Robert Picardo [Interviewed by Zeb Carter]

Robert Picardo: the ladies, they love him, but you know this.

If you’re looking for tons of notable quotes and insight into the inner workings of a fine actor that has entertained millions with his portrayal of characters spanning genres and two decades on the large and small screens in this interview, you can have one but not both and I’ll tell you why. The majority of our interviews here at Forced Viewing are recorded then transcribed so you get the quality you deserve in a format palatable to the eyes. Meeting stars at a convention or in a dark hotel room after exchanging sexual favors or copious amounts of M&M’s just for a few lines is a pretty straight forward thing but overall when doing an interview by phone you need either quality connection in a silent room with a good recording device or a program that records your calls. I had the latter to get this interview recorded. The problem is that the app records low which is not the biggest deal but add to that any text messages, phone calls coming in on your other line, or any other form of interruption to the data the phone is receiving and it voids the recording. It just vanishes. The file exists but its only ten seconds of silence then it cuts off. Bearing this in mind I will continue.

Getting Bob Picardo on the line was a fairly simple process, I contacted his people, they contacted him and he agreed. Once we set that up, he called and it was go time. Right off the bat we were talking about how even though most Sci-Fi geeks (myself included) are most familiar with him on Voyager or Stargate, he did quite a bit of horror over the course of his career. One of his first forays into film was the 1978 movie that modernized the lupine mythos, The Howling. In it he plays a dirty talking killer that has ensnared a young female reporter with promises of an exclusive interview just to be gunned down when the meet up at a porn theatre goes horribly awry. This particular film may be one of the only films in which people would recognize his acting but not necessarily his face. When we started discussing the film, Mr. Picardo let me know he had always been a fan of the universal movie monsters. This opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Lon Chaney, Jr. was too good to pass up. Since the transformations in this film were far more complex and realistic, he had to spend hours making over exaggerated faces to cast molds from and ultimately create the prosthetics used in those transformation scenes. He had, and still has, nothing but praise for the effects artists and the astounding work they did in that film.

The Howling ultimately became a cult classic until its popularity propelled it into mainstream success and spawned several sequels, one asrecently as 2011. He followed this success up by working with Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante on the film Innerspace. In this film he plays “The Cowboy,” an Armenian with an unspeakable threshold for pain that is out to retrieve the microchip used in an experimental shrinking device. Spielberg apparently wanted the villains in the film to be serious, menacing, and truly scary. Dante, however, thought it would be equally asgood to let Picardo do what he does best and that is to add the little quirks and flourishes that make these characters, no matter how small the part he plays, truly stand out in your mind. In this film he actually had to pull double duty paying the sleazy, womanizing, snake skin boot and brief wearing cowboy as well as his version of Martin Short pretending to be the cowboy. Seeing both is hilarious to watch. As a matter of fact, he told me that his favorite line from a film he’s done hands down came from a scene in Innerspace where he says, “The ladies, they love me, but you
know this.”

His work with Dante has continued throughout the years. He attributes this to Dante’s ability to stay true to his overall vision but to allow and encourage the actor’s input and experimentation with a character or scene. If he feels that is works he keeps it and if not, he isn’t afraid to throw a little film at an idea before he dismisses it. There are examples of this in, but not limited to the 1990 sequel to Steven Spielberg’s Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. A little constructive input on Picardo’s part was responsible for making his character Forster the sleazy, socially disconnected dick head that we all wanted to see get his comeuppance in the end. He was responsible for having these ID badges made for the other characters with barcodes as well as a switchblade-like scanner so he would never have to actually learn anyone’s name. Little things like this lend to the character’s individuality and ultimate sells his character in the film. He did go into detail about using a “butt puppet” when attempting to fend off one of the gremlins that was attacking him. The effect achieves the illusion that he is holding the puppet off both handed as it pummels him when in reality one of the hands on the puppet is a prosthetic and all the puppet’s movements are being controlled by him as his hand is inserted through the rear of the puppet. He got so into the scene that he actually bruised himself during this puppet scuffle.

There have been several other films he has starred in or had roles in that he so actively made his own that they feel like starring roles. One of  those roles was as Mark Dark in the film I reviewed a while back, 976-Evil. This film was Robert Englund’s directorial debut in which Picardo plays the devil. They don’t out and out say he is the devil, but he is ultimately the one through this chat line seducing and enticing several people including young Hoax to get the desires of their heart through giving their souls over to the dark side. What he did with his role as the devil I have to say is a bit ingenious. At his suggestion, he was allowed to play the role of Mark Dark as generally disinterested regular joe toting around an assortment of nasal sprays, cough medicines, and tissues. Playing the devil as a sick man leaves the viewer with no inclination that there may be anything more sinister about him than his need to take your money by providing fake “horrorscopes” in exchange.

