Interview: Rob Lowe on itv's new comedy-drama, Wild Bill.
Starring and executive produced by Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor Rob Lowe, Wild Bill is a fish-out-of-water crime drama following high-flying US police chief Bill Hixon, who is appointed Chief Constable in Boston, Lincolnshire. Landing in the UK with his teenage daughter Kelsey in tow, Bill is ready to tackle the county’s crime figures, armed with a range of statistics and algorithms with every intention of getting in and out as quickly as possible. However, Bill soon discovers the people of Boston are just as smart-mouthed, cynical and difficult to impress as he is, and the man who’s spent his life keeping the messiness of human intimacy at arm’s length is reluctantly propelled into frontline policing and forced to reconsider his relationship with those closest to him.
Rob Lowe tells us more…
How did you become involved in Wild Bill? “One of the co-creators and executive producers is Kyle Killen and I’m a massive fan of his work. He and I were discussing finding something to do together and he said, ‘I have this thing in my back pocket that may be being made in England. They are going to bring on some English writers to make it more authentic.’ “So he sent it to me and I really responded to the notion of playing this type of cynical, jaded, know-it-all, fish out of water character in a really different landscape.”
What’s Bill’s background?
“Like everything today, whether it’s sport or law enforcement, algorithms are changing the way businesses are run. Bill was a top cop and on the forefront of that in the United States. Now bringing it to Britain, it’s really cutting edge. “Bill is also known for slashing jobs, so people are very wary of him. They are not fans of his. He is combative by nature and is always going into situations in that way. There’s a lot of intrinsic conflict in the show which I really liked. As an actor, any time you can play conflict it’s good.”
Did wearing the Chief Constable’s uniform help get into character?
“The uniform really does help. The first time you put that on it just makes such an amazing visual statement. It affects everything about how you carry yourself. As an actor, having done this for so long, it becomes increasingly rare to find a look on camera that you have never done before. Wearing a Chief Constable’s uniform is definitely a first for me.”
Bill thinks the English make it a point of national pride to be miserable at all times. How would you characterise the English?
“Bill is very much a curmudgeon and a misanthrope. And I am not. I’m by nature really optimistic and very embracing of new things. I love coming to England and almost everything about it. I get to be a proper Englishman for the time I’m here. “Bill Hixon, on the other hand, is just counting the days until he can go back to the United States. When I’m playing Bill I have to do some acting, because I love it here!”
Last New Year you tweeted, “We have more in common than we can ever know.” Does that apply to America and Britain?
“People are pretty much the same wherever you go. One of the things I love is how embracing of being in the outdoors the British people are. Given half a chance, everyone is out taking a walk, out with their kids, walking their dogs. “If I had the chance, I would spend my entire life outdoors. That’s one of the many things I really relate to about the English psyche. My hobbies are pretty much all outdoors stuff - surfing, golfing, skiing... If I have any free time and I can do one of those things, that’s what I’m doing.”
Do you have any favourite British TV shows?
“I’m always amused at how Downton Abbey is perceived here versus the United States. I love that show. I think here in England it’s a little bit of a guilty pleasure, but in the States we just eat it up . There is so much good drama coming out of Britain right now. Whether it’s Luther with Idris Elba, Sherlock, Killing Eve or Bodyguard. There’s a great group of shows which I hope Wild Bill will fit right into.”
Is this an exciting time to be involved in ‘small screen’ drama?
“Maggie Smith, Natasha Richardson and I did a version of Suddenly Last Summer that Richard Eyre directed for the BBC here in the early 1990s. But to get it seen in the United States back then was just a total ordeal. Finally I think it aired on PBS or something like that. “Today that would be on Netflix or one of the other streaming platforms and everybody would see it. If you’re doing good work, the good news is there are a billion ways for people to see it today.”
How would you sum up Wild Bill?
“It’s the journey of a very unique man in extraordinary circumstances. Dressed up as a procedural. The thing that is most interesting about Wild Bill is its tone. It’s both 100 per cent authentic, real, gritty and yet it’s also very funny and sweet. It’s rare to come across material that ticks all of those boxes. That’s this show’s strength. It’s a very specific, original world. “The quality of acting from top to bottom in Wild Bill is really extraordinary. It’s what I hoped for when I came over here. The talent pool of actors here is always so strong. We’re just blessed to have such a great group on the show and for me to have such great acting partners on any given day I walk on the set. There’s always somebody extraordinary to work with.”
Wild Bill starts Wednesday at 9pm on itv