The character Rob Lowe plays in “9-1-1: Lone Star” is, to some degree, based on him. No, he’s not a firefighter like his character, Owen Strand. But they do share a few qualities.
“It’s the only network procedural you’ll see where the leading man is obsessed with men’s skin care,” Lowe said.
And that does indeed play a part in the premiere, which airs Sunday after the NFC Championship game on Fox/Ch. 13. Probably 8 p.m.-ish, unless the game goes into overtime. (Part 2 of the premiere airs Monday at 8 p.m.) Not coincidentally, Lowe and “9-1-1” producers Tim Minear, Brad Falchuck and Ryan Murphy have known each other for 20 years.
“There are things about my character that when I pick up [the script] and read it, I go, ‘Goddamn those guys!’ … Any of that crazy stuff is probably coming from them knowing me as well as I know myself.”
So in the first episode, there’s a reference to Strand’s strict diet. (He’s keto; Lowe is devoted to Atkins.) And to his skin-care regimen. “Let’s face it. I’m not a stranger to looking in the mirror,” Lowe said.
And that’s one of the things you can’t help but like about him. He’s just plain charming, and he has a sense of humor about himself.
That works on “9-1-1: Lone Star,” which has a premise that’s anything but comedic. After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, Owen Strand was the sole survivor of the crew at a Manhattan firehouse. After his friends’ deaths, he had to rebuild the crew from scratch. As the new series begins, all but one member of an Austin, Texas, firehouse crew is killed during a rescue operation; Strand is hired to move to Texas and build a new team.
As is the case on the other “9-1-1” (which will return in the spring), the personal stories play out as the first responders deal with a variety of often crazy, seemingly outlandish incidents — almost all of which are based on reality. Including the baby thrown into a tree by the force of an accident in the first episode.
“What we usually say is if you can’t believe it, it’s probably based on a real thing,” said Minear. “And that particular case was a real case.”
Lowe spent two seasons playing a doctor on “Code Black” (2016-18), and he’s been shooting “9-1-1: Lone Star” for the past few months. “Having done ‘Code Black’ and done this, I have done hour upon hour upon hour upon hour of training,” he said. “So if, God forbid, someone in this room were to have a medical emergency, I could almost help.”
Lowe has spent a lot of time with real first responders as they train, which has taken some by surprise. “People are like, ‘I don’t feel so safe with Rob Lowe standing there. I don’t feel like the real experts showed up,’” he said.
The cast of “9-1-1: Lone Star” includes Natacha Karam, Sierra McClain, Jim Parrack, Ronen Rubinstein, Rafael Silva, Brian Michael Smith and Julian Works. And Liv Tyler co-stars as the chief paramedic, Michelle Blake.
When Tyler was asked what her father — hard-living rocker Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith — thought about her going through paramedic training to prepare for the show, Lowe interjected, “He’s no stranger to paramedics.”
It was hilarious, because it was true. “My dad has nine lives,” Liv Tyler said.
Lowe has his own Steven Tyler story, which happened almost three decades ago when he went through rehab and stopped drinking. “But when I first got sober, my thought was — my life is over. Like, the fun is done and I’m not going to be cool anymore,” he said.
He was just home from rehab — “probably sober two or three weeks, maybe” — when Steven Tyler, who he had never met, called him out of the blue.
“And he said, ‘I heard you’re in recovery and I just wanted to say hey and it’s going to be great,’” Lowe said. “And I thought, ‘Dude, if it’s good enough for f---ing Steven Tyler, it’s good enough for me.’ So he was a big part of who I am today.”