There is something very weird lurking in Rob Lowe. Despite being possessed of almost cartoonish handsomeness, the sort that could have him constantly playing presidents or important businessmen in the 1950s, Lowe has in recent years gravitated toward playing freaks and morons. From an overly-lifted plastic surgeon in Behind The Candelabra to the gleefully dim Chris in Parks And Recreation, Lowe loves an oddball.
He’s adding to that roster in You, Me And The Apocalypse, a comedy-drama about the end of the world and the poorly selected people chosen to survive it. Lowe plays Father Jude, a smoking, swearing priest whose job is to argue the case against people being sainted. He is, to an extent, the church’s very own devil’s advocate, a man so committed to his faith that he’s prepared to constantly question it. He has to ask some serious questions of it when a meteor starts heading swiftly for Earth.
We met Lowe on the show’s set in Malta to talk freaks, football and cockney rhyming slang.
As Father Jude in You, Me And The Apocalypse
How would you describe Father Jude?
First of all, I’ve never played a priest, so that’s a fun new area to mine. He’s a complicated man of faith, because his belief is such that it has room for doubt. He’s a bit of a nihilist, if that’s possible for a man of the cloth. He’s a fatalist and a cynic. All qualities that you don’t necessarily find in a man of his profession.
In the last decade, you seem to have become known much more as a comedic actor who will play pretty mad people, which you never really were in your younger years. What do you credit that to?
I don’t really know. I think it’s been a long process, which probably started with the first time I hosted Saturday Night Live, which would have been, I think, 1990. That led to the Wayne’s World, Tommy Boy, Austin Powers years. The West Wing was incredibly funny. Then the Thank You For Smokings and Behind The Candelabras. People like Steven Soderbergh picking up on it. I think it’s been a gradual evolution.
Is that something you go after now, the weirdness?
Oh, for sure. The more out there the character the better, but I’m very happy that I’m able to straddle comedy and drama. I can do a season on Parks And Recreation and then go off and do (JFK assassination drama) Killing Kennedy. For me, that’s the perfect thing for an actor, to not be pigeonholed. That said, I find I’m more interested in comedy because it’s still one of the places that you can do it on a big, broad, mass scale and yet it’s still good. More and more, if you want to do good work in drama it’s not going to be on a large scale.
A lot of this show is set in Slough – in fact, it was going to be called Apocalypse Slough. Were you previously familiar with that particular part of England?
Passingly. I knew it was in The Office. But I had never been. Still haven’t yet.
What are the things about British culture that you, a) love, and b) don’t understand at all?
There’s a lot of both. I love football. British football.
With Amy Poehler in Parks And Recreation
Do you have a team?
I do, but I hesitate because I’ve since been told that rooting for this team is kind of like rooting for Starbucks. It’s Chelsea. So there’s that. I don’t understand cricket. I’d like to. I love a good, proper English shoot. A shooting party. Love it. I do quite a lot of that when I’m here.
Pheasant mostly. I also love British politics. It’s very different to American politics, but it’s also very important to American politics because there’s kind of a symbiotic relationship between our countries, I think. What happens here happens in America, and vice versa. So you can get a sense of what might be coming… I love Downton Abbey. That’s the number one British export right now, without exception.
Is there anything you’ve been introduced to via this show?
This is definitely a melting pot of local accents. I struggle with some of those. I’m trying to figure out the ones that confuse me. If it’s slow, I’ve got it. If it’s fast, I’m lost. I’d love to be better versed in Cockney rhyming slang. It’s so funny and clever. It makes me laugh.
Well, The Outsiders. Every few years there’s a new crop of 14-year-olds who get to know me through that film and discover a character that they think of as their own, even though it was made all those years ago. When I made the movie it was my calling card, my first movie, all those wonderful things. But now I realise that it’s just a continuous introduction to a new audience and that’s really great to have. I think the stuff I’ve been doing in the past few years is my favourite, though. You take Kennedy, Behind The Candelabra, Parks And Recreation, Californication. I couldn’t ask for more opportunity to stretch.
Finally, how useful would you be in an apocalypse situation?
Not very. I can barely screw in a light bulb. Actually, I’m very outdoorsy, so I’d be good there. I don’t need much to keep me going. So I’d be quite self-sufficient. But in terms of being useful to others, maybe not...
You, Me And The Apocalypse starts on September 30 on Sky One HD