When a father is an absolute enthusiast for the weird, the out-there, and the paranormal, and his two sons have a decidedly more skeptical view, throwing them into sites rumored to be haunted, visited by aliens, or home to a Sasquatch promises intrigue -- and a bit of infighting.
And when the family in question is headed by actor Rob Lowe, and his two sons Matthew and John Owen have no qualms about telling him when they think he's full of it -- and quake in their boots a little when it occasionally appears that he's not -- it's also downright hilarious.
That's the setup for A&E's "The Lowe Files," a new series in which Lowe -- whose open-mindedness toward the uncanny has long been an element of the clan's private adventures since his children were young -- embarks on some father-son bonding with his offspring, road-tripping to join experts in the paranormal in investigation phenomena that alternately prove eerie or absurd -- and highly amusing, Moviefone learned while chatting with the Lowe men, as the skeptical sons constantly attempt to deflate their dad's burning desire to believe.
Moviefone: Where did it start with you, your interest in the paranormal? What sparked your interest and then made you want to share it with your sons?
Rob Lowe: One of the first books I read myself as a boy was "Dracula." One of the first movies that made an impact on me was a stupid little Scooby-Doo."
So I've always just liked that stuff, and when these kids were babies, when you see in the opening of the show, that's real footage of me taking them on hikes and saying, "I wonder if there's a Bigfoot ..." Just to get a rise out of them and just have fun with it. And one thing sort of led to another. This is a real, authentic extension of what we're into.
Tell me about the early exposure to this kind of stuff, and sharing that with your dad.
Matthew Lowe: It starts at that camping trip that we went on in the opening of the show, where he dressed up as a Bigfoot and tried to scare the sh*t out of us.
John Owen Lowe: And Matthew, being the fearless one, actually ran up to my dad in a Sasquatch costume and kicked him in the nether regions.
Rob: Sasquatches don't have nuts.
John Owen: Yeah, and, meanwhile, I was hiding in a trailer crying with my cousin, who was so scarred by the event, he literally never went back into the woods -- never again! We were maybe seven or eight years old.
Were you kids scarred?
Rob: I was scarred. It taught me to always try on your costume before you need to use it. I rented it from Western Costume, but I hadn't tried it on until I was in the woods, in the campsite, in the dark, and the head was too big for me, so the eye holes were way up here, and I couldn't see. So I was, like, staggering around blind.
John Owen: So messed up!
The vibe that comes off in the beginning of the series is that this was a special time for you. It wasn't just for the show, but just spending the time together. Tell me what that meant to you, to be able to reconnect and go on your journey together.
John Owen: I think what it was, he was in Loyola Law School. Our dad's shooting "Code Black." I was finishing my junior year at Stanford. So we were all completely doing our own things and so busy, that to be able to come together every weekend on go on silly adventures together that we love was like...
Rob: The best father/son bonding. Really, at the end of the day, that's what the show is.
The first show is a rousing success as far as what you discovered, in paranormal terms. But there's also some failures along the way.
Matthew: Oh yeah. There were just some ones we were like, "You know what? Better luck next week."
John Owen: Arguably those are some of the most fun episodes.
Did the duds make better shows, in some ways?
John Owen: Arguably, yes. You get more of us just being idiots and more of us just goofing off.
Matthew: I think the experts are more sad that nothing happens.
John Owen: Yeah, you could see the experts we bring on, they're maybe a little disappointed, and we're just like, "This was great! We got to ride ATVs in the desert! Cheers!" And then we're off.
There are those dicey moments in the pilot, where we can tell you guys are genuinely freaked out. In the rest of the show, does it go further?
Matthew: It does, but that pilot was such, like, the gnarliest initiation into what this was going to be.
Rob: I thought, If every week is going to be like this, we're not going to survive it.
John Owen: It was real fear. Genuine, real fear. I'll never forget shooting the pilot. Our last day of filming, we were really late into the castle. We wrapped, and I booked it out. I was like, "I am out of here. I'm never going back to this spot on Earth ever again."
Rob: And we stayed.
Matthew: Meanwhile, we wrapped, and I stayed the night in the castle with the docents, because I was so into it.
John Owen: Crazy people!
I love, too, that you guys all have varying levels of wanting to believe or wanting to doubt. So did the experience change you? Did you walk away with a more open mind or a less open mind in your case?
John Owen: The less open mind, I would love to hear about that.
Rob: Yeah, less open mind on UFOs. I think that anything that people see is ours. That's what I've come up with.
Matthew: You said a less open mind on UFOs. You just said you changed what you think they are.
Rob: They're not UFOs.
Matthew: It's still, technically, an "unidentified flying object." You just think that they're ours.
