Patrick Fabian on Landing the Perfect Role

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This is amply demonstrated in the scene where Jimmy bursts into the quiet of the conference room and Howard simply notes, “What can we do for you?”

While Howard might prefer not to have to deal with someone like Jimmy, at the heart of that moment in the conference room is the reality of the debt Howard owes Chuck. Howard’s unflappable response is born of his life experience. He amply reflects Fabian’s approach to his own successful career. Recalling his early days in the business, he notes, “In the beginning of this work you start out showing up for auditions and you find all these guys who look like you and you wonder what are they doing there? Over time you find some of those fellows are still there; you’ve become compatriots of a kind. We’re the guys still standing!”

Fabian also spoke of how his attitude towards the process has evolved. “Now, I give them the best five minutes I can. If it doesn’t work out, I’m not Teflon, of course, but by this time, I’m better able to handle the inevitable rejection. It’s easier to rebound.”

He’s learned not to become emotional on the jobs that got away and to relish the challenge of what opportunities he does have. “That doesn’t mean there are no disappointments, but experience provides away of keeping one’s perspective.” While Fabian’s career is rich in the variety afforded by episodic television, he welcomes the challenges of live theater that come his way.

“Touring with a play like Six Degrees of Separation provides a real creative recharge. This gives you the opportunity to work with actors you might not otherwise encounter and also that one of a kind reward from the live audience.” Fabian spoke warmly about the enrichment of personal encounters on location for film projects. While working on the tv film Shenandoah, he remembered how actors were wearing costumes made of authentic Civil War materials weighing about sixteen pounds.

Since the project employed Civil War re-enactors, he and a fellow actor, both of them still in full costume as officers, walked over to their campsite, expecting to learn something about how the re-enactments take place. Instead, the Officer In Charge ordered his men to stand up for inspection.

Fabian and his fellow actor immediately entered into the situation. As they carried out their “inspection of the rank and file” men before them, something quite memorable took place. As the inspection concluded with proper salutes, Fabian recalled that the re-enactment officer ordered his men to break out their instruments. They started playing Dixie, “There in that cold November night, listening to that old old song the depth of the men’s quest for verisimilitude was revealed to us in a very touching way.”
As Fabian shared his memory of that night, he also revealed his gift as an actor, because this interviewer could almost feel the chill of that Stone Mountain moonlit night and to almost hear the the faint twang of a banjo and the reedy lilt of a southern harmonica.

If he could have his dream role, he says it would be Billy Flynn in the musical “Chicago.” The most exotic location he’d ever experienced was shooting a movie in Calgary, Canada. “That’s where celsius and fahrenheit meet. It was 45 degrees below I had to be the guy out hunting Santas reindeer. My co-stars eyelashes would freeze the minute we jumped out of the car.”

We wondered if the experience of a role ever brings enlightenment to ones personal life. “A staple of drama is the unforeseen consequence of ignoring small things. This is a good lesson for life. Pay attention. Be aware when things are small, so they don’t escalate. As an actor you are always aware of how you speak as you deliver your lines. Now that I’m a father, a relatively new experience for me, I have to pay attention to the way I am speaking to a child.”

Returning to the subject of Better Call Saul, Fabian declined to provide hints as to how his encounter with Jimmy will play out in future episodes. He’s looking forward to finding out where Better Call Saul takes Howard Hamlin.

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Actor Patrick Fabian: The power of live music and being connected to emotions

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Interview: Maranda Pleasant

Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?

Patrick Fabian: Well, I have a lot of appetites and try to revel in almost everything, so inspiration can even come from a well-appointed submarine sandwich, you know? Potentially in the form of The Godmother from Santa Monica’s Bay Cities [Italian Deli &] Bakery. But for a primal “Wow, every sense is on fire!” moment, it would have to be live music. Being a part of the crowd with incredible musicians onstage summoning the muse and delivering that to us—doesn’t matter if it’s an orchestra, two bluegrass banjo pickers, a solo singer, piano player, or Bruce Springsteen—when it all comes together, you can just feel as if you are a part of something bigger and grander than yourself.

MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?

PF: I’ve been blessed with two beautiful daughters, ages four and two. It is amazing how inadequate I can feel in being able to protect, teach, and take care of them. I’m not talking about a paranoid the-world-is-a-dangerous-place kind of way. I mean when they just give me a simple look or ask me something like “Where do stars comes from, Daddy?” I’m opened up in a way I had not thought possible.

MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?

PF: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could be a little less judgmental and a little more forgiving of each other’s humanness? We’re only here a short time. Let’s pay more attention to the good and not the bad in one another.”

MP: How do you handle emotional pain?

PF: Just so we’re clear, I’m not zen by any stretch of the imagination. However, what I’ve read about change being the only constant is a concept that I can grab onto and have used quite a lot. The notion that “this too shall pass” is comforting, both in knowing that whatever pain I’m in will change into something else and allowing myself to experience the pain, not trying to blunt it or brush it aside. It’s important to feel and to be connected to your emotions, whichever way they play out.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?

PF: I hit my knees every morning and every night to give thanks for being alive and all the blessings I have. And in the middle of chaos, it’s been suggested to me to stop and truly look around, notice the sky, the trees, the grass, and realize you’re part of it all, which is hard when you really want to focus on what you think is bothering you. However, one of the smartest things I do is check in with my awesome wife, who is really good at screwing my head back on when needed.

MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?

PF: That I am not the center of the universe. And it’s a lesson that I keep having to learn; it’s my ongoing work, I’d say. And being in a career that is predicated on a degree of self-absorption, that is a tricky thing to negotiate sometimes. But I have found, without a doubt, that when I manage to get outside myself and not make myself the center, I’m always taken care of in whatever situation I’m in, even if I’m slow to recognize it. It’s counterintuitive thinking on some level and not consistently easy to do. I find, however, it’s a much more freeing way to live. It certainly beats walking around with the “Don’t you know who I think I am?” voice in your head. I find that only leads me down dark monkey-mind paths and patterns of behavior that benefits no one.

MP: What causes or organizations are you passionate about?

PF: I’m an ambassador for Best Friends [Animal Society], an incredible organization that’s devoted to the welfare of animals—in particular, trying to help make every animal shelter a no-kill shelter. My two dogs were rescues, and I’m a firm believer in finding every dog or cat a home.

MP: Tell me about your yoga or mindfulness practice. What influence has it had on your life?

PF: Walking my dogs twice a day provides me with an opening and closing of my day, and I’ve learned to use those walks for a walking meditation, which had never occurred to me until a friend gave me Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn years ago. It helped me take advantage of moments that already existed in my day and turn them into something more expansive. I also swim four to five times a week, and once you get rolling into a rhythm of breathing and movement, your mind can truly untether, which I find so refreshing.

MP: What is the most important thing for us to do as beings?

PF: Be honest and kind in our actions.

MP: What is love for you?

PF: Hanging out at the ocean, watching my wife and little girls play in the sand. I know, I threw up a little too, but it’s true.

MP: Tell me about your latest projects.

PF: I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of Better Call Saul on AMC. It’s the prequel to Breaking Bad, and so far, it’s launched to great success. We had a blast making it in New Mexico, and it’s been thrilling to watch the excitement leading up to, and during, the first season. I play Howard Hamlin, head of a well-to-do law firm. And I get to work with such great people—Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, and Michael Mando. Its creators, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, have put together a family out there in the desert. I’m so fortunate. Plus, I get to wear gorgeous suits, so no complaints here. Tune in Mondays on AMC.

MP: Why are these important to you?

PF: I think any actor will tell you that they always assume they’ll never work again, so every job becomes important. But Better Call Saul is a real capstone for me, a once-in-a-career opportunity, I think. I’m so happy they decided to invite me to their party. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

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