Rob Lowe on "Code Black," politics and comedy


Actor Rob Lowe, star of the medical drama, “Code Black.”

CBS News

Actor Rob Lowe gained widespread fame in the 1980s as a member of Hollywood’s so-called “Brat Pack.” From drama to comedy, he’s kept audience’s attention for more than 30 years, from “The Outsiders,” “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Wayne’s World” to “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

Actor Rob Lowe, star of the medical drama, “Code Black.” CBS News

Lowe went on to tackle television as White House staffer Sam Seaborn in “The West Wing,” and later, in “Parks and Recreation,” as a health-obsessed government official.

Now, Lowe joins the cast of CBS’ medical drama “Code Black” as Colonel Ethan Willis, who is tasked with teaching the staff of Angels Memorial Hospital new techniques.

Sometimes that even involves leaping from a helicopter.

“They came to me and said, ‘Will you do ‘Code Black’?” Lowe recalled on “CBS This Morning.” “I said, only if I get to jump out of a helicopter into the Pacific Ocean.’ And they said, ‘Fine!’”

His character helps advance the hospital staff’s treatment of trauma patients. “So much of what we are learning with cutting-edge trauma medicine is from the battlefield,” Lowe said. “And these colonels are transitioned into some of our larger hospitals to teach what they have learned in this more urban setting.”

Rob Lowe as Col. Ethan Willis in “Code Black.” CBS

Lowe explained that the term “Code Black” refers to a crisis, when a hospital is past capacity. “In most hospitals that will happen two or three times a year,” he said. “In places like L.A. County, that happens over 300 times a year. There’s just not enough money and not enough beds.”

Anchor Gayle King asked Lowe about the term “Brat Pack.”  “When you hear that phrase, are you gnashing your teeth to powder? Or do you embrace it?”

“I love it!” he replied.

“At 52, what does it mean to you?”

“That is exactly it,” Lowe said. “When I was in my 20s, I didn’t like being lumped in with a catch-all phrase, right? ‘We are all individuals!’ But now looking back on it, I’m just glad that people are still talking about something that a bunch of us accomplished so many years ago. It’s great.”

Anchor Norah O’Donnell also asked the former “West Wing” star and political junkie, “Where are you watching the debate?”

“I’m so excited, I’m going to be watching with the Stephen Colbert writing staff. I’ll be on the Colbert show tonight, live, and we are going to do a surprise sketch centered around the debate, so everybody is going to be writing it based on actually what happens in the debate.

“Years ago, I did the same thing with the ‘Saturday Night Live’ people. Because I was hosting during that debate -- it was Bush-Gore’s first debate -- the famous “Strategiery” sketch was created in the room where I was.”

“Do you like comedy?” anchor Charlie Rose asked.

“I love it. I think I’m a comedian/actor trapped in a leading man’s body. I’ve done ‘Parks and Rec,’ I’ve done ‘The Grinder,’ I knew I couldn’t top them creatively, so I wanted to do something very, very different, and ‘Code Black’ has been amazing to do something different.”

Rose also asked about being the target of a recent Comedy Central Roast.

“It’s a badge of honor -- to be hit that hard is a total badge of honor,” he said. “I also knew that at the end I would give as good as we got, so it was a blast!”

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and