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Rob Lowe Finds 'The Grinder' Anything But a Grind
October 15, 2015  | By David Hinckley

While Rob Lowe’s character in the new Fox sitcom The Grinder may be more than slightly delusional, Lowe says his own life as he has passed the age of 50 has become, well, rather grounded.

In The Grinder, which airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET, Lowe plays Dean Sanderson Jr., who has returned to his hometown of Boise, Idaho, after years starring as a lawyer in a TV drama.

By happenstance, Dean’s brother Stewart (Fred Savage) is a lawyer himself, a real one.

So now the returning Dean, who has a certain power over his brother, convinces Stewart to make Dean his de facto partner – even though Dean comes no closer to actual legal credentials than delivering lines about legal matters from a TV script.

Soon he’s in court and in client negotiations next to Stewart, sounding as assertive and authoritative as his TV character.

Okay, it requires a little suspension of disbelief. But Lowe characterizes Dean as sympathetic rather than exasperating.

“The secret about The Grinder,” he says, “is that even though he’s seemingly confident, he’s really anything but. The audience knows this and they root for him.

“That’s the challenge for the writers, too. How do you take a larger-than-life character and make him relatable? He’s sort of a straw man dropped into real life and there’s something very endearing about that.”

Why? Because, Lowe suggests, most people have a little of The Grinder in them, acting more confident about some situations than they really are.

“Without getting into mind games,” he says, “we all do things like that in our own lives, in a lot of little ways.”

Lowe says he likes playing Dean Sanderson as a comic character, though there’s also a dramatic side. While Lowe is best known to some viewers from long runs on the hit dramas The West Wing and Brothers and Sisters, as well as a 2013 John F. Kennedy biopic, his more recent work has tilted toward comedy with Parks and Recreation (right) and a popular series of DirecTV ads.

He played two contrasting characters in the spots: one a confident, happy Rob Lowe who has DirecTV and the other a neurotic incompetent Rob Lowe who has cable. In one spot, cable Rob Lowe cheerfully suggests his ability to make good decisions is illustrated by his decision to “eat a tuna fish sandwich I found on the bus.”

“I loved those spots,” says Lowe. “I didn’t expect the reaction they got.”

But he says he’s always loved comedy, which he has played on and off over a three-decade career, and he says that after all the television he has done, “It’s perfect for me to play a guy who’s done a lot of television.”

What’s also relatable about The Grinder, Lowe suggests, is that he’s retreated back home after he’s lost a job he had and loved.

While Dean insists he moved back home to reunite with family and friends and enjoy the comfort of his roots, Lowe says it isn’t quite that simple.

“Whether he’d want his old TV job back depends on the day you’d ask him,” says Lowe.

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