Rob Lowe stars as John F. Kennedy in National Geographic Channel’s film Killing Kennedy (Nov. 10). But to hear his analysis, it isn’t only actors who find much to emulate in the beloved 35th president of the United States.
“Every president today talks like him,” Lowe told reporters at a press conference this summer. “They all just are, like, excuse me, bad actors who found the greatest one who ever was and do their variation of that performance, every single one of them. And I don’t want to call any of them out by name, but I could if we were to meet in the corner. I could imitate every president’s version of their version of imitating President Kennedy, because he was the man. … He was the first telegenic president. He was the first man who understood the medium. It’s become nothing but that now. So, of course that’s where they would look. It’s all good.”
Following that group conference, I did meet Lowe in the corner (in a quiet conference room, actually), where we spoke one-on-one about Killing Kennedy. I was curious about what he had said earlier, and asked him to elaborate on some of the presidents since Kennedy whom he thought had particularly adopted his ways of speaking. Lowe seemed a little hesitant at first, but did answer, and named a few names (sans imitations):
“Kennedy is the last president who pointed. No one notices, because now you have highly paid — whatever the hell they’re called — and now you get this [holds thumb down to fist and slowly raises it up and down]. Bill Clinton was the master of this. That’s the one thing [other presidents] don’t imitate [the pointing].
“Listen, President Clinton is unabashed and totally forthcoming that Kennedy is his hero. When you listen to President Obama speak, the cadence – and his speechwriters, there’s sort of a secret society of speechwriters that they’re kind enough to let me in because I played one on television [on The West Wing]. And I spoke to President Obama’s speechwriter the other day, and I said, ‘What’s your favorite inaugural [speech]?’ And he said, ‘JFK’s.’ I said, ‘Really? Better than Lincoln’s second?’ So we nerded out over inaugurals, but, you know, when speechwriters are inspired by Kennedy’s words and by Kennedy’s writers, then the people who speak the speeches they write are automatically going to be reminiscent of them. So I think it’s a lot of things. It’s the candidates, but it’s also the writers going, ‘Boy, Kennedy had the best of the best.’”
Rob Lowe as John F. Kennedy in “Killing Kennedy”: National Geographic Channel/Kent Eanes