Robert “Rob” Hepler Lowe (born March 17, 1964) is an American film and television actor. He garnered fame after appearing in such films as The Outsiders, Oxford Blues, About Last Night…, St. Elmo’s Fire, Wayne’s World, Tommy Boy, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. On television, he played Sam Seaborn on The West Wing, Senator Robert McCallister on Brothers & Sisters and Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation. Most recently, Lowe played the role of President John F. Kennedy in Killing Kennedy, a made-for-television movie that premiered November 10, 2013 on National Geographic Channel.
Lowe was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, the son of Barbara Lynn (née Hepler), a schoolteacher and native of Ohio, and Charles Davis Lowe, a trial lawyer. His parents divorced when Lowe and his younger brother, actor Chad, were very young. Lowe also has two half-brothers. Because of a virus during infancy, he is deaf in his right ear (he later played a deaf character in Stephen King’s The Stand). Lowe was baptized into the Episcopal church. He is of German, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry. He was raised in a “traditional midwestern setting” in Dayton, Ohio, attending Oakwood Junior High School, before moving to the Point Dume area of Malibu, California with his mother and brother. He attended Santa Monica High School, the same high school as opera singer Rick Piersall and fellow actors Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey, Jr., Sean Penn, and Chris Penn.
One of Lowe’s earliest roles came in the 1983 TV film Thursday’s Child, for which he received his first Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film. His first big screen debut, and consequently his breakthrough, came in 1983, when he and Emilio Estevez were cast in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. Lowe played the role of Sodapop Curtis, the brother of the main character Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) and Darrel Curtis (Patrick Swayze). Lowe and Estevez reunited in St. Elmo’s Fire, making them the two more prominent actors from the group known as the Brat Pack. About Last Night… followed, with Demi Moore (who had starred with Lowe in St. Elmo’s Fire). He then received his second Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the mentally disabled Rory in Square Dance (1987).
Lowe is best known for playing Sam Seaborn in the television series The West Wing from 1999 to 2003. His performance in the show garnered Lowe a Primetime Emmy Award nomination and two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actor in a Drama Series. Lowe was drawn to the role because of his personal love of politics, and his longstanding personal relationship with Martin Sheen, who was cast as President Bartlet. When the show premiered, Seaborn was considered the lead, and the pilot centered on the character. But the acclaimed cast of the show—including Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Dulé Hill, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen (whose President Bartlet was initially scripted as a small role) and Stockard Channing (whose First Lady was initially scripted as a guest role)—outclassed him to the point that he was sidelined by the second season.
While he reluctantly accepted his demotion, Lowe and series creator Aaron Sorkin soon found themselves at odds over the network’s meddling with the show, most notably the network demanding changes in the Sam Seaborn character. Eventually, Lowe left the series, not long before Sorkin and director/executive producer Thomas Schlamme unceremoniously quit over a dispute with NBC. During the final season of The West Wing, Lowe returned to his role of Sam Seaborn, appearing in two of the final four episodes. In 2011, Lowe appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and stated that he left the show because he did not feel he was being respected, when the other lead characters received a raise and he did not.
After leaving the show, Lowe was star and executive producer of a failed NBC drama, The Lyon’s Den (2003). In 2004, he tried again in a series entitled Dr. Vegas, but it also was quickly canceled. In 2005, he starred as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee in a London West End production of Sorkin’s play A Few Good Men, the first time the two had worked together since The West Wing. Although Lowe had expressed unhappiness about his decreased role on that show at the time of his departure, he has now repeatedly said that any animosity between them is over and that he was pleased to be working once more with Sorkin, whose talents as a writer Lowe highly regards. Lowe passed on the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd of Grey’s Anatomy, which eventually went to Patrick Dempsey.
Despite his two canceled TV series and flops like View From the Top and the made-for-TV movie Perfect Strangers during his post–West Wing run, Lowe found success in the TV miniseries genre. 2004 marked his return to this genre; he had appeared in 1994’s The Stand, based on Stephen King’s book of the same name. In 2004 Lowe starred in the TNT remake of the Stephen King miniseries Salem’s Lot which was the highest rated cable program of that summer and the highest ratings TNT original programming had at the time. In 2005 Lowe starred in the miniseries Beach Girls on the Lifetime network, based on the Luanne Rice novel of the same name. The series premiere received the highest ratings for a movie premiere in Lifetime history. In that same year, Lowe filmed his critically acclaimed role as super movie agent in the 2006 independent film Thank You for Smoking. In 2006 he filmed The Perfect Day for TNT, in which he took a pay cut to film in New Orleans in order to help the hurricane-ravaged area. That same year, Lowe filmed Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming, the sequel to the 1999 Kevin Bacon thriller Stir of Echoes.
In 2006, it was announced that Lowe would join the cast of Brothers & Sisters for a guest run of several episodes. In January 2007, ABC announced that Lowe would be staying on Brothers and Sisters as a “special guest star” for the rest of Season 1 after Lowe’s initial appearance on the show in November 2006 brought the best ratings and demographic showing for the show since its premiere. Soon after ABC announced an early Season 2 renewal for Brother & Sisters in March 2007, Lowe announced he would be returning for the show’s second season. He continued to appear in the series until the end of the 2009–2010 season. Unhappy with the stories and his lack of screen time in the fourth season, Lowe announced he would leave. In an episode broadcast on May 16, 2010, his character was part of a multi-vehicle crash involving a large truck and was put into a coma, the storyline was wrapped up in the first episode of the fifth season; Lowe did not appear in the episode.
