Patrick Warburton, Actor - Profile Interview Series, Vol. #2
By Jason Whyte
Posted 06/05/04 15:02:54
I'm a fan of Seinfeld just as much as the next guy, so perhaps I shouldn't tell you how much of a Puddy fan I am. Elaine's nebbish boyfriend struck into the hearts of many, and he's been discussed and quoted endlessly ever since his appearances on that legendary sitcom. Oh, what the hell: "I'll be back later. We'll make out."
But Patrick Warburton, 39, is not just known for being the bane of Elaine's existence. With various roles in film, television and voice work, Mr. Warburton has certainly made a name for himself in the industry. He's a regular in Barry Sonnenfeld's films, having appeared in "Men In Black 2", "Big Trouble" and the now-cancelled live action series of "The Tick" (Click HERE to read Chris Parry's DVD review). You might recall him as the voice of Kronk in the cult Disney favorite "The Emperor's New Groove", playing the lovable dumb-as-a-post assistant to Eartha Kitt's character Yzma. On television, he's currently a permanent addition to the hit ABC series "Less Than Perfect" starring Sara Rue and Andy Dick. And he also has plenty of film, TV and voice work credits to boot. He's also a devoted family man; happily married to wife Cathy of 13 years and the proud father of four children.
I had the chance to talk to Patrick about his career and where he's headed on the phone from his home in Los Angeles.
Jason Whyte: What is your favorite movie of all time?
Patrick Warburton: My favorite movie is definitely Billy Bob Thornton's "Sling Blade" (1996), that's the top of the header right there. As well, when I think back about a movie that had an impact on me at the time ... to be 13 years old and see "Rocky" for the first time in a theater...what a great picture that was. And "Caddyshack" is probably my favorite comedy of all time. If I were stuck on a deserted island and I had to watch one movie over and over again...."Caddyshack" is near perfection.
JW: Have you seen any good films recently?
PW: We did watch "The Triplets Of Belleville" two nights ago, and that's an intriguing animated picture. We watched it with my kids, and of course there was a moment or two where I looked over at Gabriel, my three-and-a-half year old and thought "I hope this isn't too dark of an image."
JW: How about any current television? Are you into any of the booming reality series?
PW: Presently, I don't have TIVO, we don't watch anything religiously around here. My wife enjoys some of these reality shows, like the makeover shows. When I sit down for TV with the kids, we usually try to find something along the lines of Animal Planet or Discovery or History channel, but there's no TV show right now that I'm watching.
JW: How about music? What are you listening to right now? I know you're a huge Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder fan.
PW: Oh yeah! Right now I'm listening to Pearl Jam's "Lost Dogs", which is all a bunch of unreleased and rare stuff, and it's just phenomenal stuff that I've been listening to over and over again. Great stuff.
JW: Who are your biggest influences? Who inspires you the most when you work?
PW: I always got a kick out of watching Crispin Glover do his thing. He always tripped me out, made me laugh and I kind of liked the oddness and daringness of him. He's either going to be a success or be in a mental institution.
JW: How did you get your start?
PW: I was such a geek when I was a kid. I was 13 years old and tipping the scales at about 95 pounds; coke bottle classes, cross-eyed, far-sighted, I had few friends and nowhere to go. My mother (Barbara Lord) was an actress and doing community theater, so there were times where I came and hung out at the theater, and I enjoyed watching her do "See How They Run" or some British farce, and that's around the time where I got bit in the ass by the acting bug. I never really considered doing it professionally until I managed to scrape my way through a year and a half of junior college (Orange Coast college) and found out that I still didn't have the grades to make the transfer to university or a better college or wherever.
JW: What was your first actual job in the industry?
PW: My first real job was a "Search" commercial that I did when I was around 18 years old. It was one of those real corny commercials where some girl is writing a letter saying "I knew back-packing wasn't for me, but I met this guy walking in the forest", and here I am with this backpack and you see me carrying her across a creek. It's one of these "Dear Search" letters.
JW: And look at you today!
PW: From "Search" to the Tick!
JW: How do you personally prepare for each role?
PW: It certainly depends on the role that you're playing. For "The Tick" you have to think about who The Tick is, understand him, and realize that he's pretty definitive, a creation. If you have the opportunity to step into the suit and make him your own, you can have a lot of fun with it. If I'm doing something like "The Civilization of Maxwell Bright", that's a whole different ballpark. You just have to do it, commit to it, go to those places that acting forces you to do.
JW: Are there any actors or filmmakers that you would love to work with?
PW: Oh, there's so many of them. Tim Burton I would love to work with. Steven Spielberg is another. I have, however, had the great pleasure to work with Mr. Barry Sonnenfeld a few times, and I hope to get that chance again, because he's such a pleasure to work with. He's one of the funniest men I've met, he has a great sense of humour and a pleasure on the set.
JW: He was also one of the forces behind the now-canceled series "The Tick". (Sonnenfeld served as executive producer, and also directed the pilot episode.)
PW: Yeah it was great, great fun. It would have been even better if we had gotten a go at it with all of this reality television going on right now. It's been so compounded by the fact that networks are making so much money doing "Real TV" which costs them so little to make.
JW: I was a fan of Sonnenfeld's delayed 2002 film "Big Trouble", which was a very underrated movie and unfortunately didn't do very well because of the delay after the terrorist attacks.
PW: "Big Trouble" can certainly go down in history as one of the most ill-planned releases of all time. The central thing of the film is a bomb on an airplane, and here we are getting released a few days after September 11th, and we're thinking "Uhm, is this a funny premise? A bomb on an airplane?" At that point it doesn't look like a movie that was put together and filmed a year ago, it looked at the time like a slap in the face. If you check out the movie now, it's very funny, but it wasn't around that time.
