Warehouse 13 has been a fan-favorite on the Syfy network for the last 5 seasons due to its warm heart, fun steam-punk/science fiction/historical magic sensibility, and the wonderful ensemble cast that totally pegs the idea of a family of misfits who, by the way, save the world on a regular basis. The show is coming to an end, perhaps a bit too soon, but that’s the way of TV. And so, as the last few episodes run over the next couple weeks, fans are saying their goodbyes to beloved characters.
Eddie McClintock is a TV veteran; one of those hard-working actors whom you’ve seen (and liked) almost everywhere, but who – until Warehouse 13 – had never had a hit. As Secret Service Agent Pete Lattimer, Eddie has brought a goofy charm to the show, creating a character viewers can’t help but love. Pete Lattimer is somewhere between your goofy-but-protective older brother, and a playful hound who wants to chase his tail, but will stick by your side through thick and thin.
As part of Syfy’s PR campaign around the sunset of the series, I was lucky enough to have a phone call with Eddie, where we spoke at length about his career, about Warehouse 13 and his character, and about being a geeky dad. This is a synthesis of the second half of our 70-minute conversation. We rambled quite a bit, so to pull together some coherent subjects, I’ve skipped around the chat, and crafted a more linear narrative.
On letting his kids watch his show: I’ve been doing the show five years now, and now they’re seven and eight. The first time I showed them, it was the episode when the thing had attached itself to Pete’s back, and they both started to cry because they thought I was in trouble. But I told them I’m right here, and it’s make-believe. And now, they understand it’s all make-believe, which is good and bad. My older son Jack says he wants to watch Child’s Play, watch Chucky, and I didn’t remember the language. I had to tell them, “okay, we don’t talk like that. If you’re going to stab, fine, just don’t talk like that while you’re stabbing.”
On what makes him happy: Music and film for me are memory triggers. I hear a song and it makes me think of my dad, or it makes me think of friends I have, or I’ve lost, or haven’t seen. Films are the same. I’m a pretty nostalgic guy. I use film and music for that, and it’s great because I’ve had this huge book of DVDs that I collected back when I started making a little money in my career. All the classic Universal horror films. And I hadn’t watched them for like 8-9 years because I had babies, but now that the boys are old enough, they’re really interested. Jack loves Abbott and Costello, and Godzilla, and King Kong. I think we’re going to watch Alien this weekend.
On school and getting into acting: I was a big jock. I wouldn’t have understood D&D. I can only operate with a six-sided die. Six years of college to get a degree. But as a kid, I’d always do impersonations. I always loved the Not Ready for Primetime Players; my parents would let me stay up to watch Saturday Night Live. I’d always use that to make my mom laugh. She was my biggest fan when I was growing up. I just became a jock because you grow up in Ohio, and that’s what you do. I wrestled in high school, and then I went down to Wright State to wrestle. And we’d go to a party, and I’d end up doing Andrew Dice Clay’s routine from back to front, I knew it all. And then I moved to LA to sell corporate insurance for my uncle. I knew I wanted to go to LA. My best friend at the time wanted to be a stand-up comedian. My uncle fired me after 7 months. I was not a good insurance salesman. And then I found my way into production. I became a production assistant. I swept up cigarette butts and got people coffee. And after a couple of years, someone said “you should try out, you should get into acting.” I got into acting classes, and it was the first thing besides sports I really threw myself into. I got sober, which was a big one. I was a jock/party-dog, but I decided to get sober and give this acting thing a try. If it didn’t work out, I’d have to go back to Ohio, but I didn’t want to be the prodigal son coming back with his tail between his legs. And acting class was a great place to meet chicks.
And when I got sober, all my “friends” disappeared, so all I had to do was to go to class, act, and watch other people act. I got a commercial agent, and quickly got two national adds. Two ads for Coors, where we were giants playing football, and bowling in the Rockies.
Finally I had money for gas, and to pay the rent. I wasn’t living the Hollywood lifestyle by any means, but I could support myself. Then I got my first speaking role on The Young and the Restless. My agent was in the dance department of his agency, so to get me in, he listed me as a “street mover,” whatever that is. He calls me, “I’ve got an audition for you on The Young and the Restless. There are lines, but you’re going to have to dance.” I was like, oh my god, no. He just said “go.” I went there, and all the guys were stretching and stuff. When it was my turn to dance, I just did the Spicoli from Fast Times. They were just like “where did you come from? We love you!” and they hired me.
