Patrick Fabian on Landing the Perfect Role


Patrick Fabian deftly fulfills his current role as Howard Hamlin in Better Call Saul. According to Fabian, “Howard is a golden boy, a country club guy, and life is good for him. He’s sure of his place in the grand scheme of things.” 

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Patrick Fabian. Photographed by Isaac Alvarez. Stylist: Ali Levine. Groomer: Danielle Boyd.

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.

About author

This article was written by Elaine Madsen

Documentarian, Playwright, Author and Poet. An Emmy® award winning documentary maker, Madsen has completed directing "I Know a Woman Like That" which was produced by her Academy® Award nominated daughter Virginia Madsen's Title IX Productions. The film screened in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival where Roger Ebert cited it as "transformative and extraordinary". Madsen's book of poetry "Crayola Can't Make These Colors" is now available in book stores and on Amazon. Emmy® winning documentary "Better Than It Has to Be", about film making in Chicago, aired on both NBC and PBS. Madsen is also the the co-author of "The Texan and Dutch Gas, Kicking Off Europe's Energy Revolution", published in the USA and abroad in the Netherlands. She is the mother of actors Virginia and Michael Madsen and their writer/restauranteur sister Cheri.

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