Rob Lowe was about to hit the dust — literally — when we caught up with him on the set of FOX’s 9-1-1: Lone Star. He’s shooting the Season 2 finale (Monday, May 24, at 9pm ET/PT), in which a huge dust storm messes with Texas, big time.
But for Lowe and his firefighter Owen Strand character, a little flying dirt is all in a day’s work. “I know it’s going to be super uncomfortable,” Lowe says. “But unfortunately, what I’ve found is the more uncomfortable it is to shoot, the better it looks on camera.”
Lowe’s job as host of Mental Samurai is far cushier. The pressure is on the contestants to answer questions and solve puzzles while being spun around the arena by “Ava,” a high-speed, rotating capsule attached to a robotic arm. After a long hiatus, the quiz show/thrill ride is back for Season 2 (Tuesday, May 25, at 9pm ET/PT) and we put Lowe to the test with our questions:
How did you manage to shoot Mental Samurai between the pandemic and 9-1-1: Lone Star?
Rob Lowe: We had to shoot Mental Samurai when I was available, and that coincided with the first big outbreak of COVID-19. We literally could not shoot anywhere in the United States for health and safety reasons, and insurance reasons. The only place in the world that was open to shoot and had the protocols in place to make it safe was Portugal. And I’d never been. It was a great excuse to go. We imported all of our contestants from America. We just moved the entire production over there, and it was surreal and wonderful.
Did you have to import Ava, too?
They have their own Ava. One of the things that’s so cool about Mental Samurai is that it’s been a big hit all around the world, and various countries have their own iterations of it. We have our Ava here, there’s an Ava over there. I think the one over there is a little nicer than our Ava. I think she enjoys that amazing Portuguese food. It was just a really easy thing to borrow their equipment.
How often have you taken Ava for a ride?
I make sure I hop in there quite often. I love adrenaline. I make them turn Ava up to a level that we wouldn’t dare put our contestants in. If we wanted to, we could make anybody pass out almost instantly. The Gs that we can pull on Ava — it was designed to test astronauts and fighter pilots. If we cranked it up to her full potential, our contestants would black out. I don’t go that far, but I like to go close.
Is there a part of the course that always seems to stump you?
That’s the great thing about the show. No matter how smart you are, you’re going to have a weakness somewhere, and this course will find it and exploit it. And that’s why only the best get to be a Mental Samurai. For me, I always have a particularly hard time on the puzzles. That would be the one that I hope I’d never land in front of, but of course you have to get through that tower to get to the end.
A Quick Spin With Rob Lowe
Arrange your career highlights from earliest to most recent:
• Saving Denver from an atomic train in Atomic Train
• Being a bad influence on James Spader in Bad Influence
• Ordering Chinese food in Cantonese in Wayne’s World
I’m going to go with being a bad guy with James Spader for 1, ordering Cantonese food in Wayne’s World for 2, followed up by saving Denver in Atomic Train.
Which was better?
• Sporting the mustache as Drew Peterson in Drew Peterson: Untouchable
• Playing the saxophone in St. Elmo’s Fire
That’s a very difficult choice. I never had more fun than playing Drew Peterson because I don’t think I’ve ever played a character less like me or that looked less like me. So that was a deep dive. But let’s face it, a lot of people still remember my saxophone solo with that yellow bat tank top, so I think St. Elmo’s Fire is going to eke it out.