SDCC 2013: Roundtable Interview with Warehouse 13’s Saul Rubinek!

More Warehouse 13 coverage from Comic-Con! After our video interviews with Joanne Kelly and Allison Scagliotti, team OTF channeled our inner Barry Allen to get to the roundtable interviews to speak with the rest of the cast.

Grumpy ol’ Arthur “Artie” Nielsen has had a lot to deal with in the past season of Warehouse 13. After turning back the clock to save the world using Magellan’s Astrolabe, the dark side of Artie came forward — and he was none the wiser until it was too late to stop him from committing a horrible crime.  Dealing with the consequences of that – even knowing he was under the influence of an artifact’s downside – has been a challenge for Artie, especially since he is so used to dealing with things on his own.

But none of that would be as compelling if it were not for the actor portraying him. Saul Rubinek sat down, and, without prompt (as if he couldn’t help but spill out his feelings for the show), immediately started talking about his experience with Artie and where they’re going as Warehouse 13 comes to a close.

Saul Rubinek: What a trip! Don’t be bummed that it’s ending – 64 hours and it’ll be on reruns forever. Like a lot of shows, it will start to get discovered like two years now. People will say, what was that show opposite Revolution that we never got a chance to see? What was that show on opposite all those network shows that we never got to watch? It was on late – and suddenly we’ll start to see it again. And it’s very hard to complain – my son was about to go into high school, my daughter was about to go into college – paid for all that! That was nice, I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting to continue to do a little writing, a little directing, a movie here, a movie there – I was not expecting to get one of the best roles I’ve ever played. I was not expecting to run into this extraordinary family of actors. What I’m going to miss most is not playing Artie. Artie is in me.  It’s my group. It’s my family, it’s the crew, it’s Jack Kenny, who I’m dying to work with again, who I am already looking to work with again – there are plans! We have plans! It’s Alison, who is like a second daughter to me. That’s what you miss – you miss that. When you’re a young actor and starting out, in theater, you’re working for nothing. But what happens is a family is created. I don’t care who you are – Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp – biggest stars in the world. What they’re gonna look to do is recapitulate that family feeling. Why? In a healthy family you support what’s great about each other and you try to get rid of the bullshit. When you’re with people for a while, all your bad habits, they won’t let you get away with them. The bar keeps getting raised. And you know, if you work with the same people, or you have a good marriage, or great friends, they won’t put up with your shit. What happens is after five years, we’re on each other. We have to put out good work. The camaraderie. Did we always get along? No. But is the chemistry awesome? You can see it on screen. That is what I’m really proud of.

Seeing the genuineness of everyone come through – you guys are not phoning it in.

SR: I’ve said this before – you guys, the audience, is very sophisticated about the art of making television and movies. But in tv series, we are fairly unique. We are not absolutely unique but we are one of the very few where the shows get written early enough that our show runner, our head writer is on set with us. He’s not 3000 miles away that you have to phone through five executives to be able to change a comma. He’s right there. If it’s not working, he hears it. If it needs a funny moment because it’s too serious, it gets changed, he’s there. It’s like doing a half-hour sitcom in an hour-long format. On a sitcom they change it on the fly, what works based on audience reaction. That is a lot of Jack’s experience. And Jack won’t talk about himself this way, but he is certainly the biggest secret weapon we have on the show. He wasn’t there on the pilot, yes it was a brilliantly designed show by a group of executives looking to rebrand their network – different people all creating one idea, which is rare, with executives – that they get together and take a show created by three or four different people and make it work. He is the glue and the inspiration. He was the one who said Artie doesn’t have anyone to talk to, is he going to talk to himself? And he came up with the concept of Claudia. Pushing that envelope of making sure the humor would follow the seriousness constantly. That is Jack and the great good fortune of having him on the set with us. He used to be an actor, studied acting at Julliard, he is something else. Whenever I talk to other actors they just look at me with envy that we have that experience on the set.

You touched on theater – what is the difference, and how do you explain the difference between theater and film?

SR: Film – that is the director’s medium. Television is a writer’s medium. Theater is an actor’s medium. That is the best way to look at it – that is who has the power. Well, the money always has the power but you see what I mean. Creatively, that is the way it works.

Will we see Artie reunited with Vanessa in season 5?

SR: In a way, that’s all I can say. In a way! Here’s what I can tell you about season 5. It’s a short, 6-episode season and so much is packed in. They weren’t sure how many they were going to get, if any. But the ending is both surprising and inevitable, I will say that. The fans will not be disappointed in the way the series wraps up.

If your life could produce an artifact, what would it be?

