The actor talks about working with Chris Meloni and David Lynch
In the new SYFY show Happy!, Christopher Meloni plays a deranged hitman named Nick Sax who awakes from a heart attack to find that his new best friend is a flying, animated, absurdly upbeat, and Patton Oswalt-voiced unicorn. Which is the show’s craziest character? Maybe neither, given that Patrick Fischler plays a mob torturer named Smoothie in this adaptation of writer Grant Morrison’s graphic novel. In last week’s series premiere, he memorably promised to remove Sax’s penis “in thin slices, like salami.”
“I like to refer to Smoothie as a ‘doctor of sorts,’” says Fischler. “He basically extracts information from people for the mob. And Nick Sax, you learn in the pilot, is going to be really a challenge for him, to get what he needs from him. And that doesn’t happen often. I couldn’t have loved working with Chris more. We’d never met before we shot that scene in the pilot and right away I knew that he was up for anything. It wasn’t written for us to play that scene so closely. I just thought, Why don’t I get right in his face? It was fun. He and I play a game of pretending we don’t like each other when we do press together. But since he’s not around, I can tell you that he’s a great dude.”
Fischler has literally dozens of notable screen credits to his name dating back to the early-’90s when he played the businessman who unnecessarily pushes the lobby elevator button at the start of Speed.
“I remember the catering was incredible,” he says about the shoot for the Jan de Bont-directed blockbuster. “Not kidding. I had friends come visit me — because, don’t forget, I’m a 23-year-old schmoe — and there were these shrimp cocktail towers on set at lunch. I was like, ‘This is the way to live, you guys!’ But the biggest surprise was how good the movie was. When we were shooting it, I was like, ‘Eh, what is this gonna be?’ Jan de Bont had been a cinematographer up to that point. Keanu Reeves was Keanu Reeves, but Sandra Bullock, no one knew who she was. I remember seeing it at the Mann’s Chinese in Hollywood. It ended and I was like, ‘Oh, holy sh—, that was great. [Laughs] It’s a great first movie credit to have.”
Over the next decade and a half, Fischler became an increasingly familiar face on both the small and the big screen, scoring roles in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, the hit comedy Old School, and the TV show Nash Bridges, among many other projects. But the actor’s career really took off in the late oughts, when he was cast in three series: Lost, the crime drama Southland, and Mad Men, on which he played comedian Jimmy Barrett.
“It was pretty great, I have to say,” Fischler recalls. “I shot Mad Men right before Lost and I was on Lost and Southland at the same time. All were incredible experiences. I mean, Mad Men is seminal for me, and I’ll never forget it, and I think I’m going to be 80 and still talking about it — and proud, too. Both Lost and Mad Men, I was huge fans of those shows. It’s really exciting to get to do shows you love. I’ve done many, many shows that I don’t love, or have never seen, and I just go, and it’s a job. But when I get a job on a show that you love, it’s really exciting, and at the same time kind of blows up that world for you. So, when I first got to Lost, I was on the beach, and there was Sawyer, I couldn’t believe it. And then, Sawyer becomes just Josh, and you start to look at the show differently. But I had a really, really amazing time doing it.”
Smoothie is the second highly dubious character Fischler has portrayed on TV this year. In Twin Peaks: The Return, the actor reunited with David Lynch to play the sinister Duncan Todd, a memorable associate of Kyle MacLachlan’s evil Dale Cooper doppelgänger.
“It was a joy, and yet, I didn’t really know exactly what I was doing or what was happening,” he says. “I got my pages, and everything was at a desk, being sort of scared and ominously threatening, and in came Tom Sizemore, and I had to have a scene with him, and I had no idea who he was, and the same with Jennifer Jason Leigh. It just was me making my own little movie of the scenes I got and making up in my mind what it all meant. I think that’s what a lot of us did, because I don’t think very many people got more than their scenes. So, we all had to create these worlds for ourselves. But I love Lynch more than anything in the world. He’s just the greatest, most talented man. I think he created something pretty incredible.”
Fischler’s upcoming projects include the film Under the Silver Lake, writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to his hit horror movie, It Follows.
“This is how I’d sell the movie — it’s Mulholland Drive-meets-After Hours,” says the actor. “I play like a conspiracy theorist-graphic novel artist, who Andrew Garfield comes to for help. I read that script and I was so excited, in the same way [as when] I read Happy! I read it and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m so glad someone’s making this.'”
Speaking of Happy!, Fischler promises we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of his character’s craziness on the show, whose executive producers include Crank franchise co-director Brian Taylor.
“I would say that the pilot is a four in the level of the insanity that Smoothie hits, on a scale of one-to-ten,” says the actor. “So, Smoothie has a long way to go in insanity and craziness. I think Brian Taylor kept thinking I’d say ‘no’ to things he told me I was going to have to do. It was like a game of chicken. I kept saying ‘yes.'”
Well, if Jason Statham didn’t say ‘no’ to the things he did in the Crank movies, who are you to protest?
“Exactly!” says Fischler. “And I love it, because I trust him, that’s the main thing. If I didn’t trust Brian, I wouldn’t say ‘yes.’ But there was always a reason for the things that I do. I like playing messed up guys and Smoothie is definitely one of those.”
Happy! airs on SYFY, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET. Watch the show’s extreme trailer, below.