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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Jun. 28, 2010 | 12:02 PM

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Interview: Saul Rubinek

Over the course of a career spanning more than three decades, Saul Rubinek has appeared in projects of every conceivable genre.  Rubinek often gets recognized for his work in such iconic films as Unforgiven and True Romance, but lately more and more viewers know him as Artie Nielsen, who supervises the collection of important artifacts on the Syfy series Warehouse 13, which Rubinek describes as “closer to Indiana Jones than Star Trek.”

Rubinek recently spoke with FilmRadar during a break from filming the series in Toronto. In the following excerpts from that conversation, Rubinek discusses his Warehouse 13 character, some of his future projects, and his friendly rivalry with actor Timothy Hutton.

FilmRadar:  How did Warehouse 13 first come to your attention?

Saul Rubinek: My manager, Chris Black, and I have been working together for many years.  He didn’t want to tell me about the project at first because the producers thought I was wrong for it.  Actors had already been tested, but they weren’t happy, so they started a new casting call. Mark Stern, who runs Syfy, had worked with me before on “The Outer Limits”, and he suggested me.  Now I was in the mix.  I read it,  and thought, ‘what a great premise!’  But I didn’t think they’d solved this Artie character yet.

What was lacking?

SR: It was one of those situations where the character had parts of one writer, and parts of another.  It hadn’t really gelled.  And I thought, I’m going to need to improvise about twenty percent of this.  It’s kind of what it needed.  I made it darker, more eccentric, and I felt like this guy had a lot of secrets in the warehouse.  No real life, no family.  A road that I might have taken if I’d not gotten married and had kids.  I knew who that guy was in my own bones.

What can we expect from Artie in season 2?

SR:  We’ll be looking at the depths of Artie’s history, and why he had to change his name, how he ended up at the warehouse.  We’ll also discover that Artie’s human like everybody else, that he can fall in love, both in a good way and a bad way. 

FR: We’re not spoiling anything by revealing that the character’s coming back, I hope.

: No, no.  He’s coming back.  But is he coming back as a finger puppet? That’s a Jack Kenny quote.  (Kenny’s the head writer on Warehouse 13.) The use of artifacts has consequences.  If I come back, are there long term consequences to how I come back?  Is it all Artie?  Is it really Artie?

That’s the beauty of the sci-fi genre, you never know which direction it’s going to go.

Exactly.  We have to stay true to our own internal logic, but after that, the world is our oyster.

Warehouse 13 is a pretty effects heavy show.  Does the cast have to do a lot of green screen work?

  We actually have a name for it on the show.  We call it “schmacting”.  And then there are levels of “schmacting”.  “Schmacting” first thing in the morning, “Schmacting” beyond the call of duty.  It’s becoming more prevalent every day.  You have to deal with a level of “as if”.  But it’s the same thing with the camera.  You want to play the scene “as if” the camera’s not there.  “As if” is the drug that actors are on.  They’re on it well, or they’re not on it well.  The thing that actors are trying to recapture is being in the backyard playing cops and robbers, etc.  If I believe it well enough…then it’s easy, it becomes like falling off a log.

  How many episodes will there be this season?

  We’ll be doing twelve, plus a stand alone Christmas show.

  That sounds promising.

  We’re also the reason that “Leverage” will be doing a Christmas show.  Timothy Hutton is very dear friend of mine, and I told thim that we were doing a Chrismas show, and now they’re doing one too.  I’ve known Tim for years, and when both of our shows were getting ready to launch they gave us both the same time slot, Tuesdays at 9.  I was talking to Tim about it, and he asked me, “How good is your show?  I told him, “Get off of our time slot.”  And he did, we’re on Tuesdays at 9, and they were moved to Sundays at 9.


What’s most important to you in choosing a project?

SR:  The job is less important than the role.  Who’s involved?  What kind of people?  In this case, something happened.  We’re having the time of our lives with this show and everybody’s proud of it.

You’ve also directed a number of projects over the years.  If viewers keep tuning in to Warehouse 13, can we expect to see you behind the camera for an episode or two?

:  If there’s a concerted effort on the part of the audience to get me behind the camera, maybe.  I’m developing my own projects, indie films, theatre projects.  I’ve written a play which is about to get a very high profile production.

My wife, Elinor Reed, my wife and partner for twenty years, she produced my last two films as a director, including Cruel But Necessary.  We have twelve thrings in development right now.

I prefer acting to directing when I’m doing Warehouse 13, working with such wonderful people.  The network execs love the show, they’re very smart people.  I’m very fortunate to be doing a role this great that’s tailor made for me, so it’s a kind of heavenly job.

FR: Are there any projects you’ve completed which we can expect to see soon?

SR:  I did a film called The Trotsky with Jay Baruchel, directed by Jacob Tierney, about a young man who believes he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky.  I did an independent film in Belgium, a comedy, about assisted suicide, formerly known as Dignitas, but I’m not sure what they’re calling it now.  And then there’s Barney’s Version, where I get to do a big, extraordinary scene with Paul Giamatti, very cool.  It will probably open the Toronto Film Festival, and if it doesn’t, it should.

Last question, slightly off topic, but on everyone’s mind.  Do you think the USA can knock off Ghana in the World Cup today?

  What’s the expression, If wishes were horses, beggars would ride?  No, it would be exciting.  We’ll see.  (The USA lost to Ghana 2-1)

The second season of Warehouse 13 premieres on Syfy on Tuesday July 6th at 9 pm.  A recap of Season 1 is embedded below:

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