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  • Steve Cooper, CooperTalk

Patrick Fabian talks about his role in ‘Better Call Saul’


Courtesy Photo/Steve Cooper Actor Patrick Fabian (top) speaks with Steve Cooper (bottom) about his role of Howard Hamlin in Better Call Saul.

I recently talked with Patrick Fabian, who played Howard Hamlin on “Better Call Saul.” His character was part of one of television’s most surprising and shocking scenes in the last ten years during the series final season. Patrick, a Penn State graduate, has appeared in countless TV shows and movies and finally after thirty years of being a working actor his latest role has made him become an “overnight” success. (You can hear the complete one hour interview at www.coopertalk.net)


Q: How did you get the role of Howard Hamlin? I know you didn’t think you would.


A: Well, it started off with that I hadn’t auditioned in awhile and I was starting to get to that realization of like, oh, it’s tough. It’s tough when you’re over 40 because they just don’t write the roles. Then all of a sudden I got an audition for an ABC Family show called “Dog with a Blog” and I was like what? The dog is number one on the call sheet I think and I was like, what? Now my friends play the mother and father on the show, it’s a fine job, it’s a fine show but it’s just it’s “Dog with a Blog” and I hadn’t had an audition for a long time and I’m like, “This is what’s out there”?


Well, I got over myself, put on my acting suit on and went down and there was a room of like, I don’t know, 20 of us. Some of those guys had Emmy awards and some of those guys had shows of their own in the past and I was reminded of like, wow, I was lucky I even got called for this. Anyways, I do a good audition so I call my manager on the way home and I say, “I think I may have booked this” and I never say that. That’s the kiss of death. And sure enough, they call around 5 p.m. that afternoon, and they put a thing, they call, they put a pin in you. It means they’re not hiring you, but you definitely might be the guy they’re looking for. And then five days go by and I called my manager, “Like what happened? What’s going on?” Then he calls back real quick and says, “Oh, they cast a bigger name, but don’t worry we will find something else.” And I was like, “What? There were 20 guys in the room and all of us have resumes that are like 25 years long. I mean, what do you mean they found a bigger name?” It depressed me and then three weeks later I get a call for “Better Call Saul” a spin-off of “Breaking Bad.” I’m thinking, well, if they’re getting a bigger name for “Dog with a Blog,” guess what? They’re getting movie star for “Better Call Saul.”


But, my job is to go see Casting Directors and the office of Biali-Thomas, Sharon Biali and Sherry Thomas, called me in for this and they also test “The Walking Dead” and that was in season four. And I thought well maybe, maybe if I go in and I do really well on this “Better Call Saul” audition, I’ll get a three episode arc on “The Walking Dead” and get eaten by a zombie. That’s what I was going for.


So I go in for Sherry Thomas and her iPhone and then we do the audition. She adjusts me and I do it again. I drive home and do the audition again to the steering wheel, which I always do. And I thought that was pretty good. Maybe, maybe I’ll get in “The Walking Dead.” Two weeks later I get a call that Vince Gilligan has seen my tape and he likes it and they would like to test me and then I go to Sony a week later and I sign a bunch of papers. Then I go in and meet Vince, I meet Peter Gould, I meet the whole gang and I do my audition.


A week and a half later from that, I got a call saying you got the job and I’m thrilled. But the reality is my career and being an actor is those five weeks. It’s between the five weeks of not getting a guest star on “Dog with a Blog” because they want a bigger name and then booking a series regular on “Better Call Saul”. I didn’t become a better actor in those five weeks. It reminded me again the vagaries of it all, and the fact of the matter is, I wasn’t the answer for “Dog with a Blog.” I wasn’t the guy but I was the guy for “Better Call Saul.” But I also thought that by sticking around as long as I have and auditioning for as much as I have and putting myself in a position to have those auditions gave me the opportunity for that. But there’s a little bit of luck and fortune involved with that. And then I’m on the ground floor of a series with that writers’ room, so they start writing for me.


To my strengths. So we end up on season six where they they give me something that I can handle that has been earned by the character because they opened all these windows to him emotionally, season by season, the whole building staircase, I mean, that’s how it works. That’s the collaboration. But honest to God it could have been somebody else but I’m glad it wasn’t.


Q: How much do you love acting?


A: Oh, I don’t work, man. It’s that whole thing if you are doing what you love, you don’t work a day in your life. I have defied the odds and got really lucky since I’ve been doing this. I stopped waiting tables in 1992, so that’s 30 years ago, right? I’ve been working for 30 years and I’ve been doing exactly what I love. That goes from working with the Olsen twins, to kissing Xena the Warrior Princess, to working with Angela Lansbury, to riding horses, to killing and being killed. You know, it’s been it’s been fantastic. And this last six years, even while I was doing “Better Call Saul,” I got to go do an independent film “Driver X,” and that was fun and I got to work on “Gordita Chronicles.”


I’ve gotten to work on all these things in between. It’s taken me around the world. It’s my favorite thing to do and it still interests me. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it well. I believe I’ve been told it’s just talking and listening and yet sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I love it all. You know the tightrope aspect of it all. I wouldn’t do anything else and hopefully I won’t have to.


Q: How important are the “Better Call Saul” fans?


A: I love interacting with the fans. When people stop me on the street and they do, I don’t mind. Look, I got to be on a great fun show that had a high profile. You wanna say hi and tell me it was good work? I’ve got two minutes for that. There’s no doubt about that and I don’t know if you know this, but there hasn’t been a selfie I haven’t been willing to take.

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