The new ABC drama series Last Resort, from co-creators Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Karl Gajdusek, tells a suspenseful, emotional and action-packed story about what happens when a U.S. submarine crew receives an order to fire nuclear weapons at a foreign country, and then ignores that order. With nowhere left to turn, Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) take the sub on the run and bring the men and women of theColorado to an island where they will find refuge, as they try to clear their names and get back home.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Robert Patrick – who plays Master Chief Joseph Prosser, a career military man and longtime confidant to the Captain, as well as the designated leader of all enlisted crew on the Colorado – talked about how much fun he’s having on what he sees as a very important show, how he views his character, what’s to come for his storyline, whether or not he thinks he could survive on a submarine himself, and what he thinks it is, in himself, that leads people to cast him as tough guys and villains. He also talked about the experience of making Gangster Squad, due out in theaters on January 11, 2013. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ROBERT PATRICK: It’s fun, and I think the show’s very important. Were we are, right now, and what’s going on in our country, and as we watch what’s going on around the world, we know how important the military is, and we know we don’t want to use them and commit to them lightly. You want to take everything very, very seriously. The whole military is based on this protocol, which is that you take orders from up above. When a Captain says, “You know what, I don’t think this is a good thing, and I’m not going to do it,” that doesn’t work in the military. It doesn’t matter if you’re smart enough to figure out that maybe [something isn’t right]. That’s not how it works. You can’t put your ego before your orders. I think it’s a really important show ‘cause I think our military is a very, very important part of our country and our foreign diplomacy. Of all the shows I’ve done, it’s got the potential to be the best. I’m really thrilled, and I’m having a great time doing it.
Don’t you think it’s important to give the military a bit of a human side, so that viewers can connect to the characters better?
PATRICK: Exactly! And Shawn [Ryan] had done such a great job with it on The Unit, when we did that, and now he’s doing it again with this show. We’re actually seeing how this affects wives and what people go through and the personal sacrifices everybody makes. This is obviously a heightened reality, but the foundation of what we’re doing is very true to life. We don’t know about this, but these subs are all out there, floating around right now. Something like this could go down. It’s an interesting thing. You start there, with building the foundation of the reality that this is a real Navy sub and these are real people that serve, and then this big event happens and what’s that going to do?
How do you see Master Chief Joseph Prosser? Do you think he’s a good man, or do you think he has suspicious motives?
PATRICK: No, I think Prosser is a good man. I think he’s a great Navy man and a wonderful sailor. You meet him and you see what goes on in the first episode, but he’s serving his country, doing his thing and following protocol. He’s making sure that everybody on the boat, including the Captain (Andre Braugher), the XO (Scott Speedman) and the Lieutenant (Daisy Betts), is aware of how things operate, the protocol and what they must do. By the way, the XO and the Lieutenant are still in training. It’s just the Captain and the Chief of boat that are not in training on that sub. When people start diverting from what they’re supposed to be doing, he has to let them know, forcibly, that what they’re doing and the decision they’re making is not right. If that’s who this guy is, he’s not trying to do anything except keep the boat going in the right direction and keep the personnel making the right decisions. How is that guy perceived as the bad guy? How is that guy perceived as the guy on the side of wrong? That’s how I look at it. There’s nothing Prosser did. He witnessed a Captain commit an act of treason, and he witnessed and XO and a Lieutenant fall in with him, and he went, “What the hell are you people doing?” It’s heavy stuff. That’s not saying that Prosser is nuke happy and wants to go send missiles out everywhere. It’s just that the order came in. And then, of course, the Captain says, “Well, our own country fired on us,” and I have to remind him, “Yeah, but that’s after you stole their sub. What do you expect them to do?” All day long, Braugher, Speedman and I argue, and I will not back down from my position. It’s some great debates.
What can you say to tease what’s to come for your character and where his storyline is headed?
PATRICK: Well, first off, I think Prosser is a reasonable guy. You have to look at how he got to where he got to. He’s not a college-educated guy. He’s probably a poor guy who got into the Navy, and he advanced to the highest position you can get as an enlisted man. There’s a very small percentage of people that reach Chief of boat. He’s capable of running that boat by himself with his crew. He’s an elite guy within the Navy. It’s a really special position that he holds. But, I don’t think he’s unreasonable. I think he’s used to managing people and getting people to do what they need to do. I think you’re going to find that. You’re going to see more and more shades of that with Prosser. But, he is defiant and he’s fully American and he’s fully committed to the armed forces. I think it’s very important that Prosser is a part of this story and that that point of view is included on this show. That’s the best we have to offer in America – the men and women of our armed forces, and their commitment.
PATRICK: Yeah, I couldn’t do it, at all. I’ve taken a couple of tours. First off, there’s very little privacy. And the hot bunking thing goes on. There’s only so many beds, and you’re working on six or seven hour shifts. And then, somebody comes in and takes your spot, and you jump into the same bed that they were in and you sleep for six hours. It’s very confining and very tight. I’d be wanting to know where I could go smoke a cigar. I kept asking everybody, “What do you do if you like tobacco? Can you chew?” But, the Navy frowns on it. I said, “Can you smoke cigarettes?,” but no, that’s out. There are a lot of restrictions. They give up a lot and make a lot of sacrifices, and they’re away from their families for incredibly long periods of time.
You’ve played a number of tough guys and villains, throughout your career. Have you ever wondered what it is about you that leads people to cast you in those roles?
PATRICK: I’m Scots-Irish American. It’s who I am. The Scots were bullied around by the British, and thrown all over Scotland and fought. They were fighting amongst themselves. And then, my ancestors came over here. We’ve very proudly been here before the 1600s. I don’t know. I think it’s just part of my heritage. I come from a military family, but I didn’t serve myself. I think it’s just an attitude that I carry with me, and it’s ancestry.
What was the experience of shooting Gangster Squad like?
PATRICK: Gangster Squad is a wonderful piece of history in Los Angeles. It’s quite a remarkable story. I play Max Kennard, who’s a lawman from Texas, who’s part of the LAPD. He’s recruited by Josh Brolin’s character to come in and take care of business. And we go out and try to take down Sean Penn, who’s playing Mickey Cohen. So, it’s Josh [Brolin], me, Ryan [Gosling], Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena and Anthony Mackie. That’s the crew, and we’re working for Nick Nolte. It’s good versus evil, and it’s sexy as all get out. Emma Stone is in it. It’s a beautiful time period in L.A. And it’s actually the character that I think I’m most like. This guy, Max Kennard, is the most like I’ve seen myself, as a human being, so I hope people like it.
Last Resort airs on Thursday nights on ABC, and you can learn more about the show at www.abc.go.com/shows/last-resort.