Rob Lowe and Iain Hollands
Rob, Iain and the Apocalypse
by Jay S. Jacobs
What if the end of the world was coming, and it was the best thing to ever happen to you?
That is the premise of British scribe Iain Hollands’ new television series You, Me and the Apocalypse, the story of a motley crew of humans dealing with the announcement of a huge comet due to strike the Earth in 34 days time.
The series (a co-production of the BBC and NBC-TV) takes place all around the world and has an international cast which includes Jenna Fischer (The Office), Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Mathew Baynton (Yonderland), Gaia Scodellaro (Watch Them Fall), Joel Fry (Game of Thrones), Diana Rigg (The Avengers) and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation).
Perhaps the biggest stray from type is having Rob Lowe – handsome star of everything from St. Elmo’s Fire to The West Wing to Wayne’s World to Parks and Recreation – playing a chain-smoking, trash-talking priest. Lowe, who is also currently starring in the title role of the FOX sitcom The Grinder, plays Father Jude, a troubled man of the cloth in the midst of a crisis of faith who is tasked with the burden of being a “Devil’s advocate” – searching the globe for miracles confirming the coming of the Anti-Christ, as well as keeping his eye out for the second coming of the Lord.
A week before You, Me and the Apocalypse had its US premiere, we were one of small group of media outlets who were invited to talk with Lowe and Hollands about their new show.
My first reaction is would our leaders be this honest with us if the world were coming to an end? This is an advertisement for not telling us what’s going on. If this were actually happening, what should we do? Maybe being in the dark is a little bit better. Look at how these poor people end up.
Rob Lowe: Iain probably can give the real answer, since he wrote it. But I always thought they absolutely kept people in the dark in the world of the show. Probably for a long time, they knew it was coming. Now when it got to 30 days out, they were like, “You know what? At some point we have to let them know.” I bet you they knew the world was ending for a lot longer than 30 days. But if this any indication, I think ignorance is probably bliss.
Iain Hollands: I agree with Rob. And on a personal note, I would far rather not know than know.
With 30 days left, what would be on your bucket list?
Rob Lowe: I spent a good amount of time thinking about that during the show. There may be a couple of things that you’d consider: I’ve never been to the rain forests, or whatever. [But] When really faced with it, I would want to do exactly what I’m doing, which would be work hard, be with my family and live the life I’m living. It actually makes me feel really good and satisfied about my life. I’m blessed. It’s all good, because I don’t feel like there’s a lot of stuff out there that I would feel like I missed out on if it was all coming to an end.
How did this project come about for you?
Rob Lowe: It was sent to me. The minute I read the first Father Jude scene, I knew I was in. There aren’t many scripts that grab you like this. Iain did such a great job in terms of tone – of it being very, very dramatic and very, very irreverent and witty, all at the same time. The character of Father Jude in particular for me was a standout. Certainly nothing like anything I’d ever played before.
You’ve been acting for years, but this is the first time that I can remember that you played a priest. Obviously, Father Jude is very flawed and has his doubts about things. But as an actor, did you have to find a different headspace to play that character? Did you talk to any priests or anything to get ready for the role?
Rob Lowe: Well, it was a great excuse to do something that I’ve been putting off forever, which was really, really, really spend some time reading the bible cover to cover. I’ve read bits and pieces of it over the course of my life, but I’ve never really sat down and taken it all in, in a scholarly way. That was great, a great opportunity to do that. In terms of playing a priest, for me, it was like: there are certain archetypes that an actor should play before they move on. Cop, check. Cowboy, check. President, check. Priest, check. I’m working my way down the list now.
It’s very rare that an actor gets the chance to have major roles in two big series at the same time. How do you juggle the time between this series and The Grinder? And what’s it like to have both of those going at the same time?
Rob Lowe: It is really exciting. Two completely different characters in two completely different types of shows on two networks at the same time, is really an actor’s dream. I would travel back and forth. I’d do three weeks in Europe on You, Me and the Apocalypse and then I would fly back here and work on The Grinder. To be doing them both at the same time was a challenge, but also really fun. Then we finished Apocalypse in a time where I could then really do the meat of The Grinder, which I’m still doing today. I’m actually on the set. I’m on the set dressed as a Mexican busboy as we speak. (laughs) Don’t ask why The Grinder would be a Mexican busboy. You will find out.
