Rob Lowe is giving the real reason behind his sudden departure from The West Wing, comparing the NBC show to a “super unhealthy relationship.”
Lowe, 59, played Sam Seaborn on the series for four seasons before abruptly leaving the show in 2003 after feeling “very undervalued,” he shared on the Wednesday, August 9, episode of the “Podcrushed” podcast.
“I walked away from the most popular girl at school,” he admitted, referring to the show’s success. “It was the best thing I ever did.”
Overall, Lowe said he “did not have a good experience” on set, noting that at first, he “tried to make it work” but his kids — Matthew, now 30, and John Owen, now 28 — whom he shares with wife Sheryl Berkoff, helped him take the leap to leave the show.
“[They] were getting to a certain age where I could see them having first girlfriends and being in a relationship that was abusive and taking it,” Lowe recalled, comparing the boys’ relationships to his experience on the show. “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 aid people would tell him The West Wing was “so popular” and “so amazing,” but he no longer wanted to be a part of it.
While Lowe’s unhappiness clearly played a part in the real reason for his departure, his initial statement spoke to other reasons.
“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,” Lowe’s statement at the time of his departure read. “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.”
At the time, various reports claimed that the departure was based on salary disputes, but Warner Brothers Television and John Wells Productions made it clear that it was an “amicable” decision between the network and the actor.
Lowe’s final episode as a series regular — titled “Red Haven’s on Fire” — saw his character leaving the White House to run for Congress in Orange County, California.
The West Wing aired on NBC from 1999 to 2006 and starred Martin Sheen, John Spencer and Allison Janney, among others. Lowe reprised his role as Sam Seaborn for two episodes during the show’s final season.