Rob Lowe on playing JFK: Presidents since are 'bad actors'

“Every president today talks like him,” Rob Lowe says. “They’re all like bad actors who do variations on that performance. … If we were in a corner I could do every [modern] president’s version of imitating President Kennedy.”

Lowe is on stage at the Beverly Hilton where he’s on a Television Critics Association press tour panel promoting Nat Geo’s Killing Kennedy, the movie version of Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s bestseller chronicling the final years of the president and his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothhaar). The film’s debut later this year will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.

Though Lowe wasn’t yet born when Kennedy was killed, he says he has a longtime fascination with the man and his death. “I’ve been following the Kennedy assassination since I was in the first or second grade,” he says. “I’ve read every conspiracy assassination book… I’ve come around to thinking [the Warren Commission] got it right — that Oswald acted alone.”

In the film, Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time) plays first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is Lee Harvey Oswald’s wife, Marina. “The way this story is told is a way I’ve never seen before,” Lowe says of the film. “It’s these two parallel tracks. It’s really a genius storytelling device.”

When it came to depicting Kennedy’s signature voice, Lowe says he was wary of trying to do something that sounded too close to an imitation. “I’m not the guy who can imitate him … but you gotta sound like him.” Lowe says he learned that Kennedy had two different voices. His famous speech voice, and his quieter private voice.

Yet Trachtenberg says Lowe was spot-on: “The first time I saw Rob in character, I was speechless. … Rob was doing the speech, and before I saw his face, I heard his voice, and I literally felt like I was there watching the president in that  moment. … He gave me tingles from nailing that voice.”

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