Robert Patrick’s resume is littered with military titles.
He’s been sergeants and majors and commanders. He’s also played an astounding variety of colonels, from “NCIS” to “Chuck” to “The Unit.”
It was on “The Unit” that Patrick worked with Shawn Ryan, the man behind his latest military role, Master Chief Joseph Prosser on “Last Resort.”
In one respect, Prosser is probably a villain on “Last Resort,” in the sense that the Chief of Boat has developed an adversarial relationship with our ostensible hero, Andre Braugher’s Captain Marcus Chaplin.
But “heroes” and “villains” aren’t so clearly delineated on the Thursday night drama and in an interview last week, Patrick made it clear that Prosser is merely following his loyalties to the United States of America in the face of what he views as Marcus Chaplin’s treason. Of course, don’t expect things on “Last Resort” to be that simple, whether Prosser is about to foment revolt against Chaplin, or whether his loyalties are about to change.
In my conversation with Patrick, we discussed his reunion with Ryan, his new friend Andre Braugher and the very personal stake he has in his collection of military roles.
HitFix: I assume that Shawn Ryan was the big draw for you here. What’s it like working with him again?
Robert Patrick: It’s awesome. Shawn is just, I think, one of the most creative people in TV today. He’s a great writer. He also writes movies, but he’s done some really fantastic work in this medium. And he’s a friend. I read the script and I kinda let him know that I loved the script and I thought the Prosser role was terrific and here I am doing it. He just gives you good stuff to do. He keeps it really interesting and I dig that.
HitFix: I’m sure you see a ton of scripts, both film and television. Can you maybe define a bit more what makes a Shawn Ryan script look or feel different?
Robert Patrick: It’s real. It’s just real. The dialogue’s real. The characters are really fleshed out. The way the scenes are put together, it’s just so different. It’s very similar to what you get from Chris Carter. It’s very similar to what you get with David Chase. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been very lucky, starting with “The Sopranos” and going with Chris Carter and now with Shawn Ryan, I’ve been very lucky that I’ve worked with, I think, some of the best of the best in the business and, I dunno, I’ve been doing it for 30 years.
HitFix: I sense that your character here is a very trustworthy man, but that his trustworthiness is maybe contingent on his loyalties. Where do you see Prosser’s loyalties being after three episodes?
Robert Patrick: His loyalties are to the United States of America, to his country. He loves his country. He believes whole-heartedly in the military. He believes in the Navy. He believes in protocol. He has reasons for believing in that. It’s a disciplined way for him to live, which he needs for his life and some of that will be forthcoming, you’ll find some chinks in his armor. But he is a very trustworthy guy and he’s very dedicated to all these things. He’s got outstanding values. He’s the kinda guy you wanna have in the position that he’s in, because he leads the men. He’s Chief of Boat. He’s the highest ranking enlisted man there is. He and the captain are the only two people on the boat who aren’t in training. He’s basically watching the XO. The XO’s in training. The lieutenant’s in training. They’re all in training, but he’s not. He’s the captain’s right hand man. He’s his go-to guy. The captain and the Chief of Boat spend about three hours per day together talking and going over what’s happening with them.
So this has definitely put a wedge in-between him and Captain Marcus Chaplin and he understands what might be the reason why Marcus has acted the way he has acted under the duress of losing his son and it might be some sort of payback. He’s not quite sure of his motives, but he certainly can see things that happened to Marcus that might be sending him or causing this to happen to begin with. But he’s pretty much in shock. He never would have seen this coming that Marcus would behave this way. And it’s literally an act of treason and he knows it and he doesn’t want any part of it. He watches the XO and the lieutenant fall right in behind the captain. I don’t know how to put it any other way than that it’s literally an act of treason. They betrayed the country.
It’s a huge disappointment. Now would he retaliate and go after the captain? No. He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do to protect the boat and the men first. So his goal isn’t to go after the captain and his goal isn’t to do anything that would undermine him to the men, as long as he can protect the boat and the men on the boat. Does that make any sense whatsoever?
