Based on a graphic novel series, Syfy’s new Wednesday-night series HAPPY! chronicles what happens when a little girl’s imaginary flying unicorn friend (the animated creature is voiced by Patton Oswalt) seeks out the child’s ex-cop hitman father Nick Sax (played by Christopher Meloni) to rescue her from a kidnapper. Developed by Grant Morrison and Brian Taylor, HAPPY! is surreal, funny and very violent. This last quality is enhanced by the character of Smoothie, a mob torturer who really enjoys his work, played by Patrick Fischler.
Fischler is a California known for a wide variety of characters, including the fate-changing Isaac Heller, aka the Author, in ONCE UPON A TIME, Duncan Todd in the 2017 version of TWIN PEAKS, Phil in LOST, Jimmy Barrett in MAD MEN, Pepe on NASH BRIDGES and more. Fischler is also the namesake for the restaurant Patrick’s on Pacific Coast Highway. In a telephone interview, he talks about why he’s so happy being in HAPPY!, why he’s kind of glad he was never in BREAKING BAD and much more.
ASSIGNMENT X: What’s it like having Patrick’s named after you?
PATRICK FISCHLER: I grew up down there, and it’s nice to have a little piece of history in Los Angeles.
AX: How did you come to get involved in HAPPY!?
FISCHLER: I got a call with the script to check out the part of Smoothie, and I read it, and I was kind of blown away [laughs], I didn’t know what to make of it, and then I asked who was playing Nick Sax, and they said, “Christopher Meloni.” I loved him, and so I said, “Okay.” And I knew Brian Taylor had done the CRANK movies, and I was a fan of those, I looked at the graphic novel and thought this was kind of genius, and either it was going to be absolutely awful or amazing. And so that was it. I rolled the dice and couldn’t be happier that I did it.
AX: In a strange way, Smoothie seems like he’s little more relaxed in himself than a lot of other people you’ve played …
FISCHLER: Yeah. I think that’s accurate. I did not intentionally do anything like that, but I must have. I think Smoothie is incredibly confident who is in who he is, and what he does, and normally, I play people who, even if they think that they’re confident, they’re not. So that’s a great way to look at Smoothie.
AX: Was that what drew you to the character?
FISCHLER: No. In the original pilot script, at the end of the scene with Chris and I, when he kills all of [Smoothie’s] men, he looks over at me and I pee my pants in fear. That was what was supposed to happen in the scene, and Chris and I did our first part together, and I thought to myself, “I think Smoothie would love that he’s killing his guys. I think Smoothie would love an equal challenge.” So I said to Brian Taylor and Grant Morrison, “Hey, I have an idea. How about instead of peeing his pants, I’m covered in blood and I’m just loving it?” And they said, “That’s awesome. Do it.” And so on the page, it wasn’t that Smoothie was so confident or whatever the word we’d use is. But I just felt like that was the way to go. And it carries on through the rest of the season for sure. So no. When I read it, it wasn’t like that.
AX: Do you have any interaction at all with Patton Oswalt as Happy?
FISCHLER: No, I don’t. I do with him as a human being – I see him at lots of HAPPY! events, and I like him, and I’ve always been a fan of his, and I like him as a guy. He’s great. But no, Chris is the only one who really ever dealt with Happy in the voiceover sessions they did together, and that was through Skype, I believe. We were all in New York, and Patton was in L.A.
AX: HAPPY! shoots in New York?
FISCHLER: Yeah, for three months, all the way through Halloween, and then we were done. It’s a New York-set show. A lot of New York-set shows shoot either in Los Angeles or Toronto to be New York. Our show, New York is so much of a setting that you can’t fake it. You can’t fake the grime of New York, you can’t fake the dirty of New York, and we were able to shoot there. We were all shocked. We shot the pilot there, and when the show got picked up, we all called each other and we were like, “You think we’re moving to Toronto?” But they let us shoot in New York.
AX: The other thing they let you do is a certain style of language which more explicit than is usual on basic cable. Were you surprised about that?
