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An Interview With You, Me, and the Apocalypse Creator Iain Hollands & Star Rob Lowe

Photo Credit: Guy Levy/WTTV Productions Limited.
Photo Credit: Guy Levy/WTTV Productions Limited.

Everyone recognizes actor Rob Lowe. He’s the actor who never ages. He’s been in everything from ABC After School Specials in the early ’80’s to St Elmo’s Fire to the Austin Powers series of movies all the way to his more recent shows like West Wing, Brothers & Sisters, and Parks and Rec. Now, in spite of already having one series on NBC (The Grinder), he’s taking on another role in the new show created by Iain Hollands called You, Me, and the Apocalypse. 

Starting this Thursday, January 28th at 7pm on NBC, you’ll be able to see Rob Lowe as you never have before. In the past, he’s taken on the role of doctor, lawyer, politician and many occupations in between, but never before has he played a priest. An irreverent priest at that. Keep reading to see what he and Iain Hollands had to say about Father Jude, the show’s premise, and all the other colorful characters you’ll meet when this new comedic drama premieres.

 

It’s funny when I take a look at this premise, my first reaction is: Would our leaders be this honest with us if the world were coming to an end? I don’t know if I’d trust them. And is this sort of an advertisement for not telling us what’s going on? Like, if this were actually happening, what should we do? So, what do you think about that?  

Rob Lowe:  I always thought, and 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. And probably for a long time, they knew it was coming. And 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.”

Indeed. Iain, did you have anything to say about that?

Iain Hollands: “No. I agree with Rob. And on a personal note, I would far rather not know than know.”

For Rob, I was wondering 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. And while there may be you know a couple of things you know that you’d consider. I’ve never been to the Rain Forests or whatever. When really faced with it, I would want to do exactly what I’m doing. You know which would be work hard, be with my family and live the life I’m living. And it actually makes me feel really good and satisfied about – about my life. I’m blessed. And you know 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: I – it was sent to me. And the minute I read the first Father Jude scene, I knew I was in. There aren’t many scripts that grab you like this because 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. And the character of Father Jude in particular for me was a standout. And certainly nothing like anything I’d ever played before.”

Rob, 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 sort of head space to play that character? And 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. You know, I’ve read bits and pieces of it over the course of my life. But I never really sat down and taken it all in in a sort of scholarly way. So, that was great, a great opportunity to do that. And in terms of playing a priest, for me, it was like there are certain archetypes that an actor should play before they you know move on you know. Cop, check. Cowboy, check. President, check. Priest, check. So I’m working my way down the list now.”

Now, it’s very rare that an actor gets the chance to have two 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 for me sort of an actor’s dream. And we had finished – I would travel back and forth. I’d do three mon – three weeks in Europe on You, Me and the Apocalypse and then I would fly back here and work on The Grinder. And so to do it – not only to be doing them both at the same time was a challenge, but also really fun. And 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. Don’t ask why The Grinder would be a Mexican busboy. You will find out.”

This question is for Iain. I was wondering. 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: I mean, yes, it’s a show with a lot of characters. And we spend an awful lot of time trying to structure it in a way which allowed everyone to have some fun with their character. I don’t think I have one in particular. I think it depends on what mood you’re in. Like if you’re in a foul mood, it’s fun to write Leanne. If you’re in a – in a kind of pessimistic mood, it’s often to better to write some of the British characters. So I don’t have one in particular. But writing Father Jude was certainly – that was a lot of fun because he’s a – he’s you know 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 know you scratch the surface and he’s a man that really cares and who has the real courage to take on hypocrisy. And you know, okay, he does it in a really reverent way but I love writing somebody that had you know really cared about their face that much.”

Thanks for writing an apocalyptic series that doesn’t have zombies.

Iain Hollands: Yes. Yes. Yes. Well, you know that’s Series 2. No. I’m joking. I’m joking.”

Thorn Birds, Rob. All I can say.

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.”

You actually are better. But, you know, in a different kind of way.

Rob Lowe: Thank you.”

You’re welcome. 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’d enjoy watching. I mean the I think the fact is now that we watch so much TV over here from America, it’s such a great you know period of – there’s so many great shows around. But you kind of pick it up almost by osmosis. So, from that point of view, it wasn’t difficult. I mean there were – its like when you’re sitting down and reading through the scripts with American actors. You can tell where you’ve gone wrong with the you know the words they wouldn’t use or intonation that they wouldn’t do. But generally speaking, I think that British and American audiences are more – 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 in order to do with a show like this.

Iain Hollands: Yes. I’m trying to think how to answer that without giving anything away. But it’s – there’s definitely a possibility for it to return. And there’s a plan for that to happen. But I – it’s difficult for me to answer your question without a massive spoiler alert. So just to say that the end of the final episode isn’t necessarily the end.”

And Rob, as far as being the devil’s advocate, what kind of scenarios are we going to see you play that in?

Rob Lowe: Well, the – as the world unravels, you know 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. And 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. And so he’s a busy man. And you know I think up until the show opens with the announcement of the media, I think the job of devil’s advocate was probably not as exciting as it sounds. But the minute – the minute the apocalypse is on it, you know all bets are off.”

