Rob Lowe talks fatherhood, joining 'Code Black' and giving back

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By: Gibson Johns

You can see Rob Lowe's smile from a mile away.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but it certainly does fill any room that the actor walks into. It's his pearly whites that have helped him charm audiences -- and surely make them swoon -- throughout his decades-long career that started when he was just a teen.

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That, coupled with being a committed father to his two sons Matthew, 22, and John, 20, with his wife, Sheryl Berkoff, Lowe is perhaps the perfect fit for the Crest Healthier Smiles campaign, which is raising awareness for the effects that poor oral health has on the lives and education of children.

From "The Outsiders" in 1983 through joining the current season of CBS' "Code Black," the 52-year-old actor has remained a constant in Hollywood, a fact that earned him the distinctive honor of being roasted by his peers earlier this month on Comedy Central.

I recently caught up with Rob Lowe to talk about what makes raising teens so difficult, his turn as Dr. Ethan Willis on "Code Black" and that one David Spade jab that had him go, "Okay, you got me."

See photos of Rob Lowe with his sons:

Rob Lowe Instagrams with his sons
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Rob Lowe Instagrams with his sons
Bonding. #dad #son #ocean
Celebrating my #birthday with a #workout and @johnnylowe Whatever your age, be your best! #men #results @profile4men
Repping for The Sheriff. #superbowl
Merry #Christmas from our #family to yours! May your be blessed in the New Year.
Nothing is possible without #family #hollywoodwalkoffame #happy
At the #Duke game with the birthday boy! Go Matthew. Go Blue Devils. #football
A boy and his (brother's) dog. #Man #BestFriend
The Lowe boys take Hawaii! No fish is safe, no wave is too gnarly. It's on.
Nothing better than having the #boys back home for #summer. Can't believe I got them off the couch for a hike!
Me and the boys getting at it last weekend. #karaoke #rock
Cheers to an awesome holiday! Can't wait to head home to the newest addition to our family - Young Jack! Show me how you brought your dad-game this holiday season for your kids using #DadLife! @CocaCocaLife #Sponsored
New year, same ugly faces 😏 #happynewyears

Check out my full conversation, which has been edited and condensed, with Rob Lowe below:

Talk to me a bit about your partnership with Crest on the Crest Healthier Smiles campaign and why you thought it was a good fit for you.

Well, I've just raised two boys into manhood. Getting them to brush their teeth was always a daily battle in my house, so when I looked at these statistics that have just come out that kids with poor dental health are a third more likely to miss school, combined with the PTA and Crest coming together to raise awareness on that, it felt like a really good fit for me.

Academics were also really important in my house -- school really is so important. That was always a priority, and I've seen the benefits of that with my own kids. Today's launch of Healthier Smiles is a great way to get dental supplies to kids who really don't have the access to them.

Does knowing the amazing opportunities that your children were given make you that much more willing and wanting to give back to those that weren't blessed with those same opportunities?

Absolutely. My kids were really lucky to have parents that had the ability to provide for them and to focus on those little details, but life moves quickly and life is complicated for so many Americans, so whenever there is a way to help, that's always good. I also like it when big "corporations," like Crest, figure out ways to do really nice things like this. It's a great nexus.

I have two older brothers, and we were all teenagers at the same time, so I know how crazy a teen-filled house can get. What was the hardest part of raising two teen boys?

It's true that the teen years were the big challenge -- that's not a shock to anyone. [Laughs] It's definitely easier for a dad than for a mom. My wife found it more challenging than I did, I think just because I remember what it was like to be a teen boy. It's about getting them to have the right priorities and to focus on the good things and not the bad.

Let's switch gears and talk about your newest acting gig, "Code Black." What was it like joining the show and filming it this summer?

It's amazing! This show is so big -- the scope of it is just wild. Our set is 30,000 square feet, and that's just one of our sound stages. The caliber of acting is incredible. Some days when I'm feeling downtrodden, I ask [co-star] Marcia Gay Harden to bring her Oscar in so she can put it in the makeup trailer to get me pumped. [Laughs]

There's also Louis Guzman, who's a national treasure in my opinion. To be a part of a big, CBS production makes me go, "Oh, yeah! This is why it's America's most-watched network." I get it. It's not just a thing: They know what the f*ck they're doing. It's storytelling that everybody can relate to, that grabs you viscerally and just shakes you. At the end of it, there's inevitably one or two emotional beats, which makes it just a very emotionally satisfying show.

What's it like playing a doctor on TV? You're joining quite the legendary group of actors who have done the same.

I ran into Noah Wyle the other day and I go, "I feel your pain." And he goes, "No, I feel your pain! I'm not the one playing a doctor anymore."

The jargon is surprisingly hard: I'm good with jargon, but even for me it was tough. The biggest challenge -- the thing that keeps it from ever getting boring -- is the physical activity of knowing how to do a tracheotomy or insert a chest tube and make it look correct. Our fidelity to realism in "Code Black" is unequaled. If you ask any medical professional, they will be like, "You guys are the sh*t!" And we wear that as a badge of honor.

What's one medically-related thing that you've learned as a result of playing a doctor?

Here's one thing I've learned: For someone who has horrendous small motor skills, I'm actually really good at suturing. [Laughs]

You were recently roasted by a flew of people on Comedy Central. What was one joke that had you saying, "Okay, they got me"?

The moment when I thought David Spade had said something so sweet -- I was almost tearing up -- but then, of course, there was the punchline. He said, "He's been in some of the greatest movies of our lifetime ... Oh, I'm sorry, I meant on Lifetime." I was like, "God damnit, Spade!"

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