There's no doubt about it, Rob Lowe has become a sucker for Christmas films.
In 2002, it was "The Christmas Shoes," in which he played a lawyer whose marriage is failing. In 2005, came "The Christmas Blessing," a continuation of the 2002 TV movie. Now, it's TNT's "A Perfect Day," in which he plays an author who gets so wrapped up in his own success that he risks losing his family.
"I have to admit it, call me a wimp, call me a softie, I like movies that are emotional and I like movies that make you feel and that are based in reality," says Lowe, who is a fan of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's A Wonderful Life." "People are automatically sort of wistful during the holidays. I think that's why I'm drawn to Christmas movies because I'm drawn to stories that lend themselves well to that time of year."
The new TV movie, based on a novel by Richard Paul Evans, airs Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. and tells the story of Robert Harlan (Lowe), a regular guy who gets fired from his job and decides to realize his dream of writing a novel. The book ends up becoming a best-seller and Harlan is whisked away from his cozy home life — with wife (Paget Brewster) and a daughter — and almost loses everything that he treasures most, until what you might call a Christmas angel steps in to show him the error of his ways.
Lowe, who is no stranger to success sprinkled with hardship (i.e., the sex tape controversy in the late '80s), says he knows what it's like to get caught up in fame.
3"My first brush with fame came to me when I was 15 years old. I was starring on a family TV series on ABC and I remember, the day it aired I went from a normal 15 year old kid who could walk down the street, to a 15 year old kid who might get mobbed by a bunch of screaming insane, teenage girls. It literally, literally, happened over night. It was pretty bizarre," he says.
In the film, Christopher Lloyd plays a mysterious man — or guardian angel — who helps Harlan get back on the family track. Lowe believes there are mystical forces that help people get through rough times.
"I do think that angels, the universe, fate, God, whatever you're comfortable with, does speak to us and it comes in unlikely sources and it's just up to the individual to be open to it and to recognize it when it happens. I absolutely believe that goes on," he says.
One such encounter happened to him when he was much younger. "I was going through a (tough time), and I sort of went up to a meditation spot that I liked. It was like a park, and I was sitting there and I was sort of contemplating, look, 'I have a good life. I don't have anything really to be depressed about. I know that, but I just don't feel that. Is there any way you can give me a sign?' " he recalls, directing his request to a higher power.
Lowe looked up from his sorrow and saw something that amazed him.
"This really handsome guy pulled up in a Jeep, suntanned with his dog in the back and as he hopped out of the Jeep. And as he hopped out, I saw that he had no legs. And I thought, 'Well, that's about as good of a reminder as you're going to get,' " he says.
Unlike the character he plays in the movie, Lowe seems to have found a happy medium between work and his family. The Virginia native has two sons with make-up artist Sheryl Berkoff, to whom he's been married since 1991. After filming for "A Perfect Day" began this summer, Lowe took time out from production to fish with his boys.
2"My sons caught two gigantic mahi mahi, I caught a blue marlin. That was on the first day," says Lowe, an avid fisherman. "Then the next day I fished, as they say, inside, I just destroyed the red fish. It was unbelievable and speckled trout. It was great, it was honestly — I've fished all over the world, I love it — it was the best fishing I've had anywhere."
Originally the movie was to be shot in Canada, but Lowe volunteered to take a pay cut in order to move production to New Orleans. Production on the film, which also stars Frances Conroy, began on the one-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina's landfall in Louisiana.
"I was really happy to be able to bring it down to that economy and I think we were one of the first movies to come back to Louisiana," says Lowe. "A lot of people were really concerned if there was even going to be enough infrastructure to support a movie crew. But we did it. And the city was great. I loved it."
Another thing he is loving right now is "Brothers & Sisters," the TV show he's regularly appearing on. The former "West Wing" star plays a Republican senator on ABC's fledgling hit.
"I'm there for six episodes at the moment and we're just sort of taking it one day at a time, but I'm having a blast," he says. "There's nothing like coming on the lot and going onto your soundstage and having great words to say and playing a character you love. I'm sort of bowled over by how much I'm liking it right now."
One of Lowe's young sons seems to have caught the acting bug, mostly on account of the fact that they both help Dad learn his lines.
"The other day my wife and I had to have a talk, about, you know, he is not gonna be helping you with your lines anymore, (because) I think we were sort of aiding and abetting the delinquency of a minor," he says, laughing. "So, not that I have anything against actors — acting's been great to me — but I'm sort of hoping for Supreme Court justices. Is that too much to hope for?"
By Amy Bonawitz