The Syfy channels, Warehouse 13 is having a Christmas special, and the stars of the show, Saul Rubinek and Eddie McClintock, got together to talk about the episode, filming winter scenes in the summer and yes, acting.
The special has the team getting ready for the holidays when Eddie’s character (Pete) is called away to hunt down a rogue Santa Claus. Meanwhile, Saul’s character (Artie) gets ready to see his father – played by guest star Judd Hirsch – for the first time in 30 years.
How are you most like your characters?
Saul Rubinek: It’s an interesting question. When you’re doing a television show or a movie and spend a lot of time going into a movie as you know for a few days or a few weeks sometimes I’ve been the lead but more often than not I’ve been a supporting actor and you create characters that are only meant to last for, and given a quick impression.
When you’re playing a lead in a television series as the four of us are, we really have to rely on our own personalities a lot and the writers start to write for us.
So we aren’t a lot different from the characters that we’re playing you know I mean there are aspects of ourselves that may not you know, come to the fore and I’m certainly a family man, I’ve been married 20 years, I have two kids and I didn’t do what Artie did which was sacrifice his entire life for his work and for some greater cause like that, in that way I’m completely different.
But when you’re doing a show week after week you can’t really put your character in quotation marks, you’re using yourself at all times and I’m pretty sure Eddie’s going to agree with me.
Eddie McClintock: Yeah I mean like Saul said when you’re doing the same, playing the same character for such an extended period of time it just feels like to me if I try and be anything other than just kind of who I am the audience is going to catch me in a lie, so I just try and just kind of be, there’s more of me in Pete than I would care to admit I guess.
Saul Rubinek: Or that we can tolerate frankly.
Eddie McClintock: Yeah. Yes. So I mean I just basically show up and just hang out with my friends, that’s basically what it’s about.
Saul Rubinek: That’s the issue with what happens on any television series and all the actors that I know who are on long term television series say the same thing. If you really got to play some very eccentric, quirky character week after week that has nothing to do with you you’re going to have a problem, the audience will start to feel that the character is false.
You really have got to find a way, the writers, the producers, the network, everybody’s got to be behind them creating a character that suits you once you’ve been cast, or they’ve got to fire you and find somebody else that suits the role better, you know.
And in this case pretty much what you’re seeing is who we are. We obviously didn’t choose to work for the FBI or the Secret Service, we chose a different line of life, a line of work. But our personalities are very similar, maybe with the exception of CCH Pounder who’s kind of goofy and funny and not nearly as serious as she shows herself to be.
Eddie McClintock: Yeah. One of the things I really love about the show is its unpredictability and being able to open up the script every week and go wow, this is what we’re doing, this is where we’re going, I mean it’s that kind of spontaneity that I think really for me keeps me energized in regards to what can be a pretty tedious, grueling 15 hours a day, five days a week, you know 2,000 miles away from my family type schedule.
So the writers have created this world and it’s really exciting to be able to go there from week to week when we’re shooting.
You shot this in probably this summer in Toronto how hard did you find it trying to get into the holiday spirit that early in the year?
Saul Rubinek: You know there’s an old joke about doing winter in summer. The writers on MASH used to get, years ago used to like getting comments from actors and they used to get all kinds of notes.
But then sometimes, this is a story Alan Alda told me, that sometimes you know one actor would say well he’s getting changes, maybe I should get changes and sometimes when they got too many changes the writers would write a winter episode shot in 102 degree Calabasas desert where they’d be around a barrel filled with fire wearing parkas, you know.
So they’d be shooting this in 102-degree weather and that was the way they would get back at the actors. It was tough, we were hot, it was August and they turn into winter and covered in whatever they called, whatever that snow was, I think that’s probably why they set part of the episode in Los Angeles so that they could at least get outside and do summer looking Christmas but.
Eddie McClintock: I remember Jack Kenny, the exec producer, was like you guys to production make sure that these stages are air conditioned and he forced production to go and rent like two or three extra mammoth AC’s so that we weren’t just burning up in there. I mean not just for the fact that they wanted the production to look decent but also to keep us comfortable.
Saul Rubinek: Yeah. The good fortune of having a show runner that used to be an actor so he can feel for us sometimes.
Eddie McClintock: We’re not just meat puppets to him, although he may not admit that in public.
Saul Rubinek: Yeah I think one of the favorite things that Jack used to say was that you know, Alfred Hitchcock is misquoted, he never said that actors were cattle. He said they should be treated as cattle.
Saul the highlight for me for the episode were the scenes with Judd Hirsch. You guys just nailed it.
Saul Rubinek: He’s too young to be my dad. He’s too young by at least ten years. But they aged him up a little bit you know and he walked a little bit more slowly because he’s probably in better shape than I am and so I noticed actually watching the episode that he, it’s very subtle what he does with his movements, how he gets up and off a couch, how he sits down. He aged himself in very subtle ways.
When you’re working with great people it’s effortless, you show up, you’re in the scene, before you know it’s over. It’s very simple.
And I’ve noticed that my friends who are in different professions that are similar where skills are used in front of an audience like especially athletes, that when athletes are working together collaboratively, when a team is working, when you watch a great double play, it just looks easy doesn’t it?
