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Rob Lowe on Californication and how he became Eddie Nero

Saturday, June 14

Excepted from book "Love Life" (2014) by Rob Lowe

"I kissed a man recently, and with romantic intent. I liked and admired him very much, and professionally he is as good as anyone in his field, but truth be told he isn’t conventionally attractive. In fact, he is not tall, lacks any hair whatsoever and is a bit older than anyone I would likely be interested in kissing, regardless of gender.

But I did it anyway, and not without the apprehension you would expect from someone completely new to that sort of thing. I wondered what my wife would think. Since I was being paid for it, I figured she’d be okay with it. And considering the circumstances, I took solace in knowing she wouldn’t be asking me, “How long has this been going on?” or “Do you love him?”

Before you start wondering if I’m having one of those sexual identity crises you hear about on daytime chat shows, relax. There are moments that arise in my profession that put you in unexpected and uncharted waters. For me, kissing Evan Handler as Eddie Nero on Californication was one of them.

Evan and I had worked together before, on The West Wing. I think he played a campaign strategist for Bartlet’s reelection. He too has written books, and we bonded over our appreciation for a good memoir and said our traditional actor’s good-byes: “Loved working with you. Let’s do it again soon!”

Evan Hanlder and Rob Lowe
Californication 4x06 Lawyers guns and money
I never imagined that when we did, we would be doing a big kiss that would make A Place in the Sun’s Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift proud (Clift more so, probably).

Californication, the brilliant David Duchovny vehicle for Showtime, is the perfect example of a great actor (David) getting a part that is right in his wheelhouse. Like him, the show is subversive and smart as hell. And, like all cable shows, unrelentingly provocative. Hence my first screen kiss with a man. The fact that neither of our characters is gay makes it more so.

I play a delusional, drug-addled, pretentious, sexually carnivorous, Academy Award–winning movie star. I am not unfamiliar with the type. Although I bear a passing resemblance to at least two well-known (and fantastic) actors in my Eddie Nero “look” whom I will not name for fear of reprisal, I based the character on a mix of people. I was able to send up every pretentious contrivance of the archetypal “Method movie star.”

It’s written to be a show-stopping part, the kind that steals a movie with four scenes or pumps excitement into a series in midrun. Eddie has a number of great speeches, the kind actors kill for.

David Duchovny and Rob Lowe
Californication 7x10
At a certain point, if you want to make a name for yourself in this business you gotta figure out your “Monkey Trick,” as a fellow actor once told me. Some actors specialize in shooting weapons and punching people. Some have the market on playing buffoons cornered, others specialize in roles that require heavy makeup or outrageous wardrobe. Some trade exclusively in a post-ironic blasé attitude. Others choose the opposite tack, taking big (and oftentimes over-the-top) swings. Everyone who is anyone has a Monkey Trick. Among mine is playing people who can speak in large blocks of dialogue and being unafraid of “going for it” in character parts.

Actors are like horses; some of us are better over long distances, some in a sprint, some for kiddie rides and some for dangerous stunt work. Like horses, there are probably some of us who should not leave the barn and probably some who should be “put down.”

I was working on two other TV series (Brothers & Sisters and Parks and Recreation) at the same time when the part came my way. Arnold Schwarzenegger once told me, “My agents never get me parts. I get them for myself or they come some other way.” True to the movie legend’s word, this part came to me from the guy who cuts my hair.
Duchovny and I share the same hairdresser; they were talking about who could play this bizarre role and my name came up. “I’ll call him now,” said my guy, Daniel Erdman. On another track, the show’s producers called my agents, who said I was unavailable. And in the end, it did take my agents to get both ABC and NBC to let me go work for Showtime. But the lesson here is never leave everything to the experts. Everyone needs oversight.

It’s funny what actors take issue with. Some won’t do parts where animals are in jeopardy; some won’t ever play anyone remotely unlikable—heroes only, please. Some won’t do violence. I have no such qualms. This part had man-on-man kissing, but what really made it stand out was some of the most jaw-droppingly explicit language I had ever read.

In my last book I quoted verbatim my favorite speech from The West Wing. I won’t be doing that here for Californication. Kids may be reading this. But trust me when I tell you it was outrageous and not for the faint of heart. Which is why I was interested. You see, I don’t confuse who I play with who I am. The minute you start making calculations about what people will think of you as a person based on your work as an actor, you’re on the road to becoming a bad one. It is the death of diversity, range and surprise—all of the things I value in someone’s body of work. If you are worried about what people think of you, you should go into politics. Real actors take chances.