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‘9-1-1: Lone Star’s’ Rob Lowe: Willie tried to get me to smoke a joint in ’80s

Bill Keveney, USA Today
Rob Lowe stars in “9-1-1: Lone Star,” set in Austin. Lowe’s first memory of the city is tied to one of its most famous figures: Willie Nelson. [Contributed by Jack Zeman / Fox]

New TV show "9-1-1: Lone Star" doesn't shoot much in Austin, where Fox's spinoff of hit "9-1-1" is set, but stars Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler both have happy recollections of their time in the Texas capital.

The earliest memory for Lowe, who plays fire captain Owen Strand in the first-responder drama (which airs 7 p.m. Monday) came courtesy of a beloved city icon.

"Willie Nelson was trying to get me to smoke a joint on his bus at Farm Aid," which held its second concert in 1986 a few miles away in Manor. "So, it's been a while."

From that experience, and a few days of exterior location shoots for "Lone Star," which films in Los Angeles, Lowe has high praise for Austin, a blue city in a red state.

"I felt like everybody does. I fell in love with the city. It's the juxtaposition of the good ol' boy, 10-gallon-hat-wearing dude walking down Sixth Street next to a guy wearing a bra on a summer night. Only in Austin," he says.

As a setting, Austin contrasts with coastal Los Angeles, the setting for "9-1-1," in sensibility and types of emergencies: "9-1-1" featured a tsunami while the Feb. 3 episode of "Lone Star" features a tornado.

But executive producer Tim Minear thinks Austin also provides very different places and attitudes within its environs.

"In Austin, you have the urban. Then you go a little bit outside and you have more of the country feel. So, not everything is going to feel the same," Minear says.

Tyler has strong personal memories of Austin. She lived there for a few months while filming season two of HBO's "The Leftovers" in 2015, staying in former "9-1-1" and "Friday Night Lights" star Connie Britton's house.

In another coincidence, Tyler, who plays chief paramedic Michelle Blake, befriended a police officer, mirroring her own character's friendship with officer Carlos Reyes (Rafael Silva).

"I was about to do a movie that was starting after 'The Leftovers' where I was going to play a small-town sheriff," says the actress, referring to 2018's "Wildling." "So, while I was in Austin, my friend helped me do a lot of training. I went to the police academy and observed a lot of cadets training and spoke with some of paramedics. I (spent) quite a bit of time with them."

When the "Lone Star" opportunity came along, "I thought, 'Oh, that's so interesting. I already know a little bit about that team of people in Austin, because they were so kind to let me into the academy and the station and see firsthand.' … It's amazing when things come together like that."

Tyler, who has been living in England, says she loved her time in Austin.

"I had a really wonderful time there. I was there with my little baby (son) Sailor, who had just been born," she says. "There were so many (places and experiences), like Barton Springs and the bats. I used to go walking and wandering around. I went to church there. The food's beautiful and I really enjoyed it."