[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 3, Episode 16 “Shift-Less.”]
Captain Owen Strand (Rob Lowe) leaves Texas for Los Angeles in the latest 9-1-1: Lone Star see his dying father (Robert Pine).
But when he’s there, he meets another member of the family: his half-brother, Robert (Rob Lowe’s brother, Chad Lowe). And so in addition to talking to his dad about how he left him and getting some of the closure he needed, Owen also leaves California with Robert telling him not to be a stranger.
Chad Lowe talks about working with Rob on screen for really the first time (except for a brief appearance in a movie) and teases the next one lone star episode he directs.
How did you appear on lone star arrive?
Chad Lowe: In creating the storyline of Owen, that he was going to return to face his father, [creator] Tim Minear decided there would be a half-brother that Owen was unaware of. And so the story I heard was that Tim called Rob and said, “I have a crazy idea. What if we chose your brother to play your brother?
Obviously Rob jumped on it and thought it was a brilliant and inspired idea, and of course I was thrilled and felt it was a long time coming. I think Rob and I both felt it was a long time coming because it’s the first time we’ve really starred in anything together, but for a very small moment in a movie that he has called Oxford Blues, where I walked in at the last moment and shot a scene they needed to help explain something about the plot of this movie. I’ve worked two hours and I think I’m on screen in this movie for about four or five seconds, but I don’t really consider that and he doesn’t consider us really working together either. This is the first time Rob and I have acted together in anything.
How was it? Because you worked with you as a director.
Absolutely. I did it Brothers Sisters with him and I did The grinder. And then I’m currently directing the third episode of lone star that I realized. It was better than I could have dreamed or imagined. It was truly one of the highlights of my acting career. And I’m saying for a number of reasons, one is he’s just a really good actor and I knew that, but I got to experience that kind of intimacy sharing the scenes with him . As an actor, I always equate that to hitting the tennis ball and the better the player you play with, the better it makes you, so it really helped me improve my game as an actor.
And that was also the story that we share, that all the siblings obviously have with each other and it’s a lifetime of memories and it’s a lifetime of all the good, the bad, the in-between, the triumphs, the tragedies that you share with your family. And all of that is below the surface when we got on set. I didn’t have to do much to create a backstory, let’s just say. All I had to do was look him in the eye and I know he felt the same way too because when we were done we both commented on what an amazing experience it was to be able to do that. And we also just thought, “How did this never happen?” So I’m grateful that he did.
Even though it’s three scenes, you can see how the relationship changes throughout these and it’s so clear because of the way you work together.
Thank you. It’s nice to hear. The writing is always so strong on the show, especially in those dramatic moments, and you always want subtext and you always want life below the surface. That’s really where the magic happens, when people really bring their experience to a role and they can almost say the same without saying anything. I think we got that obviously just because of our history.
Did Robert have any idea who Owen was when they first met? I rewatched the scenes trying to figure it out because it could go both ways.
I haven’t seen the episode yet. I don’t know how it happens because often things are rearranged a bit in the final cut, but when we were shooting it I felt like my character Robert – which made it even more confusing Robert and Robert [Laughs] – didn’t even know it existed.
It seems like Robert might have known about Owen’s existence, but maybe he didn’t know it was him right away and then figured it out.
Interesting. Like you said, maybe he knew there was another brother, but he didn’t know at the time that it was him. And you know, it’s funny because Rob and I, everyone says that – obviously we kinda sound alike – our voices are very similar and it’s sometimes funny when I’m directing and calling something and the people think it’s Rob calling something and vice versa because our voices are so similar, similar enough that when I call our dad I often feel the need to let him know it’s me because I can say sometimes that he is trying to understand: “Which son am I? talk to? [Laughs]
Do you think we’ll see you on screen again on lone star?
I agree on that. That would be great. I would like to. As you know, with the show, there are incredibly well-drawn characters and great actors playing those characters. So there’s a lot of history to serve up. It’s not like they need another storyline, they have a lot of people to serve. But if they wanted me involved and it was genuine and inspired Owen to see his estranged half-brother again, I’d be there in an instant.
I have a feeling if he visited Texas he would find himself in the middle of a crisis, maybe a fire… How would he handle that?
I’ll tell you that last line I have where he walks away and I say, “Hey, Owen, don’t be a stranger.” I was half tempted to improvise, “Hey, Owen, I’m available for future scripts.” [Laughs] … We don’t know much about Robert. It’s a bit of this mysterious man and I wonder too. When Tim called me and said, “Do you want to play?” And I said, “Yes, absolutely.” I kind of said yes before I even knew what he was offering.
Then when he said, ‘You would play Rob’s brother’, I thought, ‘Who am I? I know Rob’s estranged half-brother, but what is his background? Then you ask these questions in closet layouts: “Is this guy middle class, lower class, upper class? Is he blue collar, white collar? how you dress. It’s all still a bit of a blur. So I think there’s plenty of room if the gods wanted my character to come back in future episodes. There’s a blank slate for what he is, who he is, where he’s from and how he might react. All I’ll say is I’m open to anything. If Tim Minear writes it, I’m in. I trust him implicitly.
You have some idea who this guy is, but like you said, not too much.
Yeah. Does he have any children himself? What is his job? Is he a first responder? Wouldn’t it be ironic if he also happened to be a first responder and it kind of ran in the family. Rob is an actor. I am an actor. My daughters want to be actresses. You can’t help it when you’re exposed to it. The other thing that was great about this episode is that Robert Pine and I did a play together about 40 years ago. I just had an amazing experience working with him all these years. I had not seen him since. So seeing him on set was really amazing. It was very moving to be on a set where I work for the first time with my brother and I start working with Robert Pine, with whom I had not worked for 40 years. It was very special to me and something that I will definitely treasure and always remember.
You are directing another episode. What can you say about this one?
I’m doing the penultimate episode of this season and I think that’s when the show is at its best, which is to say there’s a bit of everything: you have humor and we have a personal relationship drama and an unexpected relationship that is very touching and also humorous to some extent. Then of course you have crazy rescues, crazy situations that people have found themselves in and need to be rescued and a great story with Judd [Jim Parrack] and Wyatt [Jackson Pace] where they start to bond a bit more and Judd really decides to step in and truly become the father he perceives Wyatt needs. And that has unintended consequences that lead to an event that will then propel us into the season finale.
9-1-1: Lone StarMondays, 9/8c, Fox