Rick Yaeger: Hey everyone. If I’ve done this correctly, today is International Talk like a Pirate Day. Who better to have on the show than Lee Arenberg. You know Lee Arenberg from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. He played Pintel. If I can lean on him a bit, maybe he’ll teach me to talk like a pirate. Check it out.
Rick: You’ve seen today’s guest in countless character parts over the years, but you’ll more than likely recognize him from his role as Pintel in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and, more recently, Grumpy in ABC’s hit series “Once Upon a Time”. Please welcome Lee Arenberg.
Lee Arenberg: Hello everyone in the world of cyber communication.
Rick: Thank you.
Lee: Rick, what I should have said is, ” ‘Ello poppet”.
Rick: OK. We’ll ask you some questions. It’s Talk like a Pirate Day today. I can’t talk like a pirate.
Lee: We’ll get you going. The thing about being a pirate is it’s about attitude. I think you have it.
Lee: You are a nonconformist in an ever conforming world, right?
Rick: Oh, for sure.
Lee: Just like a pirate. It’s just embracing your nonconformity in the ever conforming world. To talk like it, just put some stink on it.
Lee: Make sure it’s got a little stink to it. We’ll get you going buddy.
Rick: OK. First, I want to talk about “Once Upon a Time”.
Rick: First off, I’m excited about this show, because it’s filmed in my hometown.
Lee: You’re a Vancouver boy?
Rick: I’m a Vancouver boy. I grew up in Richmond, right in the port of Steveston.
Lee: What a charming, cool village, right in the middle of the metropolis. It’s not that far from downtown Vancouver. What, about 30 minutes, depending on traffic?
Lee: You feel like you’re in another world. I love it up there bro. I’m not just blowing smoke. I have a lot of respect for the hospitality of the Canadians, when they’re not talking about the rivalry with America. [laughs]
Lee: I’m always like, “Dude, we could take you in one minute.” What a beautiful country. Some of the most spectacular countryside you’ll ever see on earth is British Columbia. It’s magnificent. We are lucky. I think that’s what adds a lot of the charm and magic to the show is the fact that we shoot it in exactly the right spot. We don’t have to hunt for a magical forest. Those forests are magical, all around that. It’s like primeval — it rains 50 inches up there.
Lee: What a marvelous place. Steveston…obviously you think you’re in a New England village, with the great fishing history of the fishing fleet there. It has some of the best fish and chips and some of the best pizza too.
Rick: I understand the show was a big risk.
Lee: I think risk and reward is a big thing in television. If you go for a story that hasn’t been told before and you nail it, you have the chance to achieve a really special thing like what I think the guys have done with “Once Upon a Time”. You are taking material that people already embrace and really dig, those being the fairytales and the Disney ones specifically, taking and changing nothing of what the audience already knows and loves about them. You’re just filling in the blanks differently. What’s in between the lines with the characters changes. Where they start and where they finish are the same.
Lee: It’s the same thing that the writers and the filmmakers did with “Pirates”, taking an established property and telling the audience that was already there, “Hey, we know it’s your story. It’s your ride. It’s your fairytale. But let us borrow them and reinterpret them with you.” Then the fans are really responsible for the success of it.
Lee: The cyber success of the show is one of the big new formulas in marketing a TV show. I have direct contact with the fans.
Rick: For sure.
Lee: When we live tweet the show, it goes crazy. It’s fantastic. 99 percent of them are terrific, amazing fans and fantastic crazy obsessed.
Rick: I just watched a really great documentary. It was called “That Guy, Who Was in That Thing”. Have you heard of it?
Lee: No, but aren’t I that guy? Aren’t I one of those?
Rick: It was all about character actors.
Lee: Yeah. Ultimately, character actors want to be called “actors that play characters.” The greatest actors in our business are character actors, at least in my idea. With a movie star, you can usually always see the movie star within the character. The Johnny Wayne’s never really lose their Johnny Wayne-ness. They say that about Clooney, but yet “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” was one of my favorites and that was not George Clooney. You’ve got to give the actor credit, once in a while, even the good-looking dudes.
Lee: Character chops.
