Actor, writer, director and producer Saul Rubinek is someone you will instantly recognize. You have seen him in a TV show or Feature Film at some point, most likely multiple times, over the course of his thirty-five year career. He was Daphne Moon’s fiance, Donny Douglas, on Frasier, the duplicitous John Mazer on The Equalizer, the immoral Kivas Fajo on Star Trek: The Next Generation and reporter Emmett Bregman on Stargate: SG1, among many other television roles. In film, he has had notable performances in Unforgiven, The Bonfire of the Vanities and True Romance. In 2009 he was cast as Artie Nelson on the hit Syfy series Warehouse 13. The show, Syfy’s most successful scripted series ever, returns for it’s second season on July 6th. Joe recently had the chance to chat with Saul Rubinek by phone to chat about the show, the culture on set, a tease of what’s to come in the new season and a few other things.
POP CULTURE ZOO: Doing only twelve episodes of Warehouse 13 a year, does that give you any opportunities to get back on stage?
SAUL RUBINEK: I have gotten back on stage. I’m trying to do more of it. Over the last four or five years I’ve been doing a piece called Through Roses. It’s a one-man show with eight musicians. It’s a holocaust piece that I perform now in Toronto, I’ve done it in Ottawa with the great violinist Pinchas Zuckerman and I’ve gone into New York and London. I’m planning to do it again in Toronto next year in a revamped staging. I directed it and play the central character who is a violinist who is going through memories of what happened to him when he was forced to play the violin in Auschwitz. It’s something that happened to Zuckerman’s father, actually. But we’re not here to talk about the Holocaust, we’re here to talk about Warehouse 13!
PCZ: True, but it is still an important subject to talk about.
SR: Well, I’m a childhood survivor.
PCZ: That is definitely important, but you’re right, we’re here to talk about the show. Congratulations on coming back for season two.
SR: Thanks! We’re thrilled, I can’t tell you how happy we’ve been.
PCZ: How early in season one did you think this was going somewhere?
SR: If you’re having fun on a show you really want it to continue. Occasionally Syfy has done one season of a show, like Dresden Files, that has a great season one and, for whatever reason, didn’t continue to season two. When we were at Comic-Con last year we had already aired three episodes, the ratings had gone through the roof, Syfy announced a 20 episode pickup for Eureka, so it was in the cards given the numbers were so great. The re-branding of the network coincided with our premiere and we gave them the demographics and numbers way beyond what they expected so we were all pretty positive about it. What we didn’t expect was that it was going to have the biggest numbers of any scripted show in their history. One of the reasons for that is it seemed to cross age barriers and seemed to be a kind of show that families wanted to see together which was really gratifying. They also wanted a show that was going to be women friendly, and what I mean by that is, no offense to men, but women want a show that is wittier, is relationship based and has a little bit more to it. This is also not going to be a show that is action oriented, although it’s got a great a wonderful science-fiction/fantasy base, it isn’t a Caprica or Stargate.
Listen, I was one of the biggest fans of Battlestar Galactica, it’s one of the best series done in the last twenty years. But our numbers almost doubled their numbers and that was huge for us. You can imagine what it’s like coming back for the second season. We have fun everyday. Maybe it sounds like I’m just blowing smoke for a PR thing, but I’ve been doing this for thirty-five years and it is a very unusual circumstance that you have writers who love the show because Jack Kenny is a great leader to them and us and the relationship between the studio and the network creates a chemistry that translates to the show. Every show has its own culture, you know that’s true for Leverage or for any shows you’re going to do interviews for, and it’s very interesting to find out what is that culture. Well, in our case they upped the number of days for shooting each episode from seven to eight days, they’ve upped our budget, we have a second unit going at all times. The production department – in thirty-five years I can say I’ve never worked with a better direction, they’re that imaginative. Every episode is different from every other episode, you can’t ask for more.
PCZ: Also, I think the chemistry between all of you guys was pretty immediate. Even with Allison Scagliotti joining in the fourth episode, she seemed to fit right in. So, at the end of season one we find Artie in a dire predicament having exploded. Considering the way in which he comes back, will there be repercussions or side effects from that?
SR: There always are and they may be long term. So, I’ll leave you with that.