Iain, you created such an incredible batch of colorful characters. Is there one in particular that you really enjoy writing for? And how do you balance them all?
Iain Hollands: Yes, it’s a show with a lot of characters. We spend an awful lot of time trying to structure it in a way which allows everyone to have some fun with their character. I don’t think I have one in particular. It depends on what mood you’re in. Like if you’re in a foul mood, it’s fun to write Leanne (Megan Mullally’s white supremacist jailbird character). If you’re in a pessimistic mood, it’s often to better to write some of the British characters. So I don’t have one in particular. Writing Father Jude was certainly a lot of fun because… on the surface, yes, okay, he swears and he smokes and everything. But what was really interesting was there’s real depth to him. You scratch the surface and he’s a man that really cares, and who has the real courage to take on hypocrisy. Okay, he does it in a really irreverent way, but I love writing somebody that really cared about their faith that much.
Thanks for writing an apocalyptic series that doesn’t have zombies.
Iain Hollands: (laughs) Yes. Yes. Yes. Well, you know that’s series two. No. I’m joking. I’m joking.
Rob, when I saw your character, I thought of Richard Chamberlain in The Thorn Birds.
Rob Lowe: Yes. Sort of… right. Yes, of course. Yes. That’s right. It’s been a while since we had that type of a priest on TV. I’m glad to bring it back.
Iain, is it easy to write for both British and American audiences?
Iain Hollands: Yes. I mean, I don’t think you consciously set out to do that. The only thing you can really do is write something that you would enjoy watching. The fact is now that we watch so much TV over here from America, it’s such a great period, there’s so many great shows around. You kind of pick it up almost by osmosis. So, from that point of view, it wasn’t difficult. It’s like when you’re sitting down and reading through the scripts with American actors. You can tell where you’ve gone wrong with the words they wouldn’t use, or intonation that they wouldn’t do. But generally speaking, I think that British and American audiences have more similarities then they have differences.
Iain, with the show being 30 days until the comet collides with earth, if you get more than one season, how is that timeline going to work? That seems like such a limited amount of time to work with to do with a show like this.
Iain Hollands: I’m trying to think how to answer that without giving anything away. There’s definitely a possibility for it to return. There’s a plan for that to happen. But it’s difficult for me to answer your question without a massive spoiler alert. So just say that the end of the final episode isn’t necessarily the end.
As far as being the devil’s advocate, what kind of scenarios are we going to see you play?
Rob Lowe: Well, as the world unravels, the church teaches that would be not only the time for the savior to return, but also the time for the antichrist to return, if it is indeed the end of the world. When we realize it is the end of the world, you need the devil’s advocate to sort out and find the antichrist, the real one, or the real savior. So he’s a busy man. I think up until the show opens with the announcement of the media, the job of devil’s advocate was probably not as exciting as it sounds. But the minute the apocalypse is on us, all bets are off.
I loved watching you on Parks and Rec playing Chris Traeger, the nicest guy in the world. What’s it been like going from playing a character like that to a devil advocating, foul-mouthed priest?
Rob Lowe: Great is the answer. (Iain laughs) If I could design my career – which we all try to and sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t – it would be going from one extreme to the other with each role. So, this was the perfect tonic for me right after playing Chris, who’s such a beloved character. People love [him] and I loved playing him. But I was definitely ready to exercise my more… what’s the word I’m looking for?… misanthropic muscles.
Megan [Mullally] is on the show as well, who was on Parks and Rec. What do you think of her make-up? She looks completely different.
Rob Lowe: I didn’t recognize her, and I’ve known Megan since 1984. She’s a chameleon. She’s an amazing actress. I think that’s no surprise. Everybody knows what a stunning actress she is. When she was on Will & Grace, people thought that’s who she was. Literally, they thought that was. Then when she was on Parks and Rec as Tammy, she just inhabits those characters. This is no different. I think even Megan Mullally fans when they see her in this at first probably won’t even realize it’s her.
Iain Hollands: Yes. I have to say she was amazing. She was so brave. She was the one that wanted to push it further and further and further. When you first offer a part like that to an actress, you’re always kind of worried that they’re going to want to look amazing. She was the one [who] was like, “No. No. No, I want the teeth. I want the hair. I want the full works.” That was a really bold step for her to make.
Rhonda, Jenna Fischer’s character, with her being in prison, has a Orange is the New Black feel to it. Can you talk a little bit about her character?
