TCA press tour: Rob Lowe talks playing JFK, Bill O’Reilly ties

TCA press tour: Rob Lowe talks playing JFK, Bill O’Reilly ties
Rob Lowe, left, and Will Rothhaar discuss “Killing Kennedy” Wednesday during the TCA press tour in Beverly Hills. Lowe plays John F. Kennedy and Rothhaar costars as Lee Harvey Oswald in the National Geographic TV film, set to air November.
(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Actor Rob Lowe has LIT-ruh-lee no qualms about having ties to Bill O’Reilly.

The 49-year-old actor stars as worshiped Democratic president John F. Kennedy in National Geographic’s “Killing Kennedy,” based on the book from the Fox News anchor. Lowe, who is familiar with playing people in politics, big and small -- “The West Wing’s” Sam Seaborn, “Parks and Recreation’s” Chris Traeger -- was once well-known for his liberal political views, but now views himself as an independent moderate. But none of that was really a factor when it came to doing a project based on O’Reilly’s work, he said. 


“I didn’t think about it at all,” the in-all-places actor said. “Any time you can do material proven to be of value to people is a good thing. The book is a massive bestseller. To me, that was as far as I saw it.”

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And Lowe, who was promoting the TV movie Wednesday during its panel at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills, isn’t worried viewers won’t be able to differentiate O’Reilly’s roles as author and partisan TV anchor.

“He kicks everbody’s ass on a nightly basis,” Lowe said. “I don’t know how bad it would be.”

The telepic, a follow-up to the network’s ratings hit “Killing Lincoln” (also from O’Reilly), will premiere in November, timed with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. 

Lowe has proved to be adept in the about-face department. He creepily inhabited the puffy, mustachioed role of accused wife killer Drew Peterson a Lifetime flick last year. And he recently had folks eyes-bulging with his crazy transformation as Liberace’s skin-stretched plastic surgeon in HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra.” But taking on an iconic man in history -- one portrayed onscreen countless times? Yeah, it was a challenge.


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“We don’t have a royal family here,” said Lowe, who is slated to play another historical icon, Ulysses S. Grant, in an upcoming project. “Shakespeare made a career of writing about the royals. Kennedys are sort of royals. So if you believe that concept, we’re playing characters out of Shakespeare ... A lot of people will play JFK in the future, he is one of the great American icons. You just try to figure what you can individually bring. For me, it was very much about capturing him as a man ... what he was like as a father, a brother, a son, as a husband.”

Lowe, a self-proclaimed fan of Kennedy, wasn’t even born when the president was assassinated, but had long been fascinated with the historical figure growing up -- as evident when Lowe gets giddy revealing why Kennedy had limp pocket squares.

“I’m not Darrell Hammond from ‘SNL,’” Lowe said of his portrayal. “If you want a guy to imitate him, I’m not him.”


But the voice had to be there. 

“He had two voices. The voice we all know -- ‘Come to Berlin!’” Lowe said in Kennedy’s recognizable Boston accent. “Then he had the way he spoke in private. The Kennedy stutter step. His stammer. That’s what you don’t see a lot of. I tried to bring that." 


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