A self-described lifetime student of the Kennedys, actor Rob Lowe reveals he embraces many of the causes and qualities that are part of the JFK legacy.
“I’ve been following the Kennedy assassination since I was in the first or second grade, and read every conspiracy theory book known to man.” Lowe did that long before he was cast as John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, in the docu-drama Killing Kennedy for the National Geographic channel (premiering Nov. 10). The film is based on the bestselling book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, who did Killing Lincoln.
One of the things that drew him to the role, he says, “was to reintroduce these generations to what it meant to our country. That moment has not been passed on to the newer generation. And this will be the 50th anniversary and I could not be prouder to try to reintroduce people who might not know the details of what it meant to this country to lose him.”
Lowe considers Kennedy “a great American icon and it is an honor to portray him.” So what does the actor think of all the conspiracy theories? He says, “It scares us to think things that can be that simple and huge, horrible things that can happen by the act of one person.”
He explains, “Hopefully, I’m the guy who can imitate Kennedy. I’m the guy who embodies and fleshes out and makes him a real human being, and that’s really the job. I immerse myself in the project. You do the things that are important, which are honesty, authenticity, a connection with the actors, all the stuff that actors do on a daily basis.”
He counts himself very lucky “to be part of things that we love and a part of things that affected us really deeply. It’s more than just a job, or your next project, and you forget that these were real people. JFK was a husband, a father, a son, a complicated man, who did great things and had more yet to do. In the last speech he ever gave, he spoke of what was lost and what we have the ability to possibly still achieve today.”
This is one of the most infamous moments in American history, and it deals with the tragedy in great detail. Lowe says the book Killing Kennedy “was a tremendous success, and anybody in show business is looking for an advantage [for a production], and anytime you can do material that has already proven to be of value is a good thing.”
Lowe says, “We don’t have a royal family here (U.S.), but the Kennedys were sort of our Royals. A lot of players will play JFK in the future, as he was just one of our American icons. For me, it was very much about capturing him as a man. We all know the iconography of Kennedy. I was interested in what he was like as a father, a brother, a son, a husband, as a flawed, complicated and heroic guy.”
When asked about the qualities he shares with JFK, Rob says, “I’m just a fan and have been my entire life, and have always been interested in the Kennedy family lore. He was an optimist. I’m a kid from Ohio who said I wanted to be a working actor. I believe in optimism. That’s probably the thing we share.”
Lowe has two children (sons), who are “the most important things to me and my wife. We have built our world around that, like Jack and the Kennedys continue to be very much about family and family first — that did resonate with me.”
The Nov. 10h premiere of Killing Kennedy ties in with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. The TV production has Lowe as JFK and Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie Kennedy. Lee Harvey Oswald is played by Will Rothhaar, while Michelle Trachtenberg is his wife, Marina in the NatGeo Channel docu-drama.