You may know Patrick Fischler (from ‘Southland’ or ‘Mad Men,’ not high school)
Here’s something Patrick Fischler hears a lot these days: “Don’t I know you from high school?”
Fischler’s recognition factor was kicked up a few notches this past year with prominent roles on several hit shows including “Southland,” “Lost” and, most notably, his breakout performance as insult comic Jimmy Barrett on AMC’s “Mad Men,” which releases its second season on DVD today.
“After ‘Mad Men’ I got a lot of ‘How dare you speak to Don Draper like that?’ ” said Fischler over breakfast one gloomy June morning at his namesake restaurant, Patrick’s Roadhouse, the famed eatery on PCH purchased nearly 35 years ago by his late father Bill, who named it after his then-5-year-old son. Gone are the gray sideburns and snarky demeanor that transformed Fischler into the perfect foil for the dapper Don.
“People -- mainly women -- were mad at me that I told Don off,” said Fischler, who has more than 60 film and TV credits including “Burn Notice,” “The Black Dahlia” and “Old School.” “I took it as a compliment.”
“Mad Men” creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner had been on the fence on whether to hire a comedian to actually play a comedian. “I wanted him to have a New York quality, and Patrick had that,” said Weiner.
“Patrick has this tremendous edge,” added Weiner. “There was something very old-fashioned about the way he dealt with the character. It was a very simple choice once I saw him.”
Weiner said he modeled Jimmy Barrett after those workaday-Catskills-turned-TV-show-comedians that were popular during the early ‘60s.
“When I got the part, I watched Joey Bishop on YouTube,” said Fischler, who acknowledges there is an obvious streak of Don Rickles in his performance as well. Bishop “was completely charming but also really insulting. He said some awful things but people would laugh because I think it was that he was so good looking and charming. I had to find that balance.”
His father may have helped him to refine the role. Fischler remembers his father deftly tossing around his fair share of sharp-edged comments at customers. Patrons of the family restaurant reads like a Hollywood A-list party and included Sean Penn, Johnny Carson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’d been a regular since his pre-Conan the Barbarian days and invited Bill to his wedding to Maria Shriver.
After graduating from high school, Fischler attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he met his wife, fellow actress Lauren Bowles.
“The first thing I remember about Patrick is how he was looking out for my sister long before they started dating,” said Julia Louis-Dreyfus of her future brother-in-law.
After graduation he returned to L.A., where he and Bowles formed the theater group Neurotic Young Urbanites along with other NYU grads. It was at one of their productions that an agent noticed him and immediately sent him on the audition that gave him his first gig, as “the guy who pushes the elevator button” in “Speed.”
He has worked steadily since in supporting yet quirky roles, including a memorable turn as “the guy who had the dream” in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.”
His relationship with Bowles turned more serious along the way and they married five years ago in Florence, Italy. In April he took on his most important role, that of dad to baby daughter Fia.
After a brief hiatus to enjoy fatherhood, he returns to “Southland,” which resumes shooting this month.
“I just think he’s a brilliant, incredibly versatile actor,” said Ann Biderman, creator and show runner for “Southland,” who hopes to give him a more prominent story line this season.
It’s still unclear whether Jimmy Barrett will return to “Mad Men” to torment Don and Betty. No one with the show will say. “I’d love to continue the journey of Jimmy Barrett,” said Fischler.
Fischler excuses himself from the table and returns with an “I-don’t-get-no-respect” moment that would make Rodney Dangerfield proud. Two teenage girls seated in the back of the restaurant were watching his photo shoot for this interview and whispered to each other, “Who is that guy? Should we know him?”
“Stuff like that happens all the time,” he said with a chuckle.