Gregg Lowe is an actor for whom the world is opening up – ITV’s Grantchester, lead guest in BBC’s Bomb Girls, West End theatre and now major films. He talks to Viva!’s Juliet Gellatley about his passion for acting and veganism – and how he stays grounded.
Acting is an interesting job! Meet vegan Gregg Lowe, up and coming star of theatre and TV – and just breaking into the Hollywood movie scene. In recent years he’s had many roles from playing a Nazi being wrestled to the ground by David Tennant (BBC’s Spies of Warsaw); a randy teenager who got more than was coming to him after trying to have sex with the new girl at school for a bet (award winning short film, Lorraine) to portraying Ink, a mutant with tattoos that give him mammoth powers from super strength and flight to mind reading and healing. The latter is in the blockbuster, X-Men Days of Future Past released worldwide this year by 20th Century Fox and the highest earner out of all the XMen movies. It received largely critical acclaim with Cinema Blend declaring it: “the greatest, most complete and staggeringly entertaining X-Men film to date”.
Acting sounds fun, varied, engaging – is it? There’s no hesitation in Gregg’s response: “Yes! I get paid to do what I love. It’s my passion. I do feel lucky. The hardest part is finding the next job – the best part is doing it. But you never know if it’s your last!”
There’s no doubt that this 28-years old budding star is fervent about both his profession and about making the world a better place.
I first met Gregg this summer at Viva!’s photo shoot for our new Gifts for Life catalogue when he kindly gave his time to model our new tees. The setting was the heavenly Farm Animal Sanctuary near Evesham, where he was gentle with, and curious about, all the residents. A few weeks later, I met him at a London restaurant of his choice, Mildred’s in Soho (see page 39).
He is an affable, warm man, evidently bright and deeply thoughtful but not intense, and who likes to laugh. He is convinced we all have passions that for many people are buried in drudgery. “We all have burning desires and beliefs but they are drowned out by the noise of life, the ruts so many of us get into. Our society is told that we have to do a 9 to 5 job for the mortgage but I think people can free themselves, if that’s what they want.
“I don’t have a mortgage or a credit card and I stay in rented accommodation or with friends – I know it sounds nomadic but I like being able to just up and go. I like travelling and being out of the system as much as possible.”
Gregg has been suffused with a desire to act since he was teeny. He told me: “I loved showing off and being the centre of attention when I was little. My sister went to a drama class when I was five so I was too young to join in but made so much noise they let me take part in the end! By the age of eight he was swept in to London’s West End, starring in Peter Pan at the Cambridge Theatre. He’s been in demand ever since.
I wonder how he copes in such an ego-driven profession? “Acting can be too much about what you look like and who you’re dating and so not always the best person is picked for the job; but there are far more positives! I respect Buddhist teachings and practice mindfulness which helps me to turn the ego stuff on its head. I also hope that one day I can use the platform acting gives me to encourage people to save the world – go vegan. I’m not acting for money or fame; in fact I often live hand to mouth; but fame would be very useful in enabling me to speak out.”
Gregg went straight from meat eater to vegan about three years ago. “I rarely had dairy products anyway because I had bad asthma as a child and they set it off. I made a conscious decision to stop eating anything from an animal when I was travelling and staying in a lot of Buddhist monasteries. My brother used to live in Thailand and I fell in love with the way of life and culture. I decided to take a
year out and learn more about Eastern philosophy.
“I’m not Buddhist or religious but I am spiritual. The monasteries are vegetarian or vegan and it made me start to think about life in a different way, a mindful way of doing things."
Mindfulness is based on compassion and it clicked – I can’t be compassionate and eat animals, it just doesn’t work!
“I then found out about factory farming and once you know you can’t un-know it. I changed overnight."
“Meditation is really important for me. I try to practice every day and it’s one of the reasons I often go on retreats; a bit like going to a boot camp for the mind."
“It centres me, increases my awareness by enabling me to observe situations from an altered perspective and it helps connect me to reality at a different level. It’s through meditation that I’ve had many realisations about veganism, compassion and our interconnectedness with all living beings and the planet. And it’s really not as hard to do as everyone thinks!”
I asked Gregg what drives him to remain vegan? “Compassion – for animals and for one another as meat, fish and dairy-eating is destroying the world.
“When I first went vegan I couldn’t understand why others didn’t get it. I showed friends and family films portraying the horrors of the meat trade. My mum cried but still ate meat – though she is almost vegan now. It’s weird how people know it’s going on and still eat flesh and dairy – it’s wilful ignorance.
“When you first change you want everyone around you to change – I still do but I’m more chilled now as I’d lose friends and keep rowing with my family. You have to change tactics and lead by example.
“We are not encouraged by society to think about veganism. When you go to school the first thing you learn is the noises animals make and then you go home and eat them! You’re never told the truth – it is hidden, hushed up. You’re not told bacon is from a pig or how that animal lived and died. We’ve been taught that hens are happy to give us their eggs or to die for their meat, we are sold images of laughing, happy cows giving their milk but when you learn what’s going on…
“I do think society is changing as I meet so many vegetarians and vegans. It encourages me that in recent history there have been massive changes – we’re now taught how abysmal slavery is and how hard we fought for women to have the vote and equal rights. Speciesism is wrong on so many fronts just as sexism and racism are wrong.”
Gregg is about to help Viva! launch a new campaign, Life is Cheep?. I tell him why I feel so strongly about it – how much it upsets me that chickens are dismissed as worthless little lives by so many and what a challenge it is to change attitudes. He’s immediately willing to help.
“We admire wild birds but switch off when it comes to factory farming and killing chicks. People go bird watching with a chicken sandwich! They’re killed so young; they’ve had a small fraction of what their life should be. Chicken farming is inhumane and if we did it to cats and dogs there’d be uproar. It’s just wrong. Dismissing chickens as if they are stupid is ignorance.”
Gregg’s final words express his unswerving passion: “I really support Viva!. Life isn’t cheap. Life is precious. It’s time to see chickens as living beings, not food. Let’s choose kinder, more mindful, vegan alternatives.”