From there, I got cast on Ned & Stacy with Debra Messing and Thomas Hayden Church. I did one episode with three other costars. And at one point, the show runner came in and said “listen, we have to give these guys some lines,” and one of the writers said “give it to him.” They gave me some lines, and I didn’t eff it up. And so, they called me back, and said “we want you to come back by yourself.” Four episodes later, the episode was named “All That Jazz,” and my character was named Jazz, and that was the springboard for me. I did sitcom after sitcom. I’ve done 10 pilots, and 9 of them have been sitcoms. Someone wrote “Eddie McClintock has done more pilots than a stewardess.” I always thought of myself as the most successful anonymous guy in Hollywood. Until Warehouse 13, I was a true journeyman, doing show after show. Every once in a while, I allow myself to feel a little bit of accomplishment in what I’ve been able to do.
On being a working actor and being a dad: Warehouse 13 was shot in Toronto in the dead of winter for five years. I took my family the first year, and after that my wife said “never again.” She’s from South Texas, and it was the first time she’d ever seen snow, and not just snow, but like 20-below wind chill, coming off the lake. I didn’t blame her. It was one of the reasons I moved out of Ohio. So it was really hard. The one year Syfy said you’re going to do 20 episodes, should have been the happiest day of my life, but I started having panic attacks because I started doing the math, and oh my god, I’m going to be gone for nine months. And as the #1 on the show, especially in Toronto, it’s not like I can finish on Friday and jump on a plane. So we lived on Skype. I’d get home from work, and I’d turn the Skype on. We wouldn’t necessarily sit in front of the computer, but we’d have it on and I could hear the sounds of the house. And every now and then I could yell “Jack, get down off there!” God bless my wife, she took care of the boys for five years by herself, mostly.
On if he’d want his kids to get into acting: I don’t know. It depends upon the parents. Fred Savage is a good example. Neil Patrick Harris is a good example. Their parents kept them grounded. If your parents are frank with you about your chances, and realistic, and don’t let you get too high in regards to your wins in the business. The kid from Walking Dead was there at the convention this weekend, and he has a line of adults around the block waiting for him to put pen to paper. And that has to zap your brain as a kid. I think the results of child stars have born out the results. If there’s someone there trying to keep it in prospective, maybe the kids have a chance. I’d like to see the boys do something to help the world, like be a doctor. But I’ve got to tell you, as an actor, you don’t realize. I had a US Marine come up to me down in Denver, and his legs were smashed. He was still on them, still walking, but they were really in bad shape. And he’s like “I did a tour of Afghanistan, and a tour of Iraq, and me and my squad mates would come back and watch Warehouse 13. And when I got my first purple heart, I was in the hospital for two years after because I couldn’t walk and I was in surgeries off and on for two years, and all I did was watch Warehouse 13. Buddy, you kept me alive.” And he gave me his purple heart. That was the strongest indicator for me in my career that I’ve chosen the right thing to do with my life, and maybe every once in a while I’m able to make a difference.
On interacting with the fans: A lot of the fans, the sci-fi fans, they refer to themselves as geeks. A lot of them are introverted, and I think there’s a lot of misfit toys feelings. And so, for the last year or so, I put my chair out in front of the table. I don’t put my chair behind the table. And when people come up, I give them hugs. Most of the time, it feels right. I give hugs, and some people just hold on, and it’s okay. If I’m able to give them something more. Especially if they’re giving me their money, buying a t-shirt, or a picture with a signature. And that’s fine for everyone else, if they don’t, but for me, I feel that if I’m going to take their money, being out front, hugging, and being in their face, is going to make me sleep better at night. I have people on my Twitter say they are so surprised that a “celebrity” can be so nice, but if it gives them a little something, that’s great. Positive energy is better than negative energy.
On what’s next: I’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty online, getting my k/d ratio up. It’s been pilot season, which was a humbling experience after being the star of a show for five years; going back into mainstream television and hoping there was some cachet from leading a show, and finding out that no one cares. I did the season 6 finale of Castle. But summers are notoriously slow around here. I have a couple more conventions to do, and hopefully something will come up. That’s how it works. Today you’re singing the blues, and tomorrow you get a phone call and you’re the happiest man on earth.
I just have to say that this was one of the best “interviews” I’ve gotten to do. Eddie is just a great guy, who happens to have a great job and played a character that a lot of people fell in love with. But at home he’s a dad, and a bit of a goofball, who still seems a bit dumbstruck by the measure of celebrity that the world has doled out for him. And while he may have been a jock once, I think we can consider him a GeekDad now.
And I must suggest that everyone check out Eddie’s art at his website. We own one of the prints, and it’s awesome!