SR: The proper number of people that actually watch the show (laughter) because then it wouldn’t have been cancelled. We’re at a crossroads in terms of viewing audience. Nielsen has had to make changes, the advertisers are resisting it because they get paid less for shows that are viewed past-live. Nielsen says 1.5 million people watch the show but I think it’s more like 3 or 4 million people watch the show. People can’t stay up to watch at 10, or they’re watching with their families later. So that’s the big transition that’s going to go on in the next 5 to 10 years and audiences will be counted differently. I’m saying it is in the wind.

That is part of why the writer’s strike happened – do you think that could happen again?

SR: The biggest issue isn’t with the writers. The biggest issue is between advertisers and executives. Studios, and all the people running networks, they know that people watch the show after it is live. I think maybe more than 50 million people in the US have DVRs now and they decide when they’re going to watch, setting their own schedules. When it’s 100 million people, how are they going to calculate it then, and downgrade the cost of commercials then? My daughter is in college. I went to her college campus 4 years ago, and there are no TVs on a college campus lately. Have you seen one? There are no TV sets on a college campus. Are they the target audience? Yes. They are watching on their laptops, online, on Hulu. You watch Hulu – do you have to watch commercials? Yes. Can you skip them? No. Why is that a downgraded service rate, to watch Hulu? All that is changing and it effects all the shows that are on the air. All shows are effected in some way, some more than others. I can’ t complain though. Too good a run!

Is there anything in the works like a farewell movie or a special series?

SR: Look at what happened to Arrested Development. Your fans at this moment in history, you as fans have more power about you’re going to watch and what a network is going to put on than any fans in the history of entertainment. Ever. If your fans want something in great enough numbers then it becomes financially viable for them to do a Warehouse 13 movie, or Christmas special, then that’s what determines that. Your fans have that power.

So, Artie seems like a real renaissance man on the show – you’ve played the piano and done other fun things – what of your talents have the writers incorporated into Artie that has helped shape him?

SR: The writers did that for all of us, they were very smart about that. Before the first season even got written, they had us all in and they talked a lot about our histories, what we were like, what we wanted to do. No writer, unless they are crazy, they are going to write who you are. Because you are doing so many hours of a character, they aren’t going to write against who you are. They are going to write to your strengths. They are going to write you into the character – they want to play to your strengths and work with who you are, especially for years on a television series. There is a lot of me in Artie and Artie in me.

Have you learned anything new or specific?

SR: We’re learning Spanish this year, we’re learning a certain kind of dancing we haven’t done before – artifacts can do all sorts of things! I took Spanish several years ago, I was in a movie called Out of Trouble with Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte and I had to learn Spanish. We learn all kinds of things on the show. I learned a lot about those artifacts, they are all real you know. And the providence is historically accurate.

What artifact would you take with you?

SR: That would be kind of cool! You know, not really any because what’s going on here for me is the memory of it all. The artifacts, the Tesla, I’m with all these things every day. The objects themselves don’t hold a significance for me, it’s the people. I sign a lot of Farnsworths, for fans and stuff.

You should take your Segway!

SR: I should! I learned how to drive the segway – I loved that!

We’re all a geek about something, what do you geek out about?

SR: I geek out about Dexter, great show, brilliantly made. I geek out about Breaking Bad, another brilliant show, really really well done. Those are two of my favorite shows. I love Curb Your enthusiasm, I got to be on it a couple times. I think Larry’s done after like, 9 seasons. They were great – public humiliation turned into an art. Those are my geek things. I like classical piano. I geek out over this. I taught myself to play some classical piano. It takes me months to learn a piece but it’s a very zen exercise for me, I never took piano lessons but I am intrigued by how the brain and the fingers work together. I geek out over learning the new Chopin nocturne or fugue or if it’s slow enough I can learn. It takes me months, and hours go by and I don’t even know it. That’s a geek thing for me.

What do you think of the environment at SDCC, how odd and eclectic it is?

SR: I go to a number of different cons in all different places and I meet a lot of great fans. It’s really exciting, especially for Warehouse 13, to meet all the people we reach. I meet all the families, and what I’m proudest of about our shows is that families watch it together. There’s something for them, there’s something for their kids, and that’s a big thing for me, being a dad, that families watch it together. There’s not a lot of hour-long shows that you can watch with your family. Unless you are watching So You Think You Can Dance or a game show, there’s not a lot of hour shows you can watch with your kids. Breaking Bad is not something you can watch with your kids. With Warehouse 13, you could be 10 or 11, and watch it and learn. It’s fun and exciting, there will be stuff over the 10-year-old’s head, but everyone can watch it and appreciate it.

With Warehouse 13’s final episodes looming, this would be our final chance to chat with the cast. Be sure to check out our video interviews and the (short) roundtable with Eddie McClintock, and check back later for the roundtable transcripts with Aaron Ashmore and Allison Scagliotti!

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

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