Robert Patrick has commented on how grateful he is for his role as T-1000 in the Terminator movies, and for the opportunities the iconic character has afforded him throughout his career. In an exclusive interview with The Digital Fix, the actor described his role in the ‘90s movie as a blessing, not simply for turning him into one of cinema’s all-time greatest villains but also for allowing him the luxury of playing against type in his later work.
Ahead of the release of his new horror movie, What Josiah Saw, which arrives on streaming service Shudder on August 4, we spoke to Patrick about his lengthy career. Naturally, the topic of his work in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Terminator 2 was a focus of our conversation, but this is an actor whose career is not defined by just one role.
With over 160 credits to his name, Patrick is far more than just a bad guy from a great thriller movie. He would be the first to admit that the role as T-1000 opened doors for him, but he has grown as an actor in the years since and now has a rich and diverse filmography to look back on.
His latest role, as the titular Josiah, sees Patrick delve into the darkest depths of his repertoire for another truly chilling display of villainy. What Josiah Saw is a blistering tale of familial trauma, with Patrick, the patriarch at the head of this deeply troubled household.
Religious themes of sin and redemption bleed through What Josiah Saw, creating a brooding and unsettling atmosphere within which its performers excel. For Patrick, this abhorrent character was clearly a lot of fun to play around with and a challenge he relished.
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“It’s really a spiritual film. The sins that are committed in this movie they’re so far beyond redemption, and it’s all just so outrageous that the film makes you wonder,” Patrick said. “But, I felt very safe within that world because of where my character sits.”
“As an actor, I had a lot of fun playing this part as a result, because it kind of put a twinkle in my eye,” Patrick added. “I shot this film before I shot Peacemaker. So in a weird way, this performance kind of informed another character that I was going to play that I didn’t even know was looming on the horizon.”
Patrick plays another despicable character in the DCEU TV series, as the father to John Cena’s lead character. The links between the two roles run deep, too, as Patrick teased his involvement in the show ahead of the Peacemaker season 2 release date.
“There’s another similarity between the character I play in What Josiah Saw and my character in Peacemaker,” Patrick teased, dodging spoilers like a seasoned pro. Anyone who has seen his new film will know that a very different version of Auggie Smith is coming our way in the next instalment of the sci-fi series.
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It’s not all bad guys and brutality for Robert Patrick, though, even if most of the people who run into him recognise him as the deadly assassin from a robot movie. His diverse career has seen him dive into many other franchises and play a range of different characters.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to play some leading man roles, like in The X Files as John Doggett. Fire in the Sky was another, as a romantic lead,” Patrick recalled. “I’ve been able to play people with really great hearts. You know, genuinely good people and then some of the most ugly human beings ever.”
“I would have loved for The X Files to have continued. That was my most beloved character, John Doggett. I loved playing that part,” Patrick mused. “I felt like that could go on forever. There’s so many characters that I really, really love. And I’m very grateful for all of them.”
Patrick acknowledged the profound impact James Cameron’s action movie sequel has had on his career, though. In fact, the success of the Terminator movies is so huge that it’s had an almost paradoxical effect on how Patrick operates in the industry. You’d think playing such an iconic role would hold an actor back in a sense, but not Robert Patrick.
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“To have something like the Terminator in my resume is a fantastic thing. And I think the T-1000 is much more famous than Robert Patrick, which is another blessing in the sense that it’s allowed me just to keep going and doing different things,” Patrick explained. “I don’t feel like I’ve been stereotyped in any way, especially when you see something like What Josiah Saw.”
When you get the chance to speak to someone like Robert Patrick, there’s only one question you really need to ask – who was truly the superior machine, the original Terminator from the ‘80s movie, or the T-1000 upgrade?
“Well, Arnold won. But I was the best Terminator. The T-1000 was totally set up to kick his ass,” Patrick claimed. “So I had a lot of help with that. But it’s just such a great character, you know, the T-1000 is the best Terminator.”
That sounds like fighting talk to us. With the science fiction movie franchise still rolling on all these years later, and the likes of Arnie and Linda Hamilton reprising their roles in the series, we wondered if there was a chance of the T-1000 ever coming back.
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“I’m on the record as saying no. And then I’m on the record as saying yes. Right now, anything is possible. I would never say never to anything,” Patrick admitted. “I would wonder how I would approach it now as an actor. I’ve grown as an actor quite a bit.”
“The downside of the almost 40-year career I’ve had is that physically, I’m not the same specimen I was back in the day. So that would have to be addressed,” Patrick said. “But certainly, the way I was helped back then, certainly, I could be helped now. So it would be interesting for me.”
The help of which Patrick speaks, of course, is the incredible technical developments that were used to bring his villainous android to life on the screen. The work of James Cameron and the team at Industrial Light and Magic was revolutionary at the time, utilising an early version of motion-capture technology to create jaw-dropping visual effects.
Audiences were stunned to see the T-1000 turn to liquid and pass through metal bars in pursuit of his prey, and it’s the kind of sequence that still holds up as one of the greatest moments of VFX work to this day. For Patrick, putting that together was a special experience.
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“When I read the script, my mind was blown. I thought ‘How the hell are we going to do this?'” Patrick recalled. “I think what made the film, and the character so successful was that we had a constant foundation for the T-1000. We had a specific run, a specific walk, we had things that I can go back to that made it seamless.”
“The fact James Cameron wanted my face to be the recognisable face of that character, gave audiences something to hate, to fear,” Patrick added. “So, you know, we had all those elements working together, and I think why the film is so relevant today is there’s so many physical practical stunts – it’s not overloaded with CGI.”
It’s a good point, actually. For all the glory of the big money shot in question, what makes Terminator 2 one of the best movies of all time is the fact that it doesn’t rely on gimmicks or green screen. Terminator 2 is pure, unadulterated, kick-ass action; they just don’t make them like this anymore, do they?
Patrick’s attention isn’t on time travel movies and killer robots right now, though, with What Josiah Saw preparing for worldwide consumption. Beyond that, like many of us, Patrick isn’t sure what the future holds.
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“I love doing stuff like this. I don’t know how deep my well is, and I don’t know how long I can keep dipping down into this stuff and finding all this stuff,” Patrick explained. “I’m certainly taking a little bit more time. I don’t know what I’m gonna do next.”
“I think I have something really big that I’m committing to in a week or two that I’m excited about,” Patrick teased, not looking to give away the game. “But, you know, I’m not sure how many of these little movies I have left. I told Vincent [Grashaw, the director of What Josiah Saw], this might have been the last one.”
Don’t worry, though, Patrick hasn’t fallen out of love with the art of independent filmmaking just yet. “In a weird way, it’s a wonderful way to work because it’s so stripped down and bare. And that all adds to the creative process from every element, from every department.”
Indeed, the level of creativity and originality at the heart of What Josiah Saw elevates this beyond your standard small-budget horror movie. It’s essentially an extremely creepy and dark drama movie, with exceptional technical elements and ferocious performances from the ensemble cast. Come for Robert Patrick acting his socks off; stay for the disturbing final act, which will leave you speechless.
You can watch What Josiah Saw on Shudder as part of a subscription. The movie is released exclusively on the platform on August 4, 2022. Sign up to Shudder here.