Rob Lowe revealed why he left The West Wing during a new interview.
Lowe, now 59, explained he felt “undervalued” while filming the show and noted that his experiences would “make your hair stand up.”
“I felt very undervalued. Whenever I talk to actors who complain about, you know, their relationships on their shows, it happens,” he explained during an appearance on Stitcher Studios’ Podcrushed via TV Line. “It happens in any workplace. You could be in an environment where people sandbag you, want to see you fail, don’t appreciate you, whatever it is – and whenever I share my stories, people are like, ‘I will never share my own stories again.’”
“They would make your hair stand up and there’s some of them I wrote,” Lowe continued. “I shared some of them in my book, but I purposely didn’t share half of the other ones because it would make the people involved look so bad that I didn’t want to do it to them.”
Lowe appeared in the first four seasons of The West Wing as deputy White House communications director Sam Seaborn. He left the show in 2002, and Seaborn was written out of the show with a run for Congress in California.
At the time, Lowe’s exit from the show was marketed as amicable and pinned on his character’s storyline fizzling out. “As much as it hurts to admit it, it has been increasingly clear, for quite a while, that there was no longer a place for Sam Seaborn on The West Wing,” the actor said in a statement at the time. “Warners had allowed me an opportunity to leave the show as I arrived – grateful for it, happy to have been on it and proud of it. We were a part of television history and I will never forget it.”
However, Lowe’s latest revelation tells a much different story.
“So, I did not have a good experience,” he said on the podcast. “Tried to make it work and tried to make it work and tried to make it work, and then what happened was, my kids were getting to a certain age where I could see them having first girlfriends or friends and being in a relationship that was abusive and taking it. She’s the popular girl, everybody likes her, she’s beautiful, it must be great. All the things that people would say about making The West Wing to me.”
“It’s so popular, it’s so amazing, it must be amazing, but I know what it’s like, and if I couldn’t walk away from it, then how could I empower my kids to walk away from it?”
Lowe also reflected on the moment he left and how it affected him.
“I walked away from the most popular girl at school, but I also knew that it was a super-unhealthy relationship, and it was the best thing I ever did,” he noted.
Despite feeling “undervalued” on set, Lowe appeared in two final season episodes. He also joined the cast for an HBO special in 2020.