HitFix: Absolutely! Now in your view of this character, when Marcus trusts him at the end of the third episode, do you think he’s trustworthy to Marcus? Or is the overarching loyalty to “country” mean that he’s not so trustworthy when he gives his word to Marcus?
Robert Patrick: He is very trustworthy when he gives his word to Marcus. But let’s be clear on what the word was: I will not do anything to sabotage or undermine his authority. I will back the captain. I will have the captain’s back. And I will literally, in an upcoming episode say, “I know that you don’t have faith in your captain,” with the underlying hint that possibly I don’t have faith in the captain, “But I will tell you this much: You will have faith in the COB and you will do what I tell you to do.” And that’s basically what I’m gonna do is make sure nothing happens to this boat, it doesn’t go into the wrong hands, it’s not sabotaged by somebody. Protect the men, that’s the most important part for Prosser.
I’ll put it to you another way: I will never be on the same side as Marcus Chaplin and if I am, it would be because my country let me down and I would equate that with the same way the Vietnam soldier who believed in his country came back and found out that his country had let him down. I would be devastated if my country let me down. That’s Joe Prosser’s mindset. He would be destroyed.
HitFix: You talked about the terrific writers you’ve worked with over the years…
Robert Patrick: I bragged.
HitFix: Then what does it do for you as an actor to be going head-to-head each week with an actor like Andre Braugher?
Robert Patrick: You know what? My wife was actually more familiar with Braugher and a huge Andre Braugher fan and she really pushed me to do this show and basically it was to work with Andre. I must say that I think he is just tremendous. He’s a terrific guy. I love working with him. He’s certainly got the chops and I’m hoping he’ll elevate my game and I look for more and more opportunities to work one-on-one with him. I wasn’t looking for a new friend, but I found one.
HitFix: You’ve played your share of military men over the years. Maybe even more than your share…
Robert Patrick: [Joking.] And what do you mean by THAT?
HitFix: Oh, I’m just saying that people seem to think you fit well into that world. How naturally does that come for you at this point.
Robert Patrick: Oh. OK. Good. Yeah. I gotcha. I think I’ve played my share and I’m hopefully gonna play even more as time goes on. I love doing it. I come from a military family. I think there’s something about, I dunno, my genetics or my ancestry. I take it very, very seriously as far as the commitment I give it as an actor to try to pull off whatever military guy it is that I’m playing. I think Joe Prosser’s one of the most fascinating guys I’ve ever played. It’s a real neat experience. And the more Chief of Boats I meet and I get to know, the more I get it.
HitFix: How much have you been hands-on in approaching and talking with actual COBs?
Robert Patrick: Quite a bit. There’s a lot of military, there’s a lot of Navy. As a matter of fact, the island I’m on in Hawaii, Oahu, there’s a Marine base, there’s an Air Force base, there’s a Army base and there’s a Navy base, Pearl Harbor. It’s just loaded with people and I’ve met a Chief of Boat there and I’ve hung out on some subs there and I’ve gotten to know these guys. I have personal friends who have served on subs, a guy who I ride motorcycles with who I’m able to hit up for information. What can I say? I’m trying to get everything I can from these people and understand what it’s like to make that commitment. Did you serve in the military?
HitFix: I didn’t, no.
Robert Patrick: Nor did I. And that’s one of the reasons I love playing them so much. They’re really superheroes. These are the best people we have to offer as a country, these people that willfully go into this profession to protect your freedom and my freedom and our families. And they do that for us. I don’t know. It’s just incredibly selfless of them to do that on your behalf and my behalf. I think that’s why I’m so intrigued by it. Maybe I want to try to understand some of the people in my family who served. My grandfather served in four wars and ran away a very young age and lied about his age to get into World War I. He died during Vietnam and maybe in some weird way it’s a personal connection to him.
[At this point, the publicist notes that we’re out of time.]
Robert Patrick: I was just now getting very emotional. I was getting serious!
“Last Resort” airs its fourth episode on Thursday, October 18. You can also check out my interview with Autumn Reeser.