Was Rob Lowe a fan of John F. Kennedy before he agreed to play him in “Killing Kennedy?”
—Angelique Holquin, Mesa, Arizona
John F. Kennedy has been a personal idol of Lowe’s for as long as he can remember, and as a result, he is very familiar with the president, his many accomplishments, and the details of his assassination. For the National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Kennedy,” however, Lowe, 49, was interested in capturing Kennedy, the man, as opposed to the public figure most of us are familiar with.
Consequently, he immersed himself in the details of what JFK was like as a father, a brother, and a husband, as well as the flawed, complicated politician, for the tribute, airing this November, which marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.
“I learned a lot that surprised me,” Lowe says. “The weirdest, smallest, most bizarre details. I never understood why he didn’t have a more happening, Don Draper-type thing going on. His pocket square was always barely sticking out and sometimes it was smashed. Like, ‘Dude, you are the president. Have somebody make you look tight.’ And what I realized in my research was he used reading glasses. He was rarely, if ever, photographed [with them]. He thought it made him look old. He kept his reading glasses in his pocket. He would take the glasses out, play with them, and they jammed the square down into his pocket [when he put them back].”
Lowe also learned that Kennedy had two different voices. He had the voice that we all know from his speeches, such as “Ask not what your country can do for you,” which is the voice that everybody imitates, and then he had the way he spoke in private, which was very different.
“There’s actually a linguistic term called the ‘Kennedy stutter step,’ not to get too technical, and basically, what it is is his stammer, and that’s what you don’t see a lot of,” Lowe says. “I tried to bring that, and I immersed myself in it. But then you forget about it. You do the voice, and you go to the things that are more important, which are honesty, authenticity, and connection with the actors.”
“Killing Kennedy,” based on the eponymous book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, begins in 1960, at the moment when Lee Harvey Oswald [played by Will Rothhaar] is defecting to the Soviet Union, and Kennedy is announcing his run for the presidency. The two men couldn’t be more disparate, so much so that you would never think that their lives would intersect with such tragic results, but the movie follows their parallel paths to the moment when they cross.
So does Lowe, who was born five months after Kennedy was assassinated, buy the lone gunman theory?
“I’ve been following the Kennedy assassination since I was in the first or second grade and read every conspiracy-theory book known to man,” says the Charlottesville, Virginia-born actor. “I’ve read all of them. I actually started off as a guy who thought there’s no way a [single] guy could do it, and I’ve come around to thinking that they got it right, that Oswald did act alone. That’s my personal belief.”