Patrick Fischler Talks New Film, Character Acting and Californication
With work that includes Jimmy Barrett from Mad Men, Phil from Lost, Detective Kenny No-Gun on Southland, and even more recently, Gabriel on Californication, Patrick Fischler's extensive resume means you've probably recognized him on your television screen or at the movies at some point.
I recently spoke with the actor about the numerous and varied characters he has played, producing his first short film that recently premiered in Santa Barbara, and what's next on his list of roles.
Read on for the Q & A...
It looks like you've been busy. How was the premiere for your short film The Test?
It was great. We had a total blast, and now we've got five more festivals. Depending on our work schedules, we're gonna try and get to as many of them as we can. Santa Barbara was a blast.
Can you talk about the film and how it all came about?
So my wife, Lauren Bowles, her sister, Julia [Louis-Dreyfus], had a short in the festival last year. Her husband and her made a film called Picture Paris, and it premiered at Santa Barbara, and we went and saw it. Lauren and I turned to each other after the evening of short films and we said, 'I want to do that.'
I came up with the idea, it sort of came to me while I was driving, about a couple taking a pregnancy test and kind of at a crossroads in their relationship. I told it to Lauren and she loved it, and went away and wrote it. Then we went from there getting a producer, finding a director.
It was a fantastic experience. We had such a blast.
What was that like switching from just acting to executive producers.
Well, we paid for it and got to make a lot of the decisions, and that aspect of it, being on the other side was great. You surround yourself with the best people. You get to create these characters, and we thought you don't get a lot of opportunities to play people like this, sort of a normal couple. We always come from playing a lot of different characters and here is just a couple you would see at yoga class or on the street.
It was interesting to switch hats, but we still had to be actors. Now I've been dealing with all the festivals, and it's the cherry on the top.
Anything that surprised you about the whole experience?
It surprised me how much fun it really was. I think I thought it would be fun, but primarily stressful. The shooting of it we did in two days, because the movie is 12 minutes, all one location. The movie is in real time in a bathroom. I got to say man, it was a total blast. We have a three year old daughter and we left her with Lauren's mom, and we stayed at a hotel downtown, like really got away. This was so much fun.
Were you glad you chose to do a short film instead of a full length feature?
Oh, yes. I mean, a hundred percent. Now, it did make me hungry for what's next, but I could never start with a full length feature. I had to dip my toe in the water, and this was the perfect way to do it.
Looking at your resume it seems like you've been on every show under the sun. Are there any shows you haven't been on that you'd like to be?
Well, it's too late for one of them sadly, but Breaking Bad. Number one hands down. After that, Boardwalk Empire. I don't see myself on Game of Thrones, but I'm being realistic in what sort of world I see myself in. And Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey are great shows, but I don't really see myself on either.
What do you look for when you try and find parts for yourself?
Work, If I'm gonna be honest. Look, I'm so lucky I'm doing what I love and I have friends who aren't able to do what they love. Lauren and I are so fortunate. I don't take every part, but for the most part if they'll pay me, and it's not gonna be a horrible experience, then I'll probably take it. On the other side of it, I look for interesting characters and good writing is absolutely number one.
Do you like being on a variety of shows as different characters or one show for multiple episodes as the same character?
I definitely like being on one show for a couple of episodes. I've recurred on a good amount of shows at this point, and I love it because it gives you time to create someone. When you do sort of a one shot, you basically are there to serve the plot. If it's a procedural you're there to be the suspect or the killer. What's great about it, is you get to jump in and jump out. With recurring you really get to sink your teeth in and watch him grow. You get to work with these actors and have chemistry with them.
You did some recurring on Lost. How did you come about that show?
Right after I did Mad Men, people would ask me, what are the two shows that I wanted to be on, I said Lost and Californication. Now I've been on both of them.
Lost I auditioned for and it was supposed to be one episode. I said okay because I loved the show. I went to Hawaii and we shot it, and while we were shooting it, they said, "Wait. You're in the next episode." Then I sort of stayed around towards the end of the season.
