Patrick Fabian plays someone a lot less in control in "Driver X" than Howard Hamlin, the "Better Call Saul" character who inspires strangers to call him names.
When fans of the boutique AMC TV show interact with Fabian even a little, they realize he's actually a nice guy.
Fabian was at Twin Cities Film Fest last week promoting "Driver X" (DriverXmovie.com). "I am the driver in 'Driver X,' a middle-aged guy who used to own a record store at exactly the wrong time in history," he said. "It goes belly-up, and all of a sudden my wife has to go to work and I have to start driving to help our finances and save our marriage. A middle-aged guy hitting the streets of late-night Los Angeles, running into the next generation. It's sort of a coming-of-middle-age story. It's an independent low-budget thing." Fabian said he did all the driving, in writer/director Henry Barrial's Toyota Prius. "It was fun. I'd be driving eight hours a night, with cameras on top of the hood, on the side of the car, cameraman inside the car, cameraman inside the trunk, a really creative experience."
Because it is low budget, not all the permits were secured. "The one permit we absolutely had was a driving permit for the streets of Los Angeles at night," Fabian said. "We were filming every night for about three weeks, and we must have passed 100 cops and they didn't even slow down."
Q: Howard's wardrobe is splendid. Do you get to keep any suits?
A: I want to add all of them to my closet. AMC has different ideas. My dirty little secret is every time I enter any scene, Howard gets to think, "My suit is the most expensive suit in the room." Howard thrives off that. They probably have 10 to 15 suits for me and a myriad shirts and tie bars. Jennifer Bryan is our wardrobe designer. She just makes me feel like a million dollars. The suit makers are here in downtown Los Angeles. They are from Italy. They are the best-dressed men I have ever seen. I went down last year and said, "Cut me a Howard Hamlin suit." It was the one treat I gave myself after three years on the show.
Q: If you were an attorney in real life, would you be upstanding or the scumbag ambulance-chasing variety?
A: Ahhhh, my first response is, "What pays better?" I think ultimately I would have a bad time lying. Jimmy McGill's behavior [as Saul] I find difficult to stomach, and I don't think I would be able to do it.
Q: So you get all the lying out of your system at the office?
A: [Pause, then laugh]Yeah.
Q: What's the most reprehensible thing your character has done?
A: It's funny. I don't think I've done anything reprehensible. The fans seem to think I've done a lot. Like, one of my favorite scenes was Season 1, where I go down to celebrate Jimmy passing the bar and there's cake and everything and the expectation is that I'm going to say, "Come on board, join us," and instead I tell him, "It's not gonna happen." That felt bad. That felt duplicitous because I knew there wasn't a good reason to say no to him. It was being mean. I don't think Howard likes to be mean, really. Despite what people think.
Q: In your lifetime, how much Hershey's chocolate have you eaten, being raised down the road from the factory in Harrisburg, [Pa.]?
A: An appalling amount, the size of a small station wagon, I'd say. I was just at Hershey Park with my family, introducing my children to Chocolate World. They could not believe they got to start the day with chocolate sundaes. I'm like, "All bets are off, you can have whatever you want all day long until you're sick." Sure enough, they got sick about 1 o'clock and we left.
Q: You've been married eight years, married in your 40s?
A: I spent all my 20s and 30s pretending I was so focused on my career and thinking about me. As soon as I got married and started having children, they — by their nature — wonderfully demand your attention, your time and your care. [Having] to focus outside of myself, not surprisingly, I got better jobs, I got better at auditioning, more relaxed about everything. I'm not suggesting any young actors out there get pregnant and have children at 20, I'm not saying that's going to help your career but for me, all the things fell into place at the right time.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on FOX 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count.