Rob: Yes. Most people, when they say UFOs, immediately think from other planets or other beings. I don't believe that. I believe they're ours. Did you see, yesterday, that NASA released that their new plane will be able to fly from, I don't know, California to London in 35 minutes? Well, no sh*t. They've had that technology for 50 years.
John Owen: This is where you're starting to approach borderline conspiracy theorist in Rob Lowe.
But you're not at your friend Charlie Sheen's level.
Rob: I'm not, no. Thank God.
How deep do you go, though, when you've gotten into it with Charlie?
Rob: Nobody can go as deep as The Machine! I think, pretty much, as a society, we've come to a conclusion. Nobody goes deeper than Charlie.
What do you guys believe in now, at least a little bit?
John Owen: It's not a role I enjoy, being the skeptic, but it's the truth. This show is all about authenticity, and, genuinely, I go into these situations and I'm like, "B.S. -- I don't believe it."
And there are plenty of things in this season that I'm happy to admit, "I don't have an explanation for that." I can't tell you what that was, what that noise, sound, image was. But I don't think it's a ghost. I don't think it's Sasquatch. I don't think it's a lizard person, whatever they might tell you.
Rob: In all fairness, neither do I, necessarily. But if it's jump ball, I'd so much rather it be Sasquatch.
John Owen: The slogan on the billboard is his line.
Rob: That's my line: "It's more fun to believe."
Did you ever have an experience that tested you before this whole thing?
Rob: Absolutely. I've had mediums, psychics, or whatever, say things ... Now granted, I know that I'm really, really well-known, so I guess they could do their research and all of that stuff. But I've had them come up with things that there's no way anybody ever...
Matthew: What about your driving home and seeing the lights in the sky?
Rob: Yeah, I did have that. The thing that's amazing is that your logical mind always kicks in and goes, "Ah, that's bullsh*t. That was a transformer blowing up. That's the reason the sky lit up. And that voice you heard, there was something coming through the pipe." Our logical minds discount stuff every day, and I've certainly had my share of that.
One quick example: I had a medium tell me, "Robert's here." Okay, I had a grandfather named Robert. "He's holding ... a pie? He's holding a bunch of pies. Does that make sense?" And my grandpa, when I would go home for the summers to Ohio, would meet me at the airport every single time holding pies. Look, I don't know what that is. It's never been in print. It's never been on Google. It could be anything. He could be holding a candle, he could be holding a sign. He's holding pie. Who knows? And on and on.
John Owen: It's tough for the skeptic to battle you on that one.
There's a moment in the first episode where, Rob, you cause quite a commotion when you show up at a small town donut shop. Are you excited for the day you walk into the donut shop and they get all the attention because everybody loves this show so much?
John Owen: I can answer it for you. He's not excited for that.
Rob: Look, the torch has to be passed at some point. If the new young bucks are going to come and push me out, it might as well be my own kids.
Are you sure you want them telling everybody you're full of sh*t on TV though?
John Owen: If I'm going to tell it to anybody, it might as well be on national television.
Rob: I always look through things, honestly, through a little bit of a prism of: If somebody who I admired or liked or considered one of my peers, or somebody I was a fan of, did this thing I'm thinking about doing, would I be jealous? And this was a resounding "yes." This was like, You have to be flipping kidding me if I turned on this show and it was one of my peers doing it! I'd be like, "Why didn't I think of that?"
Listen, there's so much more stuff I want to check out: the Bermuda Triangle.
John Owen: Loch Ness Monster.
Rob: The Menehune and Night Marchers in Hawaii.
That's a deep dive!
Rob Lowe: That's a deep dive, but it's fascinating. It's sort of the perfect thing. Most people have never heard of it, and it's so frightening. The Night Marchers are the people that march every night, from the top of the volcanos to the sea, on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you see them, if you look in their face -- you're dead! The Hawaiians, the 100% Hawaiians, to a man to a woman, will tell you they're real.
If nothing else, you get to have some great interactions and conversations with people who specialize in these areas, and that's got to be fascinating.
Rob: Fascinating! When you're talking to these tribal members, who will talk about hundreds of years of their people, living with Sasquatch, and they all have had an encounter -- when a guy says, "I was touched, one put his hand through my window when I was eight, touched my heart. I screamed, and my dad got a gun, and ran out to the porch, and was ready to kill it, until they looked in each other's eyes, and it looked like a man."
When they're telling you those stories, you're like, "I guess you could be lying. Sure. You could absolutely be pulling my chain. But why?" And if he is, he should be acting.
"The Lowe Files" premieres tonight (Aug. 2nd) on A&E.