Rick: One thing they mentioned in that documentary was The List. I know you’ve talked about this before. You’re introducing yourself to somebody and they say, “I’m a graphic designer. What do you do?” You say, “I’m an actor.” Then the inevitable question comes…
Lee: Yeah, “What have I seen you in?” That was a big issue for me for a good long time, my first 15 years in the business probably. I had done a lot of shows that people had watched. But they hadn’t seen “The Tales of the Crypt” or the “Seinfeld” and it’s hard to recognize anyone in the Star Trek makeup.
Rick: For sure.
Lee: In “Waterworld”, I had the smallest part in the back, driving the jet skis with Dennis Hopper’s crew. I had some credits. But screen time is really what they respond to I definitely think. Even in “Pirates”, I was in a lot of makeup. At least, after we’d done the “Pirates” movies, I would always win that conversation. I knew, at the end, they’d almost all seen my work, but just didn’t recognize me, which is kind of a compliment in a weird way.
Rick: You disappeared into that character.
Lee: Yeah. That’s really what I dig doing.
Rick: Are the kids afraid to come up to Pintel?
Lee: No. No. The kids usually are actually…you find some. But the ones that figure out that it’s me aren’t usually too afraid. Grumpy seems to be most accessible to the audience.
Lee: That’s really been a great thing for me to play this character, because he’s irascible through a broken heart and he has a nobility to him. Even though he’s a bit of a tough guy, he’s tough for the good guys. He’s not a mean character.
Lee: He’s a noble guy. He’s a lover. If you fall in even fake love with Amy Acker, that’s going to definitely change your life forever.
Rick: Even Pintel started off being on Barbosa’s boat.
Lee: Yeah. Yeah. But he’s switched sides a couple of times.
Rick: But even when he was the bad guy, he had this friendship. He was concerned about getting his friend a real glass eye.
Lee: Well, yeah. Mackenzie and I created this back story. We were like, “What’s the reason these dudes are sailing together? They share half a brain.”
Lee: “How do you explain their Laurel-and-Hardy-ness?”
Rick: That’s exactly what they are.
Lee: Basically that’s my sister’s kid. That’s what we said. He probably came to sea with me. Maybe his dad died or whatever. I became like his Uncle Abner. We created our own back story. We created that they had that relationship, because they were best friends. That worked for us.
Rick: Do you think you can teach me?
Lee: Sure, dude. Do you want to talk like Pintel?
Rick: I can’t talk like a pirate. I’m Canadian. We are as far away from Pirate Town as possible.
Lee: Listen, one of the first things you want to do to be a pirate is make your mistake on the other side of the ocean.
Rick: OK. [laughs]
Lee: You want to get yourself over. You could be any kind of pirate. I pretty much do the English pirate. But there’s Robert what’s his name…the “Treasure Island” guy. Who’s the dude from “Treasure Island”?
Rick: I don’t remember his name. It’s Long John Silver.
Lee: Right. He does the Bristol sound, [talking like a pirate] the hard…that’s the classic pirate for me. Robert Shaw.
Lee: It’s weird. It’s got that [talking like a pirate] treasure and knife…in England. I don’t know why. When it’s a London…we based our guys on a London sound. My guy had more of a Cockney…he would say the words like [talking like a pirate], “Right” and “Like”, that ” ‘Ello poppet”. That’s what they all want to hear from me.
Rick: [laughs] OK. Should I try it
Lee: Try it.
Rick: OK. [clears throat] It sounds like I need to have…
Lee: Do me a favor. Go like this to the screen….
Rick: [laughs] Yeah.
Lee: …like that and think of Keira Knightley in the closet.
Rick: OK. I don’t know if I can reach with the microphone in the way. Here we go. Over here. [talking like a pirate] ” ‘Ello poppet.”
Lee: Yeah, that’s pretty good.
Rick: Is it good?
Lee: Yeah, but not [whispering inaudible], because she’s right here [whispering inaudible] and you want to scare her.
Rick: [talking like a pirate] ‘Ello poppet.
