of us would have ever thought that we would end up doing [B&S and Criminal Minds]. It is very bizarre that we're both on these new shows.
TVGuide.com: I interviewed her last spring, and she's a real sweetheart.
She is amazing. She was sort of my handpicked choice, because I had worked with her briefly years ago and just adored her. She's a talented actress, and I actually think she makes this movie. She's unbelievable in it.
TVGuide.com: Now, are you with me in saying that anything out of Christopher Lloyd's mouth inherently comes off as wondrous and compelling?
Yes, absolutely. I know his work going back to [One Flew over the] Cuckoo's Nest, and right when we were talking about Chris for this movie, I happened to catch the great Emma Thompson movie Wit. Chris is in that as her doctor, and he is so good. It made me think about how great he could be in this.
TVGuide.com: Without disclosing what it is, I thought it was a neat twist at the end, how they explained the existence of Lloyd's character in Robert's life.
Lowe: Did that work for you? Good, I'm glad to hear that. That was one of the things I worked with the producers and writers on, because in the original draft that character still had that twist, but the whole thing was dealt with in a [different] manner. I just wanted the movie to be real.
TVGuide.com: Did I catch a little "in joke" there regarding Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy [playing Robert's editor] and her other author's novel?
[Laughs] Wasn't that fun? I loved that line: "It's about death, and it's a mortician." I'll tell you, though: That was originally in the book and originally in the script, and when Frances was cast, it just became this "thing." I sat there take after take laughing.
TVGuide.com: Of course I have to ask, if you only had days to live, what would you make sure to get done?
Oooh, wow... I've actually thought about that, and if I had days to live, like my character says in his speech that I helped them write, you want to be with the people you love. Literally, you wouldn't care about anything else. So I would take my family and go to Bora Bora. That would be my move.
TVGuide.com: Moving on to Brothers & Sisters, [executive producer] Jon Robin Baitz does a blog for our site, and he's been raving about you and the chemistry that you immediately had with Calista.
Oh, I love him. He's such an extraordinary writer. To be on a show that has two extraordinary writers, including Greg Berlanti? You look at the writing staff, and you look at the actors — Sally [Field] and Calista and Rachel [Griffiths] and Balthazar [Getty]....
TVGuide.com: It's like an all-star team.
It is, it is. I feel like I've joined the Yankees in August, as we're making our pennant run.
TVGuide.com: Is there any chance you might stay on past six episodes?
I know that we would all like for it to happen, but at the moment it's just sort of day by day. I'm having a great, great time, and where they're taking this character is really extraordinary.
TVGuide.com: Are we necessarily going to be getting sparks between Kitty and the senator? Will she be accepting his job offer?
You're going to have to tune in to see. But the way they're handling it is so smart — it's so adult and so funny. They're taking that story in a great direction.
TVGuide.com: Of course, tackling a political role is nothing new for you. What would you say working on an Aaron Sorkin show does for an actor going forward?
Lowe: Oh, god... working with Aaron, whether it was on West Wing or when he and I went to London and did A Few Good Men, it's like you're a musician and you get your chops really, really up. If you can handle Aaron, you can handle anybody, in terms of that kind of soaring rhetoric and unbelievably complicated syntax. If you can make that sing, you're ready to do anything. I owe so much of who I am today as an actor to Aaron and to my time with him.
TVGuide.com: I saw a blurb a few weeks ago about how you passed on the role of Grey's Anatomy's Derek, but the story didn't say why.
Lowe: Honestly, I literally had Les Moonves holding on Line 2 [offering Dr. Vegas], going, "CBS is the No. 1 network! You're going to do a show for me! I know how to make these things work! It's me and you, kid!" I don't think anybody says no to Les very often — that's sort of the No. 1 rule in show business, and I wasn't about to break it. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Do you ever get anxious about keeping the work coming, or do you like the occasional break?
No... I have two growing boys and my wife and our family, and our life outside of Los Angeles keeps us so busy and so fulfilled that I can completely focus on that when I'm not working.
Send your comments on this Q&A to email@example.com.