PCZ: Also, in the second season premiere we get introduced to a new antagonist. Is that a character that we will see more of in the season?
SR: Yes. I can only tell you that! Here’s the thing, one of the things they [the writers] are doing is creating great villains and we certainly had a great one with Roger Rees playing McPherson and who does continue a bit in the new season. This is a world with strange artifacts and, as you know, there is at least one resurrection artifact, there may be more. As with the Monkey’s Paw, they all have consequences, resurrection has consequences and they are not usually happy consequences. We walk a great tightrope between drama and comedy. They used to laugh at me, last year when I was doing interviews Jack Kenny was getting tired of me saying that in a first season the writers are all looking to see if this is a Warehouse 13 story or not. All season they were trying to figure out what a Warehouse 13 story was. My line was, the minute they figure what a Warehouse 13 episode is and they know what to do, we’re f*cked. (laughs) The truth is we get a new script and we have no idea what’s coming. I just finished reading the last two episodes that are our season finale and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.
PCZ: That’s one of the great things about this show is that you can’t say “They’re going to do A, B and C and that’s going to resolve it this week.”
SR: No, you don’t know.
PCZ: And I love the twist that the artifact isn’t always what the characters think it is.
SR: Oh and there’s at least two or three artifacts along the way that are kind of red herrings.
PCZ: You have played a lot of diverse roles in your career so far. What about Artie kind of grabbed you and made you think “Ok, I gotta play this guy.”
SR: It started with the fact that I think I brought so much of myself to it at the very first meeting. The role wasn’t completely on the page. They had a design of the role without really having nailed the character and I went in a certain direction and they were open-hearted enough to go along with me. Jace Alexander, David Simkins, Mark Stern and all the people that were involved in helping me to get this role were willing to go in the direction I don’t think was really there. So, I feel some collaborative ownership, I feel like I had something to do with creating the character’s dark side and maybe his neurotic, eccentric side. If you look at my career there aren’t many series I’ve done. It’s been because I wanted to have diversity and I haven’t wanted to be stuck in a role. Luckily I’ve been able to make a living so I don’t have to do stuff I don’t want to do, or at least very rarely. But choosing a series, you’re signing for a few years, it better be something that you feel is going to be a part of you and that’s going to have enough variety and interest to challenge you. You don’t know for sure, but, in this case, it’s been exceeding my expectations, so that’s what happened, a confluence of I like the character, I like the people involved. It’s far away from home in Toronto, we moved from LA to New Yourk to be closer, and, so far, it’s been one of the highlights of my career, there’s no question about that.
PCZ: For myself and others that I have talked to about the show, having your name attached to Warehouse 13 made it a definite must see.
SR: Oh, you can definitely write about that! (laughter)
PCZ: Artie seems emphatically frequently deny any guilt from his past or anything he’s trying to make up for. Yet, those two things seem to be driving motivators for him.
SR: He’s lying. By the ninth episode you’re going to finally get details as to what’s driving him, what happened and why he had to change his name, which was revealed in season one. There have been clues, but you’ll find out in detail why.
PCZ: Will that or other events give us an Artie that’s a little less grumpy from time to time?
SR: I doubt that will happen. You might see there were other Warehouses with much grumpier “Artie’s.” Maybe you might see glimpses of other Warehouses, I can’t promise you anything. Artie’s grumpiness is a way of protecting himself from getting emotionally involved in situations where his brain has to work.
PCZ: Yet he seems to be unable to separate his emotions when it comes to Myka and Pete.
SR: They’re like his family, he doesn’t have any other family.
PCZ: You’ve also directed several things, is there any possibility you might direct any Warehouse episodes?
SR: That’s a possibility, it’s not written in stone either way. It depends on how busy I am with the show. I am developing my own properties. My wife, Elinor Reid, is a partner and she produced my first film Jerry and Tom and we have other things in development both for television and for feature. I’m a writer as well, I’ve been writing quite a lot. I’ll be able to make an announcement about a play of mine by the end of July. I’m trying to operate on all cylinders while I can.
PCZ: Awesome. Well, that’s all I have for you for now. I appreciate your time.
SR: Really nice to talk to you and thank you.
Warehouse 13 airs Tuesdays at 9:00 PM on Syfy!