Lee: A little bit more. Instead of that, “pop”, make it a “PoP”. [makes popping noise]
Rick: Pop. Poppet.
Lee: That’s it.
Rick: [talking like a pirate] Hello poppet.
Lee: [talking like a pirate] ‘Ello poppet. No “h”, because they drop the h’s. Cockney’s don’t say…
Rick: [talking like a pirate] ‘Ello poppet.
Lee: [talking like a pirate] ‘Ello. ‘Ello.
Rick: [talking like a pirate] ‘Ello.
Rick: [talking like a pirate] ‘Ello poppet.
Lee: Perfect. Now just take that “‘ello” and take it up, like you’re happy to see her. You’re like, ” ‘Ello poppet.”
Rick: [talking like a pirate] ‘Ello poppet.
Lee: Dude, you’re in.
Lee: You’re halfway there. All it is, is put some stink on it.
Rick: OK. You know what Canadian pirates say? They just say, [talking like a pirate], “SARRRRy”. That’s about it. [laughs]
Lee: [talking like a pirate] Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
Rick: OK. I think we’d better get to the question.
Lee: Do it, my friend.
Rick: OK. As you know, the show is called “One Question Interviews”. I have hundreds of questions and I’ve chosen a few here that I’d like to know from you. I’m going to choose one at random. You can answer it seriously or as a pirate, if you’d like. Are you ready?
Lee: No. [laughs]
Rick: OK. I’ll wait.
Lee: You’ve scared me with this thing.
Rick: OK. I always think of that. When Criss Angel does that, “Are you ready?” thing, does anyone say, “No. Could you just…five seconds.”?
Lee: Yeah, 10 seconds.
Lee: Two years maybe, emotionally.
Rick: [laughs] OK. Here we go. What’s something you are embarrassed to say you once desperately wanted?
Lee: Oh my God, the “Three’s Company” TV movie.
Lee: I seriously desperately needed it badly, badly, badly. I thought I was the guy to be the producer and then Daniel Roebuck showed up at the audition. I went home and there in my mail…it might have been before e-mail…were the sides for “Pirates”. [laughs] So I would have missed out on “Pirates”, because I desperately needed to be in the “Three’s Company” movie.
Lee: But listen, in that business, you’ve got to take what’s right in front of you. You are only as good as your next gig. A sure thing is worth…there’s so much lip service in Hollywood that the surer thing is the surer thing. Many, many, many great actors have passed, for whatever reason I’m sure. That just happens to be one for me. I needed a job bad at the time. Things weren’t quite going. You go through phases in your career, especially character dudes. Yeah, that was a good question. It was that Three’s Company TV movie.
Yeah, a hundred percent, I desperately wanted it. I was CRUSHED for a couple of hours, until the sides…it might even have been the next day the sides came through. I think that audition was a Monday. The first “Pirates” thing I did would have been on a Thursday. I’ll never forget that. Absolutely. Yeah. It was actually a pretty good TV movie, as far as those go. Roebuck was a way better choice for the dude. But I had known a producer on that show “Action”. They liked me and that attack of that character.
Lee: I thought it was an incredibly fun show to be a part of.
Lee: The thing was, that show…the season before, every network had passed on “The Sopranos”.
Lee: CBS was supposed to have it, in other words. Then the networks went “edgy.” That show would have lasted a long time, if it was on Showtime. It was a bit of an “Entourage”-y, before its time. But, when you’ve got to bleep out all the “fucks” and all that kind of stuff and you still hear it, it’s still part of the rhythm of the Joel Silver character, it just loses something. He was just such a blue character, the Jay Mohr…what was his name? Peter Diamond or something. I forget. I forgot. There you go. Now I’ll worry about it.
Anyway, that happens all the time in your career, Rick. You’re going to want something desperately. We don’t know what we want. We are like dogs, actors. We all live on hope. I hope that you’re going to take me for a walk or throw me a biscuit or whatever it is. At the airport or when you’re out and about and someone says, “Do you mind if I take a picture with you?”, to me it’s like, “Do you mind? Why would I mind? I would mind, after you met me, if you didn’t want a picture.”
