Creative Minds: Rob Lowe

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Rob Lowe, who stars as Chris “Literally” Traegar on NBC’s “Park and Recreation,” talks about destiny, the challenges of doing TV comedy and what to expect this season.

In your memoir, “Stories I Only Tell My Friends,” you take the mind-set that everything happens for a reason. How does “Parks and Recreation” fit that idea?

I was just finishing up on “Brothers & Sisters,” which had an amazing and successful run. After four years on a show, both in terms of the writing and the acting, everyone has sort of gone through their bag of tricks. So I was looking for the next challenge. Greg Daniels and Mike Schur [creators of “Parks and Recreation”] had a vague notion about bringing someone onto the show. And it was sort of kismet. In my meeting with Greg and Mike, they told me when they were asked to design the spinoff to “The Office,” their original idea was to make a comedy version of “The West Wing.” I sort of had to do it after I heard that.


Most of your career was built on drama. What do you find most challenging about doing comedy?

My No. 1 axiom about comedy is, there is no place for vanity or self-editing. When you’re on national television in extreme closeup, looking in a mirror and ad-libbing, “stop pooping,” you know you’ve crossed the Rubicon and you have taken that axiom to heart. That’s what it’s about. Have you seen that clip of Chris Traeger playing banjo on the Internet? That’s actually my favorite thing: Chris’ banjo playing. There’s a [photo] of him dancing to [House of Pain’s] “Jump Around” too. The other day a fan made me Post-its that had Chris Traeger saying, “This is literally the most important message you’ll get all day.” All that — it’s what every actor dreams of.

Was there a TV show growing up that had an impact on you?

When I was a little kid I was very partial to “The Partridge Family.” I fashioned my haircut after David Cassidy for many, many years. The big throw-down for me was “Rich Man, Poor Man” and “Roots” — those were the watershed television moments for me growing up. I remember watching those like it was yesterday.

Now you’re creating those moments for others. What can we expect from Chris this season on “Parks and Recreation”?

I don’t think things are completely resolved with Anne Perkins, which I’m very excited about. I believe there’s a possibility that Chris may move to Pawnee permanently. And I think there’s a possibility that he may move next door to Ron Swanson. Those two as neighbors — it should actually be a tent-pole movie.


— Yvonne Villarreal