"I was in eighth grade or freshman year of high school, and some kid said, 'You know, your dad has a sex tape online,'" John Owen said of learning about his dad's past
John Owen Lowe is opening up about the experience of growing up as Rob Lowe's son.
In a joint interview with Men's Health alongside his father, the 28-year-old “Unstable” co-creator shared his take on the long debated conversation on nepotism in Hollywood as well as how growing up in his dad's shadow affected his confidence and his sobriety.
After prefacing that his parents had discouraged him from pursuing acting until he finished college and sought out other interests, John Owen said the drive to act and write kept "bubbling up" until he could no longer contain it.
While the Stanford alum acknowledged his famous last name afforded him many sought out opportunities, he had to prove he had the talent to back up his ambition.
"My take is, there is a healthy conversation in there somewhere," John Owen explained. "I'm always more than willing—and I think it's important—to acknowledge that I did have opportunities that other people didn't have. I did get that foot in the door that most people don't, and for that I'm grateful. And what is also true is that after getting that foot in the door, you do have to prove yourself."
He continued, "There's a difference between children of nepotism who have just been platformed and coasted on that and the ones who have worked hard and care about what they do."
Though having a celebrity parent is sure to open doors, John Owen also opened up about the pressures of growing up with such a successful father.
By the time he was in middle school, the "Holiday in the Wild" actor learned of his father's infamous sex tape leaked in the late '80s.
"I was in eighth grade or freshman year of high school, and some kid said, 'You know, your dad has a sex tape online,'" he said. "I was like, What?"
John Owen compared finding out about his parents’ past to a kid realizing there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.
"I don’t think most parents ever have that moment where they sit the kids down and go, 'Okay, we've got to tell you something.' A kid just figures it out," he explained to which Rob confirmed. "Wikipedia and Google took care of that for us."
John Owen began to realize that friends at school would have a lot of questions about his dad and he would get the feeling people were only interested in being in close proximity to a celebrity.
"The number of times I got compared to my dad, and the number of times he was brought up in conversation, made me so uncomfortable that I wanted to move as far away from that as possible," he admitted.
"I was so closed off and so out of touch with my emotions," John Owen said, explaining how he would exude a false persona. "I came off to people as this confident, probably cocky, self-absorbed extrovert. I loved to be the life of the party. The truth was, I was deeply insecure. I’d felt the pressure put on me as a young kid at a time when he doesn't understand why people are talking about him or looking at him in a certain way. I was a scared little kid trapped in a teenager's body."
Looking back, Lowe said the driving force behind his need to self-medicate "makes me sad to think about."
"Many times I could have died. I really liked to push the limits of my body and numb out as much as I could," he admitted. "There's a certain level of self-doubt, or uncomfortability with one's self. The more insecure I grew, the more aggressively I used—to medicate. I've been to many hospitals many times. I've been very lucky."
John Owen went on to credit his parents for helping him get sober.
"When I was at my lowest points, my parents were throwing their lifeline of recovery at me in a way that I was like, Ahhh, get away! It’s abrasive. It’s like I was drowning and they were slamming me on the head with the life raft. Because my feelings were that I didn’t matter, and a lot of that stemmed from having the dad that I had," he explained. "Once I was treated as if my voice and opinion were valid, I was able to access a part of me that was scared and hiding. Finally the thing that worked was when they said, ‘We love you and we’re scared.'"
His father Rob added, "I have a slightly different—not different, but additional view. Which is, he wasn’t ready for us to turn the keys over to him. His perspective is he woke up one morning and we did it. Why didn’t we do it earlier? Well, there was a fucking good reason we didn’t. He wasn’t ready."
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress.