John Owen Lowe Says Dynamic With Rob Lowe on ‘Unstable’ Is ‘Wildly Similar’ to Real Life

“I’m attempting to escape my own father’s shadow,” Lowe tells TheWrap

Courtesy of John P. Fleenor/Netflix

“Unstable” follows the once-estranged relationship between eccentric biotech entrepreneur Ellis Dragon and his introverted son, Jackson, played by real-life father-son duo Rob and John Owen Lowe. As Jackson struggles to find his footing in a world centered around his beloved and well-known father, the Netflix series depicts a dynamic that is all too familiar to John Owen’s real life.

“It’s wildly similar to [me and my dad’s] dynamic,” John Owen told TheWrap. “The irony is not lost on me that we’re literally acting in a show together about a son who wants to escape his dad’s shadow as I’m attempting to escape my own father’s shadow, and going even deeper into it.”

The comedy series, which debuts Thursday (March 30) on Netflix, centers on Jackson’s return home to his father following the loss of his mother and Ellis’ wife, a tragedy that stunted the pair’s relationship. Jackson also returns to the lab at his father’s tech giant after previously pushing away his passion for science in the fear of being overshadowed by his father, instead pursuing being a flutist across the country.

“Having a father who is not only a larger-than-life figure but also has a significant presence in society, it’s tough to get out of the shadow of that, and it’s even tougher when you are entering the field in which your father excelled and got all of his acclaim,” John Owen said. “As an act of desperation, he turned his back on something he really loved and attempted to find something that had as little to do with his father as possible, which was his music and his flute.”

Courtesy of John P. Fleenor/Netflix

Despite his initial hesitation, Jackson returns to the lab “refreshed,” as he listens to his gut feeling. “It’s in his DNA, but it’s also a place where he feels the need to prove himself,” John Owen said, adding that it’s both a “scary” yet “motivating.”

“It’s a very unique perspective, I think, on a very relatable subject matter, which is children trying to differentiate themselves from their parents or being drawn back to them, and also attempting to seek and earn their approval and validation,” John Owen said.

Jackson’s decision to come — and stay — home is the first step in healing the father-son duo following the death of his mother, who previously served as an emotional buffer and even “translator” between Jackson and Ellis.

“With her gone, not only is Jackson dealing with the grief of losing the mother, but he’s also dealing with, in some ways, the grief of losing, the remnants of that relationship with his dad,” John Owen said. “That’s what ultimately, brings them back together, even though neither of them wants to admit it, is that they miss that connection and with mom gone, they they’ve never needed each other more.”

After John Owen decides to continue working at the lab, Ellis throws an extravagant welcome party for his son at the office against his wishes, complete with streamers, balloons and cake. While John Owen says his dad makes a big deal out of things that are not a big deal in son’s eyes “all the time,” he recalls his father’s overzealous reaction to John Owen passing his driver’s test when he was 16 years-old.

“He made it seem like I had just gotten like a Nobel Peace Prize or something like that, it was a huge celebration,” John Owen said, adding that his dad rewarded him by taking him on the highway. “He has a flair for being dramatic and being larger-than-life, and that manifests in making small things bigger than they need to be.”

Though John Owen doesn’t see Jackson as a “full-blown introvert,” it’s clear “he is not as easily outgoing or eager to be social” as Ellis, mirroring their real-life relationship as John Owen notes “I’m a similar way, and my dad is very lively and boisterous and out there.” “So we are at odds, socially, when we go out together,” he said.

As John Owen, who began his career as a writer on “9-1-1: Lone Star,” which stars his father, grappled with his character’s struggles hitting pretty close to home, he admits that though he and his father had
“some dialogue,” he confided most in his therapist about the show’s striking resemblance.

“The truth is, when I’m really feeling like, it’s all getting too meta for me, he’s not the right person to go to because it’s about him, so I have to find other resources,” John Owen said. “He does his best, he makes it easier than it is, I’ll say that much.”