Lee: If you knew who I was and you recognized me and then you don’t want my picture [laughs], after I just talked to you, that would suck.
Lee: An actor has a little bit of responsibility as a celebrity. Not in California and maybe not even in Vancouver, where star sightings are a little more common, or the streets of New York, for example, or the streets of Chicago, but somewhere else, where it’s unusual that an actor’s at a grocery store or getting a scoop of ice cream with his family, give that person two minutes, if they recognize you — that fan — because they’re never going to forget it.
Lee: I think that’s a powerful responsibility to use. It’s an honor to be somebody that somebody would be impressed to meet.
Rick: Well, it’s an amazingly big deal. Even when we’re talking about Twitter, just to have Lee Arenberg retweet something I said about the show, is a big deal to a fan. What does it take out of your day but a click on a button?
Lee: No. I enjoy Twitter. I learn a lot. I follow bike racing, the things I like, my hockey team, organic food and certain politicians. I’m on the ground right now in…wherever…Turkey. I was in Chile, during the earthquake or Japan. I’m a news junkie. As a news source, my God, it’s the best. You’ve got the New York Times right there. You’ve got every paper you want basically to have access to and any story, you can get right into it. When they were on the manhunt for the Boston dudes, I was listening to the Boston radio cop feed that I heard on my Twitter. When I got on there, there were 500 people. An hour later, there were a million people listening to it.
Lee: It was one link on a Twitter or something. It’s powerful. Use it for good.
Rick: For sure.
Lee: Use it for good and for getting the word out. I think there are a lot more positives about the technology than negatives in our modern society. There is just more responsibility that comes with it. I think that’s one of the exciting things about our business. We are still storytellers. We are just like every actor that has come or gone. But we have this ability to be intimate with our audience.
Rick: Yeah. It’s a new opportunity to connect in real-time.
Rick: Whoever thought, when I was growing up, that I would be able to send a message to somebody I was watching on TV at that moment and let them know that, “What you’re doing is affecting me and I really like it. I really appreciate your show. I really appreciate what you’re doing.”
Lee: Yeah. It’s so cool. It’s great…or to be able to talk to an athlete. I like my LA Kings hockey. I’ve got a couple of the guys that follow me. If Dustin Penner does great in a game, I’m like, “Dude, what a brilliant play.” That he’s like, “Oh, thanks bro.”
Rick: [laughs] Well, thank you for spending time with me.
Lee: Yeah, I really enjoyed it. It’s been terrific.
Rick: It’s been an amazing conversation. I really enjoyed it. Everybody, check out Lee Arenberg on “Once Upon a Time”, Sundays at 8:00 PM Pacific, 7:00 PM Central.
Lee: And Two.
Lee: I’m sure, by the point of this interview…
Rick: It’s coming. (NOTE: It’s here… Netflix has Once Upon A Times Season 2)
Lee: It’ll also be out…I think by the time we air this, by today’s date, it’ll be on DVD as well.
Rick: The DVD. We are going to drop this on Talk Like a Pirate Day. You’re going to want to rent a few “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and check him out in that. (Pirates 1… Pirates 2… Pirates 3… Lee wasn’t in Pirates 4 :P)
Lee: Yeah, really enjoy that guys. Those were amazing films to make. Hopefully there will maybe be some more coming down the pipeline for you all in the next few years. That would be absolutely fantastic.
Rick: Well, there’s another pirate we didn’t talk about. That’s Captain Hook.
Lee: Oh, yeah.
Lee: Yeah, absolutely. Colin O’Donoghue portrays Captain Hook on our show. What a great addition. I love that character as well and any pirate.
Rick: Before I forget, follow @LeeArenberg on Twitter
Rick: Yeah. I’ll look it up. All the links are going to be right about here, below our faces. Check them out there or go to onequestioninterviews.com. This whole interview is going to be there with links for easy clicking. Everybody, I’m Rick Yaeger. Thanks for watching. Again, check out onequestioninterviews.com and check out my interview next week. Who knows who that’s going to be?
Rick: I had Lee Arenberg!!
Rick: Are you crazy? Anyway, thank you so much. OK people, bye-bye.