JW: I remember seeing the film and thinking "It's great that in 80 minutes he could put all of those zany characters and plot hooks into one movie." Kind of reminded me of some of Billy Wilder's work.
PW: Yeah it's true, he gets a lot done. He won't make a movie over 90 minutes. I think it goes back to the old adage 'Movies are about entertainment'; keep it stuffed and furious, and don't ever have people sitting there too long, always keep them wanting more, and I think that's Sonnenfeld's ethic.
JW: Speaking of other directors, you were in a scene in Christopher Guest's "A Mighty Wind" that was cut but included on the DVD. Do you plan to be in another Chris Guest movie? Another regular? That's one of his things to keep bringing back the same people for each of his films.
PW: I sure hope so. I love Christopher Guest, I've always been a huge fan of his work on screen and especially as a director. He's the kind of genius everyone in town wants to work with. I only got to work with him one day for "A Mighty Wind", and I had that same feeling on the set working with him that I had when I had the opportunity to work on some episodes of "Seinfeld". I felt like I was on powerful ground there.
JW: Everyone knows you from "Seinfeld", Mr. Puddy!
PW: It's all good, it's great. Sometimes it is funny when folks are asking you questions about something that you did about eight years ago. Nothing interesting to say there really; "I was there. I was fortunate enough to be there, and I got to play this character, and it's all good". And then they'd ask "What was so-and-so like? What were they like?" We didn't really spend that much time together, really.
JW: How often do you get recognized in public, and when you do, is it for Puddy or for Kronk? Or someone else?
PW: Oh yeah, I guess it depends on what kind of demographic it is. The other day something very bizarre happened to me. For the most part I get recognized for "Seinfeld". And then there are people who recognize me from "Less Than Perfect", which is the show that I'm doing now. But every now and then I get the real interesting fans; the other day I was taken aback while walking down Hollywood Boulevard. A cute young lady, she must have been about 17 or 18, and she said "OH MY GOD! I loved you in "The Woman Chaser!" To me, that was a bit shocking since that film is a dark noir picture that we shot about five years ago. So I asked her how old she was when she saw the film, and she said she was in seventh grade when she saw it, and then she got "into Lounge", and I started cracking up and I thought "This is one funky girl", and then I told her to watch "The Tick" and then said goodbye. At that point to have a fan like that I should probably turn and go in the other direction.
JW: I don't know how much of an internet person you are, but what of your official website patrickwarburton.com?
PW: I don't have too much involvement with the official website, although I am submitting some stuff for them to put on it. I guess I should have them fix it up a bit.
JW: And do you get the chance to read what fans of yours are saying online? Especially on the Internet Movie Database?
PW: I don't use the internet that much, my wife does, but it's good to know that there's fans out there talking about you and that appreciate your work.
JW: Have you ever been asked to play Superman? You'd be perfect for that.
PW: I haven't been asked to play Superman. I think it would be a fantastic role to get to play, and to get to do it with a twist would be fun. I don't want to use the word "Goofy", but I am, but it would be great to do it like a comedy or something lighthearted. "Superman: Funny!" It would be fun to do Superman from the angle that you're trying to be serious, but it's just not working, you're laughing instead. It can be very clever from that angle. It usually seems that when they are trying to do a Superman project, they are always trying to walk that line, try to get as close to the comic books as possible, or the cartoon, but not try to get out there a bit. But that's also why I had such fun doing those AMEX commercials with Jerry Seinfeld. I think that's the first time we've ever seen Superman from a more human perspective.
JW: While we're talking about "Seinfeld", Jerry Seinfeld recently said that he wanted to finally do season box sets of the show. Would you be interested in any involvement with the DVD's like an audio commentary track?
PW: There has been some talk about the DVD release, but I don't think it had anything to do with particular episodes. But hey, whatever Jerry would ask of me, I will do. I'll always be greatful to him for the opportunity to work with him.
JW: What are you working on right now (besides "Less Than Perfect")?
PW: The last couple of years I've done some small, independent films. You know how it goes with the indie pictures; some will see the light of day, some of them will barely see the light of the day. Some will just come to film festivals, and I've had some great experiences with that, like with "The Dish" (2001) and "The Woman Chaser" at the New York Film Festival, that was a great experience. And that film went to Sundance and SXSW and Stockholm, Sweden and all of those places. Being that I'm married and have a family, I missed half of those film festivals, but I did make Sundance.
And then there's "The Ciliviztion of Maxwell Bright" (currently doing the rounds at various film festivals and special screenings), which is a movie about a man who is a nasty, selfish ass who has never really had any great relationships. He's been pretty awful to women and the film is about his story and his getting close to salvation. Max Bright is angry and violent at times, and I like to think that I'm not like that at all.
JW: What do you love the most about acting?
PW: There's so many times when I feel like the luckiest guy in the world, and this is such a wonderful profession. I love to be a part of a project that can make people laugh. I love to be a part of the form, and it is just a part because there's the creators and the writers, and sometimes the actors get all the glory because they'll do or say something funny, or on the other end something that's powerful or has an emotional impact and that puts them in spotlight. But I guess what I love the most is getting to be a part of something, especially something that works well like "Seinfeld" that people can watch over 100 times and still get a kick out of and laugh. I love that. That just makes me feel lucky that I got to be a part of that.
Thanks to Patrick Warburton for a great interview. Also thanks to Liza Anderson and Chris Parry for assistance with this article.
This is the second in a series of interviews for efilmcritic/HBS where an actor, be it upcoming, little-seen or underlooked, is interviewed for our website. Coming soon: a profile on "The Corporation" co-director Mark Achbar. Comments about this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. (click to send an email)