Brothers and Sisters: an interview with Rob Lowe

by Lisa McGarry


Rob Lowe and Calista Flockhart play Robert McCallister and Kitty Walker in the award-winning show, Brothers & Sisters. With the season three DVD about to be released, Lowe discusses his work on the show and the relationship between these two characters, as well as his thoughts on fatherhood and striking the perfect balance between work and family…

What do you enjoy the most about your work on Brothers & Sisters?

“My favorite part is my character. I love my character – and that’s a good thing because when you think about the hours we put into the show, I spend more time playing this character than being myself. It’s very rare in today’s media that you see a real man. They can be infantilized. They’re basically glorified teenagers in men’s bodies, or they’re completely feminized and they’re there as a whipping boy for a woman. You see all these archetypes, but you very rarely see a fully formed man who’s complicated and flawed and loving and funny and powerful. You just don’t see that very often, but that’s exactly what McCallister is.”

What do you think of Kitty and Robert’s relationship in season three?

“I think it’s very sad because they’re growing apart. I think that everybody – including the writers, Calista and I – have been doing a good job of showing a snapshot of a marriage where two people are growing apart. I think it’s extremely sad because there isn’t really one reason that leads them to grow apart – it’s just something that’s happening. These are two people whose priorities aren’t exactly what they were before. People can choose sides, but I think it’s much more interesting that there is no real right or wrong to their relationship. It’s just very sad.”

Are you glad the show portrays a just-married couple with a lot of problems? It feels much more real than the ‘happily ever after’ couples audiences usually see on television and in movies…

“I do like that. I honestly believe that this is a very realistic portrayal of being married. Mind you, sometimes it feels like we play Robert and Kitty’s relationship like they’ve been together for 10 years. Calista and I are both in long-term, comfortable relationships in our personal lives and that sometimes rubs off on our characters. I think we need to add some more of that first-year magic and passion to their relationship. That’s something we’re going to work on. ”

There are a lot of emotional storylines in season three. Do you find it difficult to switch off at the end of the day and not take these emotions home with you?

“Usually, I don’t – but I was really bummed out during the heart attack scenes in season three. It really affected me when I had to shoot my character falling down like that. It made me sad. Usually I’m fine at leaving work behind when I leave the studio, but that was tough.”

Did you enjoy working with the new babies on the show?

“It was wonderful. McCallister has two kids that are older and I think he’s humoring Kitty in a way with the new baby in season three – but I’m a big softy. When they put the baby in my hands on the show, I always think, “Oh, wow. Look at the baby. That’s so cute.”

Are you a family man?

“Very much so. There was a time in my life where I wouldn’t think twice about going to Afghanistan or anywhere to shoot a movie for six months. But today, I’m not 20 anymore. I’ve got a very different life. I love my boys, I love my wife and I love my life. I want to find ways to make it work, to lead the life I want, so I try to find balance.”

Is it difficult to find that balance?

“I think I’ve found a great balance in working on Brothers & Sisters. At this time in my life it would be very difficult to be in a show where I was in every single scene. I wouldn’t be able to lead the life that I lead and I wouldn’t be able to have the relationships that I have with my children and my wife. It feels wonderful that we are in a show like this because we are surrounded by great actors and the show’s doing well – but we are also able to live the life that we want to live.”

Does this mean you’re not as ambitious as you used to be?

“I just know I want a balanced life. Children change you. They really do. I don’t want to be away from my children, so I’ve got the perfect job. Balancing your career and your life is always an issue for anybody, but I’m happy where I am today. My priorities have changed – but it helps when everybody around you is on the same page. Everybody here has the same priorities on the show. They want to do really, really good work. That’s first priority. But they also want to do it in a way that’s easy.”

What makes season three of Brothers & Sisters stand out?

“I honestly think this is our best season. Without a doubt. I’ve really enjoyed shooting this season and I think there’s a lot of good work on the show.”

Why would you recommend the season three DVD?

“Because you can watch the season three DVD all the way through – like a two-hour movie. This is a great show for DVD because there is so much is going on. There are so many characters and so many plots, but you don’t have to reset your mind if you watch it all in one fell swoop. I find more and more people are watching it this way.”

Is McCallister based on any real-life politicians?

“I base McCallister on a couple of men in my life who are achievers at a very high level. They are very complicated guys and they are a handful. To get where they want to be there is this sort of selfishness about them. They need that to succeed.”

Do you think you would make be a good politician?

“Nobody would have me.”

But have you ever considered getting into politics?

“I don’t rule it out because I love politics. That’s why I’m drawn to these roles. But who knows what the future holds? I love acting and I don’t want to give that up, so I’m sticking with this for now.”