This trend of making characters his own has been present throughout his career in film as well as television. Although prime examples of this would be his work as the Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager or as Woolsey in the Stargate universe, he was lucky enough to be a part of one of the most iconic horror series on cable television, Tales from the Crypt. He appeared in season 5:Ep 13 “Till Death Do We Part” as Frank Bobo, one of two hitmen who carried Stamos’ unlucky love interest out to the woods with the intention of burying her for making Stamos unfaithful to their boss. One of the things that stand out about that character among many is that, hirer thug or not, he is attempting to better himself by going to night school as well as being extremely polite when he asks the girl to undress as well as hand over her jewelry since he and his wife have an anniversary coming up. This odd mix of etiquette and heartlessness is pulled off without a hitch which as the season finale makes it extremely memorable considering the series was on shaky ground for its last two seasons.

His work hasn’t been limited to sci-fi and horror. If you’ve ever turned on your TV and caught an episode of Justice League there is a good chance you’ve heard his voice. He has done voiceover work for several animated episodes as anything ranging from a thug to a Nazi and even one or two of the second string heroes to appear on the series. Even though he has done this, his voiceover work has extended out to one of the hottest selling video games selling in 2012-2013. He plays Robert McNamara from Call of Duty: Black Ops and lends his voice talents to the second game Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 alongside such other acting talents as Tony Todd, Michael Rooker, and “Merle” from The Walking Dead, Michelle Rodriguez, James Hong, and several others. His role in the game is that of Eric Barieghner. You would think that lending your voice to a video game would be easy, however, he informed me that they do motion capture so he actually got to suit up and get down and dirty in the electronic trenches with his other voice acting costars. He said he found it extremely cool to be associated with a billion dollar franchise. Coming off this success, he still shows no signs of stopping.

His most recent cinematic achievement in the world of horror comes in the form of a film called Sensored. I won’t go much into this since the review for it should be posted around the same time as the interview. What I will say about it is that you have never, and I mean never, seen Robert Picardo like this before. This film really showcases the exceptional range he has and shows off a side of him that both sadistic yet sympathetically human at the same time. Due to poor marketing it is hard to find a copy but if you can get your hands on it I say it definitely worth the price. As far as his upcoming projects are concerned he hinted at a project that may be in the works with Joe Dante as well a film coming out in 2013 where he plays the grandparent of a child that he tells a tale of adventure very similar in formula to The Princess Bride.

The one thing that did come through during this recorded interview was our signature Forced Viewing questions. Number One: What scares you? His answer: Retirement. Number Two: What’s your favorite breakfast cereal? Maple pecan granola was his answer. Number three: Who would you become a fanboy over? Even though he said he is a fan of the show Homeland, he said it would have to be John Cleese. After I asked our signature questions he was kind enough to provide us with a bump for the podcast. Which, again to due to crappy recording on my phone, he was obliged to do and redo several times over. I have to say overall he was my absolute favorite celebrity to interact with so far and as a human being is simply a class act. Be sure to check out the review of Sensored on the site and I’ll catch you again soon.

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About Zeb Carter

About Blick Tolkien: The bastard half brother of Zeb Carter, he grew up in Chicago's urban jungle, forced to be the victim of racial injustice and daily bullying until the day he saw Night of the Living Dead. the immersion into violence on film gave him the tools to externalize his hate and make the world a horror show for all his enemies. A card carrying member of the Black Panther party, he hates whitey and all forms of coonery including any and all Tyler Perry films. You have been warned. About Zeb Carter: The younger brother of Blick Tolkien, he used horror films as a way to open him self up to the social and story telling aspects of cinematic fear as well as his love of the silver screen. After seeing Gremlins at the drive in he was hooked. He also writes short fiction, has 2 daughters and a pack of animals that he is currently serves as the alpha male over. You can read his fiction at forums.drabblecast.org.
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One Response to Robert Picardo [Interviewed by Zeb Carter]

  1. John Bruni says:

    He is perfect as Woolsey on STARGATE, but I loved the hell out of him in INNERSPACE more. Holy shit, that was a great role!

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