It was a complete dream. Especially when you're on the beach and you're like 'Oh that's where the plane crash… and that's Sawyer!" But Sawyer becomes Josh [Holloway] and Kate becomes Evangeline [Lilly].
What was it like playing a character like Phil on Lost compared to Detective Kenny "No-Gun" on Southland?
I actually did those at the same time. I did fly back a couple times for some Southland episodes. It was really easy because when I put on the costume I knew exactly where I was. The costume always helps me.
Do you like playing a cop more than a bad guy?
It depends on the character, but I got to tell you, I love playing bad guys. I love playing assholes, jerks, because it's not fully that. No one is just a bad guy. There's so much more to them then that one aspect. So, it's really fun to get to play a character that is one of those aspects.
You're on Californication now, so what's that like playing Gabriel.
He's uptight and maybe a little bit of a jerk, but it was a blast because it was a half hour. It was so loose and light. It wasn't deep, it was just fun. When I did it last year, it was just one episode and I loved it. Then they called and said [I'm] coming back. So I did five for this season.
Gabriel is a really confused man, not getting to do what he wants to be doing anyways. Hank Moody is not a good influence on him and it only gets worse.
How did you come about Californication?
I knew [creator] Tom Kapinos, just from the pilot. I had auditioned for the Evan Handler part [Charlie Runkle] and years later he actually saw me at an audition for something else. They said I'd be good for Gabriel and called me in, and I said absolutely. Tom is a complete joy. He is just the coolest dude. He's one of the good ones.
What was it like working on Californication?
Well, we shot a lot of the scenes at the rehab which is this gorgeous house in Malibu. It's so ridiculous, it's one of those places that like I didn't want to go home. I felt like we hung out in lounge chairs and chatted. It felt like a mini vacation.
As a character actor, is there a role that you haven't played that you'd like to play.
There's so many. There isn't one in particular. I might say like a gangster, like in Boardwalk Empire, but I'm in that video game "L.A. Noire" and I play Mickey Cohen, so I guess I played something like that. I just want to keep playing good characters.
Is there anything that's surprised you about being in the business or the direction that your career has gone?
It feels like five minutes and yet twenty years ago. I think this is my twentieth anniversary of being a working actor, like I shot Speed in 1993 and that was my first job. I remember doing that so clearly and my jaw was on the ground at the whole elevator scene.
I'm surprised that I'm fortunate enough to have my career keep growing.
I know Lauren Bowles, your wife, is on True Blood, do you plan on being on that show?
I'd love to work on True Blood. Once again, it falls a little bit into the Game of Thrones category. I don't often get southern characters, so it would take a very specific part for me to be on the show, but oh man, we were fans of True Blood before she got cast. I visit her on set, and it's a great show and group of people.
Is there any character that you'd like to be remembered for?
Well, I hope that that character is going to be ten, twenty years from now, but if I was going to say who it was so far, I would say Jimmy Barrett [from Mad Men]. Jim Barrett in my mind, he was sort of the top character that I got to play. It was an incredible experience and I so understood him.
What was it like working on Mad Men?
Well, it was interesting because it was early on. Season one had just aired. They hadn't even won an Emmy yet. It was a show people kind of talked about, but hadn't really watched yet.
I said I can't believe I get to say these words and wear these costumes and be on these sets. It's completely television history and that's why I feel so lucky, because that's one of the couple of shows that will be remembered years from now.
Anything you want people to know about you that they might not know?
That I'm I nice guy. Often people will be like "You play such jerks," and I'm so not. It's interesting, a mom in my daughter's preschool for two years just started watching Mad Men. She came back from a vacation and said "You were so good, but knowing you, made it even crazier."
Any future projects coming up?
I shot a movie with Denzel Washington called 2 Guns that'll be out this summer. I got to work with Denzel and that was one of those moments that was fantastic. The movie is going to be great. Otherwise, I'm in pilot season hell. We'll see how that path goes.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.