I wanted to punch Rob Lowe in the face.
I hated his Wayne's World character so much — the epitome of corporate greed, the white douchebag who orders Chinese takeout in Chinese, the suit who thinks he's better than anyone else — that I wrote him off as complete jackass regardless of the common sense that would encourage a person to differentiate between character and actor and regardless of the previous superior roles that had already made Lowe a household name by the time the Wayne's World Saturday Night Live sketch was made into the 1992 film.
But that was temporary.
Lowe is just too darling to stay on anyone's bad side for too long. Remember the sex tape scandal? The lawsuit and counter suit battle with the nanny who Lowe claims attempted to extort $1.5 million from him? Alleged trysts with many of his female co-stars?
All of his conflicts have been in the public eye and yet we still cheer for Rob Lowe. Because he falls and he picks himself back up. Because he laughs at himself when he makes mistakes. And because he doesn't pretend to be perfect or more than he really is.
Lowe is headed to Houston, where he'll take part in the Brilliant Lecture Series and entertain audiences with a program titled "Stories I Only Tell my Friends" on Thursday at the Wortham Theater Center. Prior to his arrival, CultureMap chatted on the phone with the actor from his home in Los Angeles about the good, the bad and the ugly.
CultureMap: Let's begin by talking about what I consider to be your biggest triumph: 24 years of sobriety. For anyone who has or is dealing with any type of addiction, what has been your most effective weapon in keeping your grounding — especially living a public life?
Rob Lowe: I could talk about 10 hours just on that subject because I think my recovery is the single most important component in my life. Whenever I get busy with work and time management becomes a problem, I remind myself that I wouldn't have any of that if I didn't take care of my recovery. With 24 years of sobriety under my belt, what's most important for me is: Just do the next right thing.
There are great phrases all through recovery. Some people may call them cliches but I happen to love them. That's the one that is in my mind every minute of every day. All I need to do is the next right thing. Then everything will be fine.
"With 24 years of sobriety under my belt, what's most important for me is: Just do the next right thing."
CM: You also celebrated another milestone this year — your 50th birthday. I'd say that you are among a small group of people who doesn't age gracefully. Rather, you just don't seem to age at all.
How do you keep yourself youthful and, we have to ask, have you had any work done?
RL: First of all, I haven't had any work done, though I have nothing against people who do it. If it makes you feel better about yourself — no judgments here.
I have really good genetics. My Pops is 75, and he looks like he's 60. I also take good care of myself. I am active. I am tremendously outdoorsy. The other thing is — since I've been 15 — I've been under the care of people whose job is to make you look good. I have makeup and hair done in every project — whether I like it or not. Like most dudes, I don't like people fussing on me, but I understand it's their job to do so.
CM: Has there been a character that most closely resembles the real Rob Lowe?
RL: Maybe it's by virtue that I played these characters for so long — when you are onstage or on a television series and playing a character day in and day out, the character becomes you and you become it — Sam Seaborn on The West Wing and Chris Traeger in Parks in Recreation. I used a big part of who I actually am in both of those roles.
CM: Rumors abound about a movie version of The West Wing. True or not true? And would there be a chance of Sam Seaborn becoming president?
RL: I would love nothing more than that. There was an episode in which President Bartlet told Sam to be president one day, and I kept hoping that it would come true. I still hope it's true. It all hinges on Aaron Sorkin. He is The West Wing. No one can do it without him and he's very busy.
I think it's easier to do a movie version of Sex and the City, which is a show that was done by committee. There's no West Wing without Aaron. You would think that in a world where there's a Sex in the City movie there would be a West Wing movie.
CM: What's your professional accomplishment of which you are most proud?
"Any decision that anyone makes for the right reasons — even if it appears as if you'd missed an opportunity — is the right one."
RL: I am blessed enough to feel like there's a few of them, though I love the success that my books have had. Writing is hard, man. It's all you for better or for worse.
Acting is a collaborative field. You depend on your co-stars, directors, network, studio, advertising . . . a book is you. It's just you. If it works, you can own its success. If it doesn't work, it's on you.
CM: Any plans for a follow-up book?
RL: I enjoy the process enough that I would be surprised if I didn't write another book at some point. I am lucky, though. Professional writers are my heroes because they have to write regardless. I am lucky enough to have at least two or three other careers. I don't have to write without inspiration — which is the mark of a real stud (laughs). I wait for inspiration. If and when it hits me again, I will absolutely be writing again.
CM: Plans to work with your brother, Chad?
RL: I would love to! One of the highlights of being in Brothers and Sisters was that young Chad Lowe got to direct me for two episodes. He's an amazing director as well as an amazing actor. We haven't had the chance to act together, so I'd love to figure that out at some point.
CM: Do you ever kick yourself for passing on Grey's Anatomy? You talk about this in the chapter "Wish Sandwich" in your latest book, Love Life. Looking back, was this the right decision?
RL: Any decision that anyone makes for the right reasons — even if it appears as if you'd missed an opportunity — is the right one. Where I was in my life, it didn't feel right. I would hope to work with Shonda Rhimes on something else. But on this I wouldn't go back.
I love hugs. I'm an equal opportunity hugger.
If I had said yes, I would still be McDreamy in my scrubs 11 years later instead of being able to play Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation, JFK in Killing Kennedy, Jack in Behind the Candelabra. All of the things I've done since then I wouldn't trade for any big residual check, however big.
And believe me it's big. Patrick Dempsey owes me big time. He's so funny whenever I see him. He says, "Dude, thank you. I just bought another car."
CM: What are you most looking forward to about your visit to Houston?
RL: I hope folks come out to see my evening because I like to meet people. I am from Ohio, a good Midwestern boy. I like to meet people who've been good to me, the people who've kept me in the business for four decades. I know none of it happens without the people buying tickets, watching shows or buying books. I'd love to be able to say thank you when I get the opportunity.
CM: Some of my readers asked me to give you a big hug on their behalf. I told them that might not go over so well.
RL: Are you kidding? I love hugs. I'm an equal opportunity hugger.
Brilliant Lecture Series presents "An Evening with Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends" on Thursday, 7 p.m., at the Wortham Theater Center. Tickets start at $55 and can be purchased online or by calling 832-487-7041.