FISCHLER: I was floored. I have to tell you, they’re my bosses, I’m not kissing anyone’s butt. But Syfy has let us go – because, look, we live in a world now where there are five hundred stations. There’s too much to compete with. So broadcast television has to change at some point, basic cable has to change at some point. Everybody’s got to catch up. And so I think they realized, “We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to play with the big boys, and we’re totally willing to do it.” I was shocked. We would get scripts, and I’d be like, “Yeah, that’s going to be cut, that’s going to be cut.” And none of it was cut. They let us do everything. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Truly, there’s stuff coming up that when I got the script, I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to have to pull back because they’re never going to let us do it.” And there was not one thing they didn’t let us do.
My wife and I are like, “Wow.” Every episode, your jaw drops. But I think it’s all so well done – I’m really a fan of the show. My wife is the best audience. This is not her thing at all, and when we watched the pilot however many months ago, she was surprised that it was her thing. Because anything well-done can be anybody’s thing. You don’t just watch the trailer and think, “Oh, there’s a flying blue horse, or this is too much this or too much that.” And there’s a real heart to our show that fully goes through to the end, really, really emotionally connects at the end.
AX: Do we find out any more about Smoothie’s background in the rest of Season 1?
FISCHLER: No. Season 2, we will. I really have asked that we go into more about who he is. But you will see a lot this season of what his job is. It goes off on different paths, and he’s not happy with some of the assignments that he gets, and you’ll see that as it goes.
AX: Did you have to learn how to do anything to play Smoothie, like how to use some of his implements, or shoot a gun, or …?
FISCHLER: No. He doesn’t use guns, so I didn’t have to worry about that, and his implements – without giving anything away, I guessed how they worked, and I think I did okay. I really have to learn anything for anything. I’ve been very fortunate for most of my jobs.
AX: As far as beating up Christopher Meloni, do you work with a stunt coordinator at all, or is it so close up that you’re not swinging very much?
FISCHLER: I wish that I could beat up Christopher Meloni every day. It’s a joy [laughs]. We have stunt guys. Chris is a big one for doing a lot of his own stuff. He and I have stuff coming up that we have stunt guys for, but we did a lot of it together, because we thought it would look better on camera. So we have great stunt people, truly, but Chris is a monster. He wants to be in it, he wants to do it. He was so committed to this, he loves this, and I love him for that, and he’s so talented, and I feel like I really believe HAPPY! is the first thing that’s utilized every aspect of what Chris Meloni as an actor has to offer. I really mean that. Because it brings in LAW & ORDER, it brings in OZ, and it brings in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. He gets to be funny and scary, and he’s just awesome.
AX: Is there special blocking for the shots where Happy the Flying Horse is added?
FISCHLER: That’s a whole thing. We have to do scenes twice. Like the hospital scene in the pilot, there’s a silver ball, and then they put a stuffed animal there. So you do it a couple of times. And truly, once again, I feel like Chris Meloni’s publicist, but he does these scenes, and he does it with no one. It’s just a silver ball there. And we have the script supervisor reading the lines, and he was incredible. He read them fantastically, and very much in character. But it’s a whole bunch of work, the number of times you have to do the scene. We all shoot it and get the scenes on it, and then of course we have to do it again twice with the ball and with a little blue stuffed animal.
AX: In a lot of special effects projects, you’d be looking at the silver ball and pretending it’s a monster. In this case, you have to ignore the silver ball completely. Is it more difficult to imagine what’s there, or to imagine nothing is there?
FISCHLER: It’s more difficult to imagine what’s there. Having done lots of green screen and that kind of stuff, it’s a lot harder. To ignore something is easy when there’s just a silver ball there. Because I’m playing the scene with Chris. There’s a little silver ball next to him, but it could be anything. It could be a light. As actors, we block off out of our mind most of what’s going on except for the person we’re looking at. We’re good actors, I hope. But it’s harder to imagine stuff. That was a lot of ONCE UPON A TIME. When we were in these soundstages covered in green-screen, and they’re like, “You’re in the Queen’s castle.” And all it is, is a soundstage filled with green. And I didn’t know what it looked like. They had sets they would show me [to show what the final composite shot would look like].
AX: There’s a new Author character this season on ONCE UPON A TIME, but were you enjoying that gig while it was going?
FISCHLER: I loved it. That was a really great group of people, and I thought the show was so much fun. My daughter loved it, I got into it when she got into it, and I had a blast. I would go back any time.
