‘9-1-1: Lone Star’: Why Rob Lowe Sunk His Teeth into the ‘Culture Shock’ Aspect of Show

by Suzanne Halliburton

Rob Lowe loves the “culture shock” aspect of 9-1-1: Lone Star. Basing a show in Texas opens a new world of storytelling.

His show is a spinoff of 9-1-1. And both shows feature the shock of a bizarre accident or event, the crazier the better. After all, it’s a Ryan Murphy calling card. The 9-1-1 show is based in Los Angeles. And 9-1-1: Lone Star is set in Austin, although the show is filmed in Los Angeles.

“Yes, (Ryan Murphy) kind of brings a new way of thinking into areas that are very, very entrenched in good-old-boy networks,” Lowe told Entertainment Weekly in January 2020. “That’s great for the storytelling. I kid you not, all of our stories are true.

“We’re doing an explosion in a plant that was storing multi-million-dollar cow semen — they’re the highest ends balls; they’re the studs. That only happens on a Ryan Murphy procedural set in Austin, Texas. You can’t make this up. It’s edgy and sort of funny. It’s just a really good, romp adventure.”

The bull semen episode was first televised in February 2020. And it was based on a true story, although not anywhere near Austin. The episode first featured a fight in a male strip club. Then Lowe’s Captain Owen Strand and his firefighting crew took off to battle a blaze at a factory that stores bull semen.

That 9-1-1: Lone Star Didn’t Really Happen in Texas

“It is Texas,” Lowe said during a press tour of the classic episode. But the 9-1-1: Lone Star episode was based, in part, on an accident that happened in Australia five months before. That’s when 10 crews fought a fire at a “genetics laboratory and storage facility.” The fire destroyed 100 cylinders of cattle semen.

9-1-1: Lone Star also wrote in several characters who aren’t represented that often on network television. Ronen Rubenstein plays T.K. Strand. He’s Owen’s son. T.K. also is gay and a recovering addict. He dates an Austin policeman, whose dad is in the Texas Rangers. Brian Michael Smith portrays Paul Strickland, a transgendered male who is an Austin firefighter. Smith’s portrayal is authentic. He is a transgendered man and is a trans advocate. Then there’s Natacha Karam, who portrays Marjan Marwani. Her character is a firefighter who also is a Muslim. On the show, she’s social-media famous for her daring rescues. Jim Parrack plays Judd Ryder, the native Texan in the bunch.

Lowe, as Captain Strand, deliberately built a team to be more representative. On 9-1-1: Lone Star, his character was a survivor of the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Strand said he did the same when he was rebuilding fire crews in NYC.

“Anytime you can tell stories of people who are historically underrepresented is great for the culture,” Lowe said. “The notion of having a trans firefighter is a story you’ve never heard. We get to answer that in a really organic, non-woke-police way. This is the 2020 iteration of a show like this. They were never going to do those stories on Emergency!