Rob Lowe Shares Personal Stories at Balboa Theatre
The actor talks The West Wing, secrets to a happy marriage, and his upcoming one-man show, Stories I Only Tell My Friends
San Diego Magazine: We are thrilled you’re coming to San Diego. Have you spent much time here?
Rob Lowe: I love San Diego. My son Matthew and I usually come down to go sportfishing. We run off the coast; we go down to Mexico. He’s a huge fisherman. I am not quite as accomplished as he is. I also love coming down to that area to surf, usually in San Onofre near Trestles.
SDM: Your show, Stories I Only Tell My Friends: Live, is based on your best-selling memoir of the same name and its follow-up, Love Life. What was the first book’s genesis and how did you come up with the title?
RL: Year upon year upon year, inevitably after a nice dinner with somebody, they would say, “Dude, you have so many great stories, you should write a book.” And at a certain point, enough people told me that, that I decided to do it. My lovely wife, Sheryl, pitched the title. And I went, “Oh my god, that’s a great title!” And really, as Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation would say, “They are ‘literally’ stories I would only tell my friends.”
SDM: What can people expect from the show?
RL: It looks behind the curtain of what really goes on in Hollywood, some of the unexpected triumphs, tragedies, and humiliations of the day-to-day slog of doing what I do, interwoven with the stories that we can all relate to in terms of living and loving life.
SDM: For example?
RL: I wrote an essay about sending my kid to college that went viral, and every single year as parents send their kids off, it’s shared all over Facebook. And it’s not about Hollywood or kings and queens or movie stars or Oscars. It’s literally a dad sending his kid to college. So the other part of the show is, it’s just very emotional and relatable. At the end of the day, it’s a really funny, entertaining, sneakily emotional night of stories.
SDM: In Stories you refer to Sheryl as the love of your life. What’s the secret to maintaining a long, happy marriage?
RL: The Cliffs Notes version is what Alfred Hitchcock said about how you make a successful movie: “It’s all about the casting.”
SDM: But how do you know if the one is “the one?”
RL: Therein lies the rub. I think you lead with emotional connection and not physical connection. You have to have both. But physical comes and goes in waves. The emotional never goes. My thing is, if there is any possibility of you marrying your best friend, you should do it.
SDM: You’re a self-described political junkie and beloved for your role as Sam Seaborn in The West Wing. What do you think that TV show would look like today, set against the backdrop of the current administration?
RL: It would look very much the same. The West Wing was always an idealized version of the government that we wanted. The show hit its stride during the Bush administration, and there were plenty of people who were unhappy about that administration. So I think when there is a Republican administration in the White House, The West Wing would always be at its best, because it’s a counterpoint and a mirror to what you have.
SDM: Do you think the subject matter is still relevant?
RL: One of the things I love about The West Wing, and what people forget, is that it was a very nonpartisan show, in spite of the fact that it was a Democratic administration. I think The West Wing has often articulated GOP platforms and ideas better than the actual GOP has ever done. In fact, Google Sam Seaborn’s speech about why taxing the rich is so abhorrent. It’s a Democrat articulating a big Republican talking point in a way that they have never managed to do, for whatever reason.
SDM: What are you currently working on?
RL: I just finished directing and costarring in The Bad Seed [now playing on Lifetime], a remake of the classic 1956 movie that gave us the “demon child.” The youngest Oscar nominee ever was the original bad seed, played by Patty McCormack, who is in this version as well. And Mckenna Grace is our new bad seed. She is the hottest young actor in Hollywood now. She’s one of the most extraordinary actors I’ve ever worked with, and she is all of 11 years old. She delivers a performance that is just a must-see, and the movie is reeeeally creepy and weird and delicious. I’m really proud of it.