AX: Did the Author’s power to write people’s lives give you any sort of philosophical ideas about how we affect other people?
FISCHLER: No, it didn’t. Actually, I love my life. I’m quite happy. I also think any of the things that hurt in the past led me to where I am. So I’m not a big one for changing anything. I think we learn from all of it. It may be easy for me to say, but I’m a big one for, we’re here for a reason. I’m lucky enough – I lost my father when I was in my twenties, but other than that, the sort of tragic stuff that has been insurmountable or held me back [has worked out for the best]. Now I’m getting philosophical with you.
AX: And how was the TWIN PEAKS experience?
FISCHLER: Oh, God. I’m sounding like rainbows and sunshine, but it was a dream. I’ve said this in interviews before, but I’ll say it again – if David [Lynch] called me tomorrow and said, “Hey, for the next five years, don’t take any jobs, but we’re going to do one movie a year,” I’d say, “Okay.” And I would do it. People say to me, “No, you wouldn’t.” I would. I would take five years off my career to just work with him. We are so fortunate to have him still making stuff. Whatever anyone thought of TWIN PEAKS, I had a blast doing it. I didn’t really know what I was doing, because all I got was my pages, so all I knew were my scenes, but I created my own little movie, and I loved it.
AX: You have a film coming up called UNDER THE SILVER LAKE …
FISCHLER: UNDER THE SILVER LAKE is a movie from David Robert Mitchell, the director of IT FOLLOWS, which is a crazy, scary, wonderful movie. It’s his new movie, it stars Andrew Garfield, and I describe it as MULHOLLAND DRIVE meets AFTER HOURS, the Scorsese film. It’s about one guy’s search through Los Angeles for this woman, and it’s going to be great. I read that movie script and I was like, “I’ve got to be part of this.” So I was really fortunate, and the part is just really fun and Andrew Garfield is so wonderfully talented.
AX: Do you have any other things coming up that we should know about?
FISCHLER: I shot an episode of TIMELESS. I know Shawn Ryan from the NASH BRIDGES days, so they called and asked, and it’s just one day I’m in, but my daughter loves the show, so I thought, “All right, for her I’m going to do it.” So I’m just finishing that, and then I’m going to Serbia to do a movie by this Spanish director. So I’m keeping busy and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for Season 2, which hopefully we’ll find out about HAPPY! soon.
AX: Your wife Lauren Bowles is an actress. Have the two of you worked together?
FISCHLER: We have, very randomly. We were on the same episode of VERONICA MARS, but different parts, so no scenes together. We did a short film that we produced and made together years ago. I produced a movie a couple of years ago called HER LAST WILL. Lifetime bought it, it’s a murder mystery, and we were in that together. And then there’s CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. My wife has one scene with me. So we did get that together as well. A lot of people are scared of [working with their spouses], and the opportunity doesn’t come along, but we would in two seconds.
AX: Do you have any memories of working on ANGEL?
FISCHLER: I’m a big BUFFY fanatic. I couldn’t get enough of BUFFY. And at the time I did ANGEL, I kind of watched a little bit, but I didn’t, and then years later, I caught up on ANGEL. My memories were, I was pretty young, and I don’t really have anything to tell you, but it was exciting. It was fun to be part of the BUFFY-verse. I always wish I’d been on BUFFY. But you know what’s funny? As an actor, I don’t want to be on too many shows I watch. I’ve done that a handful of times, and it kind of ruins the show. LOST was never the same after I spent a year on that beach. Only because the magic was right, and then it just becomes a job, and you watch it and think, “Oh, that’s not Sawyer, that’s Josh [Holloway].” And then when you’re not in them anymore, you get back into it, but it never goes back to that love. It never achieves that. So I’m grateful I was never on BREAKING BAD, because it held such a place in my heart. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know if I could have lost that.
AX: So you’re never going to quite enjoy HAPPY! as much as you might if you weren’t in it?
FISCHLER: Probably. Although I have to say, it sounds like a thing, but I love this show with all my heart. I hope that Syfy lets us do this again. Because I’m having the time of my life. I’ve been an actor for twenty-five years, and I don’t always say I’m having the time of my life. And this is a great group of people who genuinely like each other.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview: Patrick Fischler on HAPPY! and TWIN PEAKS