By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Editor’s Note: Johnson City native Matt Lowe has spent nearly 20 years as a working actor in Hollywood. This is the final installment in a three-part series on the triumphs and trials he’s experienced while navigating the ultra-competitive world of show business. If you missed the first two stories, they can be found online at www.jcnewsandneighbor.com.
Professionally speaking, Matt Lowe hasn’t had much of a chance to put down roots on the set of a television show.
Instead, he’s rambled from one set to the next like a tumbleweed, dropping into the company of an established cast of actors who have carefully honed their own chemistry. His goal is always to create a character that successfully blends in to whatever creative universe he happens to find himself, and Lowe has done just that on shows like Nashville, Modern Family, The Walking Dead, NCIS and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Lowe said every set is different, and he does his best to make himself available to his fellow actors without overstepping, especially if he’s been hired on a one-day or one-week basis.
“Everybody’s got their chemistry, but I’m always available,” Lowe said. “Sometimes it can be really surprising and amazing and you get kind of like enveloped immediately into the family, and other times you show up and you kind of test the waters. Nine times out of 10 you’re going to meet someone there who’s friendly and open.”
Personally speaking, Lowe’s roots are still planted firmly in the hills of East Tennessee. He wears orange on fall Saturdays, goes hiking and trout fishing in the mountains that surround the urban sprawl of Los Angeles and you’ll often hear bluegrass blasting from the speakers of his car stereo.
“You can’t separate who I am today from where I’m from,” Lowe said. “I’m still very much an East Tennessean in East Pasadena.”
In that sense, Lowe hasn’t put down roots in Los Angeles as much as he’s augmented his roots by surrounding himself with a network of kindred spirits who hail from his neck of the woods. Los Angeles is a city of transplants, and Lowe learned early that license plates could often be a reliable tool in his search for others who share his frame of reference.
One day when he was walking down the street, a Tennessee license plate caught Lowe’s eye. So he left a note on the car with his contact information and wound up finding some friends.
“I ended up meeting a couple of lifelong friends who were from Morristown,” Lowe said. “We were just great buds out here and they went to ETSU and stuff like that. So it’s been awesome to see how the roots are the roots, and they’re always part of the tree.”
He did even better when he spotted a Mississippi license plate that led him to a young lady in a laundry mat. He struck up a conversation with her, and now the two have been married for 13 years and have three children.
On other occasions, folks with ties to Johnson City have found Lowe. The prime example came during Lowe’s third appearance on the show Hart of Dixie, where Lowe played a lovable character named Meatball.
Lowe was still keeping a relatively low profile on the set when Rachel Bilson, the star of the show, spotted him at a table read and yelled to him across the crowded room.
“Matt Lowe, I have to talk to you after this,” she said.
As the cast read through the script, Lowe was racking his brain to figure out what he had done wrong. When the meeting broke up, Bilson came up to him and started rattling off the names of restaurants and businesses in Johnson City. As it turned out, Bilson’s cousin Mary Lang lived in Johnson City, and Bilson came to town to visit on a fairly regular basis when she was a kid.
“It was mind-blowing,” Lowe said with a chuckle.
Hart of Dixie turned into an opportunity for Lowe to finally put down some roots professionally. He was able to develop his character over the course of three seasons, and Lowe said that was an invaluable experience.
“What I learned is this whole thing can turn into a family,” he said. “You grow and collaborate with people creatively and grow to love people creatively. My prayer at night is, Lord, could there be something like Hart of Dixie come along again, because it was fantastic.”
While Lowe yearns for the stability that would come along with being part of another television family, his own family is growing up before his very eyes. His son and two daughters are all gravitating toward acting like he did, although the metaphoric rocket ride it took to get Lowe from Johnson City to Los Angeles is nothing more than a car ride for Lowe’s children as they are shuttled from their house to a nearby set.
The whole family recently starred in a Smithfield bacon ad, and all three kids have all dabbled in voice work. Lowe’s son Luke voices a recurring character on Big City Greens, a cartoon on the Disney Channel, and he also has a couple more projects in the works.
Like any good father, Lowe worries about the path his children take as they start to venture off into the world. Lowe doesn’t want to push his kids down the road toward acting just because it’s the path he took, so he constantly reminds them they can quit anytime they want and pursue their own dreams.
When people reach out to Lowe and ask for advice on pursuing acting, he does his best to draw upon his experience and help them avoid potential potholes. But mostly he tells them to pour their heart and soul into their craft and to surround themselves with a community of people who will help them shake off the shroud of negativity that hangs so heavy on the shoulders of anyone who makes the decision to leave home and audition for a living.
Lowe doesn’t know what might lie ahead in the unpredictable world of show business, but he knows he has plenty of support from those around him and tries to do his part to be the kind of person others can lean on when they need it most.
“I feel like the rocket has kind of taken off, and it’s headed where it’s gonna go,” Lowe said. “And I trust God for where it’s going to go. My faith is still very active and strong, but I also want to know how to be a blessing to other people.”