Rob Lowe is very much a big deal.
An American A-lister, he has been on our radars since he was a Brat Pack teen idol way back in the 1980s, through to becoming a serious actor in The West Wing , and a comedic genius with his tongue firmly in his cheek in cult comedy Parks & Recreation.
Which is why we are surprised we have been summoned to a humble, windowless room in a small North London studio to meet said superstar.
Just one assistant lurks in the background, as Rob – dressed casually in a black T-shirt and jeans – strides forward to introduce himself, giving us a hug and asking how our day has been so far.
It’s all very un-Hollywood.
Unlike many notoriously private celebrities, he’s also warm and open, happy to talk about his family life and days as a young heart-throb as well as about his current project – a British TV series he’s starred in as well as produced, set in the unlikely location of Boston in Lincolnshire.
His openness is all the more surprising because of the scandals that have rocked his career.
After hitting the big time in the 80s, Rob developed a drink problem and a rumoured sex addiction that saw him check into rehab.
There was also a notorious sex tape scandal with a teenage girl, back in 1988.
Despite this, he has no regrets.
‘There’s a lot of stuff in my past that was complicated and parts of it I wouldn’t wish on anybody,’ reflects Rob.
‘When my own sons [Matthew, 26, and John, 24, with wife Sheryl Berkoff] turned 18, I thought, “OK, give them money, give them worldwide fame and see how they handle it.”’
‘When you go through an adventure, a lot of it’s good but a lot of it isn’t so good either.’
‘But everything has led me to where I am.’
Rob reveals his joy at working back in the UK, career highlights and those rumours about a West Wing revival…
Did you particularly want to come and work in the UK?
I wasn’t looking for something here specifically, but I wanted a larger-than-life character and to work on something that’s different and gritty.
I also wanted something that wasn’t American network television – whether that meant Netflix , Amazon Prime or the BBC or ITV.
I worked here for the first time when I was about 19, filming the movie Oxford Blues, and I’ve done theatre here too.
I always love working in Britain.
So, what did you make of our Boston, the one in Lincolnshire?
It was great.
Any time you can get into a unique, authentic and honest world like that, it makes for really good television.
The notion of setting this show in Lincolnshire was brilliant.
Firstly, I’m not sure it’s ever been depicted on television, and then the notion of bringing someone like me in to do it is even more bizarre!
Partly, it’s a look at Brexit Britain; what people’s priorities are, what’s important to them.
Did many of the locals turn out to watch you film?
Yeah, I’d be right in the middle of a scene and someone would go [adopts a Northern accent] ‘That’s Rob Lowe, love!’
It was great.
The people were so warm and genuine and so excited.
How does the reaction you get from UK fans compare to American fans?
Here’s the thing I’ve learned.
When I was at the height of my teen idol-dom, and I couldn’t go anywhere in the world without people going crazy, I would come to England and there would be nothing… I’d think, ‘Wait a minute. What is going on?’
Then somebody told me, ‘The British take a long time to accept someone, but when they do it’s for life.’
And I have found that to be true.
Now, I have so much opportunity here and I feel so welcomed.
Will there be another series made in the UK?
In season two, I think Wild Bill should go to The Bahamas.
There will be a terrible coconut theft ring that needs to be cracked; I think Wild Bill is just the man to do it.
We’ve already got that show. It’s called Death In Paradise…
All the good ideas are taken.
What do you make of British TV?
I know it’s a big deal, but I wasn’t aware of The Great British Bake Off.
I had the great fortune to be on The Jonathan Ross Show with the winner of Bake Off, Rahul Mandal.
Gillian Anderson was on that night, but this guy stole the show.
Do you bake?
But I do not bake.
I’m terrible in the kitchen.
There are rumours The West Wing will return. Would you be up for it?
I would do it in a minute.
I think we are all kind of standing behind [West Wing creator] Aaron Sorkin going, ‘Think!’
My only worry about doing it, actually, is portraying what’s going on in the world right now.
Would it seem like science fiction?
Do you look back on your teen idol-dom with fond memories?
I do – but I definitely have a lot of moments where I think, ‘Where were my parents? What was I thinking?’
But it was unique – a journey that two or three people a decade get to go on.
Many of your contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, but you’re still here. How have you managed that?
You have to get a little lucky, and you have to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.
That’s where you really see people fall apart.
And you have to figure out a way to stay relevant.
The way to do that is by taking chances.
I’ve done a number of things that my advisors told me not to do.
I hosted Saturday Night Live at a time where people thought I shouldn’t do it, which led to being offered parts in Wayne’s World and Austin Powers.
I wrote a memoir and people said, ‘You can’t write a memoir at your age.’
But that led to my one-man show.
Then people commented, ‘What are you going to do? You’re not a stand-up comic’.
But the show sold out the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Those are choices that not everyone would make.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
There’s so much.
And I’ve given all of that advice to my kids.
But the thing is, I can’t argue with the results.
Everything has led me to where I am and I’ve never been happier.
I’ve never had more opportunities.
I’ve never had my fingers in more pies.
I’ve never been more optimistic, fulfilled or healthy.
I don’t think I’d want to change anything, because I wouldn’t have ended up sitting here, talking to you guys, like this.
All about Wild Bill
Wild Bill sees Rob play ‘fish out of water’ Bill Hixon, a high-flying US police chief who moves to Boston, Lincolnshire.
He’s there to shake up the force and reduce crime in the local area, but also for a new start – he arrives with his 14-year-old daughter, who has a lot of problems of her own.
The drama mixes humour with hard-hitting storylines and Rob says Bill is a larger than life character, and a lot of fun to play.
‘When I wanted to rewrite the script, I’d say to the team, “Guys, it’s Wild Bill, not Mild Bill”.
The character is so American, and that bumps up against a proper British sensibility.
He is abrasive and direct and ambitious.
He doesn’t suffer fools at all.
He speaks his mind.’
– Rob Lowe stars in Wild Bill, ITV, Wednesdays 9pm
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