Iain Hollands: Jenna Fischer plays Rhonda, who has been wrongly accused of a crime and [is] in prison. She’s a mild-mannered librarian, completely unable to deal with life in prison. Then, weirdly luckily for her, the apocalypse is coming. There’s a huge prison break, in which she manages to get away, which is fantastic news. But unfortunately, she’s lumbered with Leanne, Megan Mullally’s character, who’s the kind of person that she would in normal life cross the road to avoid. Their story is the story of two women desperately trying to get across America to be with their families before the end of the world.
What was it like to get Rob involved?
Iain Hollands: It was absolutely amazing. It was on our wish list. Rob took a real gamble on this, because it’s a bunch of British people that he didn’t know from Adam. He had to come over to Europe to make it. Having him say yes to that, I thought was a really bold move for him.
Rob, people think of lots of things when they think of you. Your older roles. West Wing on Netflix. The Grinder. Your name triggers a lot of memories of TV shows and movies. But you’re also a father. You’ve also done charity work. If the end of the world is coming, Rob Lowe, who do you want to be remembered as?
Rob Lowe: Wow. Great question. Thanks. I would like to be thought of as a father first. My two sons are amazing young men. I’m very proud of them. One of them is on The Grinder now as a reoccurring actor, as he’s getting a 4.0 at Stanford. My other is graduating Duke and going to law school. They’re great human beings. That’s way more important than anything I’ve ever done in my career. Then I just think that, as you allude to, different people have different connections to me. Some are recent. Some go back 30 years. It would be an incredible legacy to be one of those people that has been in a relationship with an audience their entire life time.
Beyond the bucket list idea mentioned earlier, what would the two of you do if the end of the world was coming in the next 30 days?
Rob Lowe: Iain, why don’t you take this one? I want to hear what you want to do over there.
Iain Hollands: I’d probably have to make a My Name Is Earl-style list of all the many people that I’ve irritated and done wrong by over the years and start working my way through. I don’t know how far I’d get. But you know I’d hope to make it down to the end of page one, maybe.
Rob Lowe: Yes. For me, it’s funny. I wouldn’t want to quit my job if the end of the world was coming. I understand: Why do it? No one’s going to be around to see it. But, it’s interesting. I’m not sure I would change much about my life, other than I would make sure that I would get my kids out of school and make them come home so we could all be together. But, you know, I would keep on trucking.
Iain, when did this idea come to you?
Iain Hollands: I first pitched it about five years ago. I wanted to write a show about the apocalypse, but where the apocalypse was weirdly the best thing that could have ever happened to all these characters. When you first meet them, they’re all trapped in some ways by their everyday worries. Then weirdly, the knowledge that the world’s ending allows them to free themselves from the things that have been holding them back. Just concentrate on what really matters. That was my starting point. It took a long time. It’s a British show, so to start it off, we had to get a British network on board first. Then NBC came onboard later. It took quite a while to get everything together.
Do you know any of the characters personally that you wrote about?
Iain Hollands: I haven’t based any of the characters on anyone particularly. I think the character of Jamie is probably the closest to me, in a very British way. He dithers quite a lot. He’s not as proactive as Americans tend to be. Tend to be you know very heroic and know what to do. Whereas, I would just have no idea whatsoever in that situation what the best thing to do would be. So, yes, he’s probably the nearest to me.
If you could just bring out one message to all of your fans and all of the viewers of the show, what message would that be?
Rob Lowe: Well, let’s see. I would describe the show to the fans as a boundary-pushing comedy drama. It presents the end of the world in a way that you’ve never seen before, through extraordinary drawn, interesting characters, with plot twists that you will absolutely never see coming.
Rob, you mentioned earlier in this conversation you had read the bible pretty much in its entirety, which you had not done before. What did you get from it that you didn’t know or understand before?
Rob Lowe: Well, honestly, every time I do any reading, I’m kind of struck with the same thing, really. Other than if you’re looking for guidance, then obviously you get different things from it depending on what you’re looking to have answered. Overall, I’m just always struck with the language. It’s so beautiful. I’m also struck with things like how many common phrases we have in our everyday casual vernacular that come from the bible. You’re like, “Oh, that’s where that comes from?” I’m not breaking any new ground when I say it’s such a work of depth and inspiration and beauty that I’m amazed each time I open it.
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 27, 2016.
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