Home / Everyone’s Gotta Play Their Own Tomato: A Conversation with Rules of Engagement‘s Patrick Warburton

Everyone’s Gotta Play Their Own Tomato: A Conversation with Rules of Engagement‘s Patrick Warburton

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Are there rules to a successful engagement? How about marriage? What about a freewheeling bachelor life?

Conceivably. Self-help gurus may know; not exactly a fan of theirs, I won't speculate. I am, however, a fan of CBS's Rules of Engagement, in part, perhaps, because it doesn't take it upon itself to preach to me about anything. A half-hour primetime sitcom, starting its third season March 2, it does just what a beast of its nature ought to, according to Patrick Warburton, one of its stars. It entertains, and does a damn fine job!

A couple of days ago, I was lucky enough to score a one-on-one interview with Patrick, and tell you what, if I wasn't his fan from his Seinfeld and Civilization of Maxwell Bright days, I am now.

The man dished about the perseverance of his show, his views on his character, Jeff, and the limitations of his creative control. And, I think, he himself is totally enjoying the final product — which comes out loud and clear in both his performance and his promoting the dickens out of it.

Let's just start from what we're doing here. Do you enjoy this sort of promotion? Or would you rather meet your fans and the press face to face? Unless you would rather not do any promotion at all?

Oh, face to face. I like meeting fans, and I am forever using hand gestures. But, you know, I guess on the phone, that works, too.

Did you have to think for a while before you accepted the role? Can you empathize, having been married yourself for the past 18 years?

Well, I did, yes. When I first read it. Because, you know, it would be like, why would I want to be playing myself? I was lucky to play The Tick, and that's… completely different. A lot of acting, getting in character. But here, you know, I am playing someone married for the last 14 years. But I sat down with the producers, and I see they have a great team in place. So, we gave it a try. And it's good, there are definitely things working. It's gotten funnier, now, too, so, it's moving in the right direction creatively, I think.

Speaking of creative direction, can you tell me if there are any plans to keep the show past season three?

Sure, we already sat down with CBS folks. Wasn't an easy run, you know. First season, we only put in seven episodes. Came in as the mid-season replacement. In the second season, the writers' strike. Messed things up, but what can you do? Now, this season, we're also coming in mid-season. But we think season four is going to be the first full one. So, yes, we're going along. Definitely very positive here.

Are things going to be happening with the show? What can we expect?

Our engaged couple's set a wedding date. So, there would be things, you know, stemming from that. It's definitely sharp, funny. And you know, we aren't a drama show, not a soap. It's a half-hour sitcom, things don't really have to change. You don't much change characters that are working, you just use them creatively, put them in engaging dialogs. People like to get to know whom they are watching, relate to them. And, of course, you know, with the married couple, and the young couple, and David's [Spade] character, who is a bachelor, everyone can find somebody they can empathize with. It's like with Seinfeld. It's entertainment. People liked coming week to week to characters they got to know. They might not be all that nice, but they were familiar, and likable, and that's what made it work.

Do you get to have creative input?

Sure, there's some ad-libbing, everyone does that. And I always say if I think something's not working. Something doesn't ring true, we can scrape it. But once it's finalized, the writers finished their work, that's it, everyone's in sync. Too many cooks stirring the pot, we don't have that, there's creative unity, so we can put the best episode out we can.

Is there a direction you think the show could go in with your character, but is choosing not to?

Not really. We're all trying things, thinking about things. No need in stretching the boundaries. We have ways to go with every character yet.

What is your dream role? What about a favorite one? Do you like the familiarity of working for a long-running project?

Well, favorite, so far Maxwell Bright. That was ranging out the furthest from, basically, the comfort zone. That's a challenge. It's good to have a challenge. I don't have that in… that is, in TV, I haven't had a single lead in an hour-drama, not one. I haven't even been asked. Come on, Lisa, I am sure you have a script you would like… that wasn't understood? Once you get put in a box. But that's okay. Did you know, Hoffman played a tomato? Everyone's gotta play their own tomato. And you know, my movies, Woman Chaser, Dish, Maxwell, I don't know if you've seen them, they were all critically acclaimed in different ways. That was good. Good scripts, interesting takes. I like challenging myself. I am always looking for something new.

Something new? You should check out Lombardi Street, the new show whose writing team I am a part of. Their working policy is to give everyone a chance, and the start of your talents would be a shoo-in. Yes, yes, I'm pimping.

[Laughs] Maybe, I will.

And I guess it wouldn't be a Patrick Warburton interview if I didn't ask about Puddy. I wasn't going to bring him up, but we did talk Seinfeld. Do you still enjoy the Puddy fame? I understand during an advertisement for Rules of Engagement in 2007 during an NFL football broadcast, people started yelling out your Seinfeld character's name.

Yes, funny how it happened. I only did nine episodes as Elaine's boyfriend. But the character, he's iconic. And, definitely, the show. My grandkids are gonna watch reruns when they are home sick from school. I used to watch shows like that sick from school.

Andy Griffith and the like?

Yeah, like those. Like I said, some shows endure. Seinfeld's like that.


And that brings us to a close of my all too short tete-a-tete. There were more questions to ask, but I did learn the gist of the matter. Patrick's character might be an occasionally gruff overbearing guy, but the real Patrick, even happily married, shouldn't complain, he still has to act. He's way more gracious than his on-screen persona.

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