Nature, nurture, drugs, sobriety, father-son stuff—it’s all tricky. Just ask Rob Lowe (59) and his lookalike son John Owen Lowe (27), who star together in the new Netflix show, Unstable. For the April “Fit at Any Age” issue cover story, the two open up to Men’s Health about sharing the same highs, failures, lessons and last name, and bringing their family dynamic from real life to the small screen. Plus, in their Men’s Health “Gym & Fridge” cover video, the father-son duo enjoy some playful banter while sharing a look at their fully-stocked fridge, typical home workouts, how they keep their minds fit, the importance of sleep, and more.
John Owen on the evolution of parent-child relationships: “Your parents, no matter who they are, always just bug you. Always. Even when you’re an adult. Your relationship changes as you get older and your parents become more like your friends—but they still bug you. As they should.”
Rob on playing father to his actual son in Unstable, of which his son John Owen is cocreator, co-executive producer, co-writer, and star: “Look, neither one of us could have made this show without the other. I couldn’t have gone off and said, Hey, I wanna do a father-son show without John Owen.”
John Owen on when, in eight grade or freshman year of high school, he started to learn more about who his dad was: “You know what it’s kind of like? Santa Claus. I don’t think most parents ever have that moment where they sit the kids down and go, ‘Okay, we’ve got to tell you something.’ A kid just figures it out. There weren’t milestone markers, like, ‘Okay, he’s 16 now, time for them to learn about this part of our life!’”
Rob on avoiding a sit-down kitchen-table conversation about at home when it came to telling John Owen and his older brother, Matthew, about the 1980s: “Wikipedia and Google took care of that for us.”
John Owen on being compared to his dad: “The number of times I got compared to my dad, and the number of times he was brought up in conversation, made me so uncomfortable that I wanted to move as far away from that as possible.”
John Owen on nepotism: “My take is, there is a healthy conversation in there somewhere. I’m always more than willing—and I think it’s important—to acknowledge that I did have opportunities that other people didn’t have. I did get that foot in the door that most people don’t, and for that I’m grateful. And what is also true is that after getting that foot in the door, you do have to prove yourself. There’s a difference between children of nepotism who have just been platformed and coasted on that and the ones who have worked hard and care about what they do.”
John Owen Lowe on being out of touch with his emotions as a teen:
“I came off to people as this confident, probably cocky, self-absorbed extrovert. I loved to be the life of the party. The truth was, I was deeply insecure. I’d felt the pressure put on me as a young kid at a time when he doesn’t understand why people are talking about him or looking at him in a certain way. I was a scared little kid trapped in a teenager’s body.”
John Owen on his past substance abuse: “Many times I could have died. I really liked to push the limits of my body and numb out as much as I could,” says John Owen. “It makes me sad to think about. There’s a certain level of self-doubt, or uncomfortability with one’s self. The more insecure I grew, the more aggressively I used—to medicate. I’ve been to many hospitals many times. I’ve been very lucky.
John Owen on his lowest points and getting sober: “When I was at my lowest points, my parents were throwing their lifeline of recovery at me in a way that I was like, Ahhh, get away! It’s abrasive. It’s like I was drowning and they were slamming me on the head with the life raft. Because my feelings were that I didn’t matter, and a lot of that stemmed from having the dad that I had. Once I was treated as if my voice and opinion were valid, I was able to access a part of me that was scared and hiding. Finally the thing that worked was when they said, ‘We love you and we’re scared.’”
Rob on understanding that you can’t make anyone get sober, even though he and wife Sheryl feared for John Owen’s life: “I have a slightly different—not different, but additional view. Which is, he wasn’t ready for us to turn the keys over to him. His perspective is he woke up one morning and we did it. Why didn’t we do it earlier? Well, there was a fucking good reason we didn’t. He wasn’t ready.”
Rob on being disciplined when it comes to his diet: “I hate that it’s 80 percent diet. I’ve tried every way of getting around it. And I love working out, but it doesn’t get you where you need to get at my age. And that’s a fucking bummer.”
Rob on finding moments to enjoy the food he loves: “The thing that works for me, there will be days when, no doubt, you’re getting the fucking pie. There are times when I will run over my grandmother to pick up a milkshake. But that’s not all the time. So wait till then, have the milkshake, and be cool.”
The April 2023 issue of MEN’S HEALTH—the Fit at Any Age issue—hits newsstands nationwide on March 21.
[Photo Credit: Mark Williams & Sara Hirakawa for Men’s Health Magazine]
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