It’s designed to please nosy parkers, which prompts the question: What does Lowe get out of this?
Publicity, sure. The 54-year-old actor’s “Parks and Recreation” co-star Rashida Jones once deemed him a “benevolent narcissist,” as he candidly wrote in his second memoir. But Lowe also shared — this time in a recent phone interview — that most of the artists he admires have been “able to share their authentic selves with their audience.”
“Whether it’s Bruce Springsteen in his work and his one-man show or the Joan Didions of literature, they have the ability to get honest, and get honest quickly,” Lowe says. “Not everyone can do it, and not everyone wants to do it. But to leave a mark with an audience, I believe that’s an absolute must.”
Lowe captivated viewers early in his career, skyrocketing to fame after starring in a string of commercially successful flicks in the 1980s. More than 30 years later, he keeps his career going by working on projects that span genres and mediums. He doesn’t appear to be too selective either, as he told The Washington Post before playing President Kennedy in the 2013 made-for-TV movie “Killing Kennedy”: “I am not a brand snob. I’m not. I don’t care if it’s on Lifetime.” That statement has proved true — Lowe is directing and starring in a gender-swapped remake of the 1956 thriller “The Bad Seed,” set to premiere on Lifetime in September.
This interview took place the day after the mid-April premiere of “Super Troopers 2,” in which Lowe plays a Canadian mayor named Guy LeFranc — a far cry from his days as the dashing Sam Seaborn on “The West Wing.” His upbeat Chris Traeger, of “Parks and Recreation,” probably falls somewhere in between.
We also can’t forget “The Lowe Files,” a bizarre A&E series that followed the actor and his sons, Matthew and John Owen, as they traveled the nation in search of all things spooky. Before that, Lowe starred in the short-lived Fox series “The Grinder” and now appears in the CBS medical drama “Code Black.” Is he bored? Restless? Both?
Perhaps. Here, he circles back to his fans.
“I’m interested in literature, so I want to write a book,” Lowe says. “I’m interested in theater, so I want to do a one-man show. I’m interested in guilty-pleasure TV shows, so I wanted to do a version of ‘Scooby Doo’ with my kids.
“There’s a reason why I’m still doing this. I think people like to see people try new things. And I think that’s one of the keys to navigating a long career — you know, experimenting and trying and delivering on new things.”
The stage show touches on most of those “things”: Lowe built it with the mind-set of a musician assembling an album. “You don’t want to have too many ballads, but you want to have some ballads. You’ve got to have the hits. People are coming for the hits! Is it too up-tempo?” And so on.
An early hit — the 1985 movie “St. Elmo’s Fire,” shot in Georgetown — cemented Lowe’s status as a member of the Brat Pack, a term pulled from a New York magazine story that described the 20-somethings who appeared in that film and/or “The Breakfast Club.” In his first memoir, he called the article a “sneak-attack, mean-spirited hatchet job,” but acknowledges that the term has lost most of its negative connotation and now uses it freely while discussing those years.
It is “gratifying and mortifying both to have your teens and early 20s memorialized forever on film,” Lowe says, but “you’ve got to talk about the Brat Pack.” Even he can’t deny that movies of that era remain some of his most popular.
“You know, I take a tremendous amount of pride in it and am unbelievably chagrined about it, the fact that these movies are still watched today,” he says. “I have so many 13-year-old girl fans today — as much as I’ve ever had — and that’s because ‘The Outsiders’ is still relevant to them and still speaks to them.”
Maybe they’ll be in the audience at Strathmore. But given the Bethesda stage’s proximity to the District, attendees might be drawn by Lowe’s political work.
Lowe hasn’t publicized his political affiliation, but he notes that his “West Wing” character worked for a Democratic administration. After all, he says, you can’t make a show about the White House without picking a side.
“Aaron Sorkin is a Democrat, and we were all Democrats,” he says. But “it was not a partisan show. It was a show that celebrated our differences.”
Washington has been important to Lowe since “carousing in the streets of Georgetown” in the 1980s and when the “West Wing” cast famously visited President Bill Clinton at the White House. Lowe was also in town recently to accept the 2018 Horatio Alger Award for his philanthropic work.
“I’m hoping there’ll be some interesting, fun people in the audience,” he says. “I’ve got some interesting friends in D.C. You get to call somebody out in the audience and give them some hell. That could be fun.”
If you go
Stories I Only Tell My Friends: Live!
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. 301-581-5100. strathmore.org.
Date: Friday at 8 p.m.