So that was probably the most important thing for me is I got in class with a good, reputable acting coach and I studied and studied and studied and worked really hard to feel that I had, that I was qualified to actually walk into a room and call myself an actor so.
Do you guys prefer working on a film where you’re creating a character for a couple months or when you’re doing a show, like where you guys said earlier basically playing yourself?
Saul Rubinek: That’s a really good question. After all these years I can tell you it depends on so many things and on what the people are like and whether you’ve got a great script. It really can be a nightmare doing a television series where you’re locked into something with people that you have trouble with.
And I’d have friends who’ve been on series where you know the show runners and the writing staff and it’s all been, there’ve been tremendous insecurity from the network and so things change constantly, everybody’s nervous about how much money they’re spending, trying to get an audience.
I’ve never been in a show that’s been the number one show of a network and I’ve never been on a show ever that’s had this kind of support from a network and a studio and had such a happy experience. So there’s nothing really in all the 40 years that I’ve been working that can compare to doing this show. I can say that without any qualms, it’s really a joy from beginning to end.
Of course we all like doing different things. We like variety and we are getting a lot of variety on this show. The character isn’t stuck in one area. So it really depends, I’ve done radio and theater, I’m trying to do more theater now because it’s a completely different joy that happens as an actor, as you know.
But yeah, the show is offering all of us a lot of opportunity for versatility.
What’s your advice to actors?
Saul Rubinek: Here’s one piece of advice, don’t listen to anybody giving you advice. There’d be one thing to not do. You know if you can be advised away from doing acting you probably don’t belong there, you know. It’s a terribly difficult thing to choose, it’s kind of got to choose you.
Eddie McClintock: I can say that I can just speak from my experience, and I’ve had a lot of young people from back in Ohio where I’m from who have asked me what they should do. And I mean I don’t know what they should do but I can tell them what I did.
And that was I got into, I started taking class here or in L.A. because you know it’s, the business itself is so cold. I mean not to be too trite but it’s a cold, cold business and when you’re in class for me, it becomes a bit of an extended family because you’re probably from, you’re probably not from L.A. when you get there.
So you learn, you develop a support system in class and it’s a great way to meet people and do showcases and I met my manager through my acting class and a lot of people that I know that are still working I met through class.
It looks easy and when it looks easy it’s because it is. The years of experience have allowed it to be that way or people like each other and they’ve collaborated well. Of course in acting sometimes you’re watching a movie and you find out later oh my god these people hated each other but those love scenes were so hot, you know.
Eddie you’re an active participant on Twitter. Why are social networking sites like Twitter important to promotion?
Eddie McClintock: Well I think just the climate of the entertainment industry has changed with the introduction of these social networking sites and the fact that a lot of magazines have folded because of the economy.
So the use of a publicist maybe isn’t necessarily as prominent as it used to be so getting out there and kind of being able to talk to the fans and let them hear from me personally is a cool new thing and I have a good time, it keeps me busy and it’s just fun to have that instant feedback that you get from Twitter.
And I think it’s important because for instance I have some friends who have a million, I have like three or four friends who have about a million followers on their Twitter account and I told them before the premiere of Warehouse 13 I asked them if they would do like a blast to all their followers.
So before the premiere this year I had direct blast to about 3.5 million listeners who already follow the things these people say to begin with. I think that has, there’s a lot of power there, marketing power, so I think it’s a good thing.
Saul, can you tell us why people keep tuning in to watch Warehouse 13?
Saul Rubinek: Because of Eddie’s Twitter probably.
Eddie McClintock: Nice.
Saul Rubinek: It’s really interesting. Last year I crossed the country with my son, we were moving from one coast to the other and I was kind of used to people recognizing me from either Unforgiven or Family Man or Frazier or something like that but it was so, it was very often, more often than Warehouse 13.
And what was unusual is I used to be able to pick out people who were recognizing me from what show, my kids and I used to play a game where that was a Frazier fan, that’s definitely a Star Trek fan, that’s a True Romance fan because of the tattoos.
But with Warehouse 13 it’s impossible to tell because we’ve all discussed this, but quite often people are watching this with their families, which makes all of us really proud. I mean it’s a 9:00 show, it’s really appropriate for kids ten years old and up, and it’s violence is kept at a minimum.
But we have a great time and I think it’s kind of contagious, you can tell I think that we all have a good time doing the show. We really enjoy it; we really look forward to every day of shooting we have a great time.
I wanted to ask you Saul about Barney’s Version. How did you get involved with that project?
Saul Rubinek: Well I’ve been involved with the project before. There wasa four-part radio version of it done by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where I had played Barney and I’ve known the director Richard Lewis and the producer Robert Lantos for many years and also I had worked with Mordecai Richler, the novelist, way back 30 years ago I had done not one but two different projects that were based on his short stories. And it was really nice.
But it was only you know one great scene, I had to go to Rome to shoot it so that was kind of fun and just me and Paul Giamatti and it was really great. That’s how I got involved there was, also because I’m Canadian originally and it’s a Canadian film.