In June 2006, he was the guest host for an episode in the third series of The Friday Night Project for the United Kingdom’s Channel 4. Lowe has also appeared in a televised advertisement for ‘Visit California’, along with other celebrities including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. (In the advertisement campaign, he was usually pictured in a white tee-shirt printed with the California state flag.) Lowe had a supporting role in the 2009 movie The Invention of Lying and a leading role in Too Late to Say Goodbye.
In 2010, he appeared in the biography of the Brat Packers called: Brat Pack: Where Are They Now? He also appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Lowe is currently teaming up with 44 Blue to produce a reality series entitled Potomac Fever about young adults living in Washington, D.C.
In July 2010, it was announced that Lowe would be providing the voice for the superhero Captain Marvel in the upcoming animated series, Young Justice. It was also announced in July 2010 that Lowe would become a series regular on the series Parks and Recreation. In 2011, Lowe guest starred in a recurring role on Showtime’s comedy Californication. Lowe featured as the troubled but in-demand actor Eddie Nero – a character based upon “about ten people”, according to Lowe but somewhat contradicted by sources at Showtime itself – employed to portray Hank in a film version of his book, Fucking and Punching.
In 2014, Lowe is expected to star in the pilot for the single-camera comedy The Pro as Ben Bertrahm, a former professional tennis player.
In 2011, Lowe wrote a memoir titled Stories I Only Tell My Friends, which was released in May 2011. During his promotional tour for Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Lowe told Australian radio show The Kyle & Jackie O Show that during his five-day press visit to Australia in 1990, he was so badly affected by the overuse of pain-killers that the only two things he remembers from the trip was being at the Sydney Zoo and getting a tattoo, although he states in his book that he does not remember getting the tattoo.
Lowe, a little-known actor at the time, and Little House on the Prairie actress Melissa Gilbert briefly met at age 14 in 1978 in the halls of the CBS Television Studios. In 1981, when both were 17, Gilbert spotted Lowe stopped at the red light next to her car and the two began dating. During the filming The Hotel New Hampshire (1984), Lowe began an affair with Nastassja Kinski. According to Gilbert, she caught Lowe in Kinski’s hotel room and then slept with Lowe’s then-best friend, John Cusack out of revenge. Lowe broke up with Gilbert in 1986 when he began dating Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, but when the relationship with the princess ended, Gilbert and Lowe reunited. The two quickly got engaged and were to be married in the summer of 1987. But when Gilbert informed Lowe that she was pregnant, he broke up with her for good. She miscarried several days later.
Lowe married Sheryl Berkoff in July 1991. They met each other in 1983 on a blind date, and again in 1989 when Lowe was filming Bad Influence. The couple have two sons: Matthew Edward Lowe (b. 1993), and Johnowen Lowe (b. 1995).
In 1988, Lowe was involved in a sex scandal over a videotape of him having sex with two women, one of whom was 16 and the other 22. They were filmed with Lowe during the night before the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Lowe has asserted that he did not know that the second girl was underage, and it was confirmed that the two had met at a bar. At the time, Lowe was campaigning for Michael Dukakis.
Another part of the same tape was leaked at the time, showing Lowe and his friend Justin Moritt, both having sexual intercourse and oral sex with a young American model named Jennifer, in a hotel room in Paris. This part of the original tape was sold as one of the first commercially available celebrity sex tapes, damaging his public image. Eventually, his career rebounded and Lowe mocked his own behavior during two post-scandal appearances as host of Saturday Night Live.
In April 2008, Lowe filed separate lawsuits against three former employees accusing them of breach of contract, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Lowe accuses an ex‑nanny of engaging in a scheme to hurt the couple by spreading “malicious lies.” Another ex‑nanny was accused of falsely claiming to have had a personal and intimate relationship with Lowe, and also repeatedly expressing romantic interest in Lowe, claiming Lowe sexually harassed her and that Sheryl was an abusive employer. Rob Lowe claimed a former chef engaged in sex on their bed with third parties when the family was out of town, stole prescription drugs from the Lowes, broke several security cameras, overcharged them for food, and allegedly made statements to various people that Sheryl was heartless, cold and unclean.
Jessica Gibson, 24-year-old former nanny for Lowe, made 12 allegations against Lowe involving sexual harassment claims and labor-code violations. On June 19, 2008, Santa Barbara, California, Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille dismissed two allegations regarding labor-code violations due to lack of legal basis. The legal battle ended in May 2009, the press reported that court records showed that lawsuits filed by both nannies and Lowe were dismissed in Santa Barbara. Attorneys for both women and Lowe sought the dismissals.
Lowe was the first male spokesperson for the 2000 Lee National Denim Day fundraiser, which raises millions of dollars for breast cancer research and education. His grandmother and great-grandmother both suffered from breast cancer, and his mother died of the disease in late 2003.
Lowe is a founder of the Homeowner’s Defense Fund, a Santa Barbara County non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to local control of land-use planning and transparency in government. The average price of tract homes in Santa Barbara in early 2006 was US$1,100,000, which motivated some to propose denser housing on existing lots. While in favor of increasing housing density, Lowe sought to build a 14,260-square-foot (1,325 m2) mansion for himself in Montecito, California. His protest over the appearance of the address of the empty lot in the Santa Barbara News-Press precipitated a mass resignation of senior employees at that newspaper on July 6, 2006.