The Secret Heartthrob
words by DIO ANTHONY
photos by ALEKSANDAR TOMOVIC
At a glance, Chris Lowell seems like the guy next door. Of course, that would only be true if “the guy next door” had above-average good looks, a killer bod, and a brain bigger than most Hollywood types. Yes, it’s true; Chris Lowell is not the guy next door, as much as we really really want him to be.
He may not be the relatable guy who lives a couple doors down, but his notable TV roles and appearances have been pulling at heartstrings for years now. He played Veronica Mars’ kind, good boyfriend Piz on the hit mystery show, and Jonathan Fields on the short-lived cult series Life As We Know It. Ditching the teen act, Lowell completed three seasons of work on the Shonda Rhimes series Private Practice in early 2013, with a final scene worthy of any man’s tears.
These days he’s keeping busy, and yes, that includes reprising his role as Piz in the long-awaited Veronica Mars movie, released earlier this spring. Lowell is tucked away in the overcrowded city of New York, pulling more heartstrings (of course) with his performances…but this time, it’s a play. He is starring in Jacuzzi, a play by The Debate Society, a Brooklyn-based company known for producing new plays, collaborating with Ars Nova, a not-for-profit organization that supports the development of such works.
“This has been one of the highlights of my career,” says the 30-year-old. “To be doing a play in New York is by far, in one way, one of the greatest accomplishments that I have ever achieved. I love it. I love every minute of it. I love doing shows. I love the character.” Lowell plays Bo Elder, a character he describes as “very broken, complicated, and tragic.” True to its title, during the play’s runtime there is an actual jacuzzi on stage…how’s that for groundbreaking theater? “We spend a great deal of the story in the jacuzzi, which I think no one was prepared for,” he admits. “But I love doing it so much. I feel like one of the cool kids in school, getting to be a part of this.”
On instagram you may have caught a glimpse (or twenty) of Lowell’s free range of photography subjects. Photography is a passion he took to liking way before any of us took notice. He says his mother, who worked for a stock footage company called Image Banks, might have held a role in it, as he was constantly around negatives, enjoying the analog nature of going through actual live film. But it was his first job in Hollywood that catapulted the hobby of his youth into a now full-blown creative outlet.
“The producer of Life As We Know It, Gabe Sachs, was an avid photographer, as was my character on the show,” he recalls. “[Sachs] gave me this beautiful camera – this beautiful Leica – and showed me how to use it. The camera didn’t have any light meters, so I had to learn how to read the light.” Soon, the studio was processing everything he captured on the camera. Thirteen episodes later, the teen soap came to an end, but left Lowell with a brand new pastime. “When the show finished I never stopped taking photographs,” he says. “I got the bug. It’s been great as a creative outlet outside of acting, because I feel like with acting, you very rarely have any control over your career; I can’t manifest an audition or a role for myself. Photography for me is something I can do at my own volition. I can shoot what I want to shoot, and when and how. It makes me feel like I am able to take control over my creative pursuits. Which is something I don’t get to feel very often as an actor.”
Though it serves purely as creative fulfillment for now, Lowell has had a number of shows to showcase his photos. The latest one, which just closed at the end of summer, was held in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia at the Jackson Fine Art gallery. The show, titled 31 Days, featured thirty-one portraits taken during the last thirty-one days Lowell spent in the house he grew up in Northern Georgia. The prints, all in black and white, are processed in silver gelatin, an old method that Lowell describes as giving “a vintage feel in a very digital age.”
He’s an artist all around, creative and resourceful to the core. On November 28th, Lowell’s directorial debut Beside Still Waters, which he co-wrote with Mohit Narang, releases in theaters. He describes this film as a love letter to the place he grew up in and the people he grew up with. Getting the production up and running was something he took very seriously. “Getting the film funded was essentially sitting in people’s living rooms and pitching them on the film, asking for small investments in a number of different homes…just raising the money the old fashioned way,” says the Georgia native. Beside Still Waters boasts an accomplished cast, which includes Ryan Eggold, Brett Dalton, and Reid Scott, to name just a few.
Investors of Lowell’s film were soon rewarded when the film won both the Audience Award and the Jury Prize at the Austin Film Festival. Later came much acclaim, but still no distribution deal. Kickstarter would then prove to be helpful, as it was for Lowell’s other film, Veronica Mars, just months before. The process prompted the actor to get a twitter account, a realm he hadn’t yet dealt with. “I was actually very nervous about doing the Kickstarter campaign. In terms of social media I’m pretty inefficient, or at least I was. It just seemed like this very daunting task that I would have no idea how to navigate,” he explains.
“When I got a twitter account for the first time, I didn’t realize that it was uncommon to respond to literally every single tweet someone sends [to you]. I mean, we really gave ourselves to that campaign,” he expressed. In return, the campaign ended up being one of the most successful in the history of crowd funding, raising over $200,000.
So that’s life for Chris Lowell for now. He has settled in the east coast, preferring New York to LA, but is growing tired of the constant speculation as to why. “People enjoy this New-York-versus-LA thing; it’ll always exist. I, too, for a while would shit on LA while celebrating New York,” he confesses. “As I’ve gotten older, it’s changed. Now I’m a New York junkie. I love the seasons, public transportation, and theater. When I come to New York I feel like there’s a constant release of endorphins in my brain, and I’m closer to my family here.” He’s a family man – score!
If you’re resident of New York, which Lowell has been since 2010, participating in the Annual Marathon is more of a possibility than a lifeless thought. At 30 years old and in great shape, a marathon is better done sooner rather than later, and he seems to agree. “I will never do one again, make no mistake,” he says with a short laugh. “I’m only doing it because it’s the New York Marathon. I’ve seen it take place twice, both by chance. I was trying to cross the street, and I couldn’t, because the marathon was going on.” The event courses through the five boroughs of New York City, making it the largest marathon in the world.
“You just turn into a pile of sob,” he tells me. “It’s a real testament to the New York community. I remember doing the triathlon in Los Angeles, and people wanted me dead as I was doing it. I was shutting down streets, while everyone’s stuck in traffic, whereas in New York, the entire city comes out. Every step of the way there are people cheering, cab drivers crying, getting out of their car, giving water to people. It’s one of the most fulfilling things to see. But just to be among the people running [is,] for me, a huge deal. Alas, I am scared shitless.”
photographer ALEKSANDAR TOMOVIC www.alekandsteph.com
stylist WARREN ALFIE BAKER www.warrenalfiebaker.com
groomer GILLIAN for THE GRID AGENCY using
special thanks to RAMON CHRISTIAN