Rob, you know 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 mouth priest?

Rob Lowe: Great is the answer. You know, if I could design my – you know 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 you know such a beloved character. People love and I loved playing him. But I was definitely ready to exercise my more what’s the word I’m looking for? Misanthropic muscles.”

Awesome. Megan is on the show as well who was on Parks and Rec. What do you think of her make-over? I watched the teaser and it’s – she looks completely different.

Rob Lowe: “I didn’t recognize her. And I’ve known Megan since 1984. You know she’s a chameleon. She’s an amazing actress. I mean I think that’s no surprise. Everybody knows what a stunning actress she is. And when she – when she was on Will & Grace, people thought that’s who she was. Literally, they thought that was. You know and then when she was on Parks and Rec as Tammy, you know she just inhabits those characters. And this is no different. But, 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. I mean she was amazing. She was so brave. She was the one that wanted to push it further and further and further. It was – it was – I think 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. And she was the one was like, ‘No. No. No, I want the teeth. I want the hair. I want the full works.’ So I think that was a really bold step for her to make.”

Oh, I love it. I can’t wait to see you guys in action. Iain, I had a question. The Rhonda character, Jenna Fischer’s character, with her being in prison, it has a sort of Orange is the New Black kind of feel to it. Can you talk a little bit about her character? And anything that you can say – share about her?

Iain Hollands: So Jenna Fischer plays Rhonda who – who has been wrongly accused of a crime and in prison. And she’s kind of like a mild-mannered librarian, completely unable to deal with life in prison. And then kind of weirdly luckily for her, the apocalypse is coming. And there’s this huge prison break which she manages to get away which is fantastic news. But unfortunately, she lumbered with Leanne, Megan Mullally’s character who’s the kind of person that should would in normal life cross the road to avoid. And kind of 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.”

And then I’m not sure if this – I can’t remember if this was asked already for you and for Rob. Rob, how did you get attached to it? How did you first hear about the project?

Rob Lowe: Yes. They – I answered it earlier in the call. But they send me the script and just loved the first scene I read of Father Jude’s. I knew that was a standout breakout character.”

And Iain, getting Rob involved?

Iain Hollands: Is absolutely amazing. I mean it was on our wish list. And you know Rob took a real – a real gamble upon – on this because it’s a bunch of British people that he didn’t know from Adam. And you know he had to come over to Europe to make it. And you know having him say yes to that I thought was a really bold move for him.”

Rob, when I announced that I was talking to you today, I got all kinds of feedback. A woman from Scotland talked about how she was watching your – you know previous shows of yours, West Wing on Netflix. Other people mentioned The Grinder. Your name triggers a lot of memories of the greatest TV shows. But you’re also a father. You’ve also done charity work. If the end of the world is coming, who do, Rob Lowe, who are you to you? Who do you want to be remembered as?

Rob Lowe: Wow. Great question. Thanks. I mean, I would like to be thought of as you know 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. And they’re great human beings. And that’s way more important than anything I’ve ever done in my career. And then I just think that – that as you allude to, different people have different connections to me. Some are recent. Some go back 30 years. And you know, I think it would be an incredible legacy to be one of those people that has been relationship with an audience their entire life time.”

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 think I’d probably have to start a 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 1 maybe.”

Rob Lowe: Yes. And for me, you know, I would kind of – 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. As I – I don’t – 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 you know be together. But, you know I would keep on trucking.”

I wanted to know, Iain, when did this come to you? Your mind? And do you know any of the characters personally that you wrote about?

Iain Hollands: We – oh, we first pitched it about 5 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. So, you know when you first meet them, they’re all trapped in some ways by their kind of everyday worries. And then weirdly, the knowledge that the world’s ending allows them to free themselves from the things that have been holding them back and just concentrate on what really matters. So, I mean that was kind of my starting point. It took a long time to – I mean it’s a British show. So we start it off, we had to get a British network on board first. And then NBC came onboard later. So it took quite a while to get everything together. I don’t particularly – I haven’t based any of the characters on anyone particularly. I mean 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, I think he’s probably the nearest, 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, I think, let’s see. I would say that I would describe the show to the fans as a – let’s see, a boundary pushing comedy drama that presents the end of the world in a way that you’ve never seen before through extraordinary drawn and 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 probably didn’t know before or didn’t understand before?

Rob Lowe: Well, I mean honestly, every time I do any reading, I’m kind of struck with the same thing really other than you know if you’re looking for guidance, then obviously you get different things from it depending on what you’re looking to have answered. But overall, I’m just always struck with the language. It’s so beautiful. And I’m also struck with things like how many common phrases we have in our everyday casual vernacular that comes from the bible. You’re like, “Oh, that’s where that comes from?” So, you know it’s just – you know I’m not breaking any new grown when I say it’s such a work of depth and inspiration and beauty that I’m kind of amazed each time I open it.”

Written by Erica Schaaf

Erica is a former social worker and mother of three who has been writing since she was a child. She currently writes fanfiction for the Veronica Mars and The 100 fandoms and is published on Kindle Worlds as well as fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. She hopes to one day have the chance to be a fly on the wall on set of her fave shows while filming!

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