Interview: Robert Patrick Talks 'Scorpion', Playing Cabe Gallo, Working With Elyes Gabel & More – TVWise

Scorpion – the CBS network’s newest hit drama hits the UK tonight on ITV2.
The show is based on the real life Walter O’Brien and follows the exploits of an eccentric genius and his international network of super-geniuses who are last line of defense against a range of complex threats; ranging from landing planes when the ATC system goes down to tracking down a bomber who threatens to damage the infrastructure of the internet.
Scorpion – which boasts an all star cast that includes Elyes Gabel, Robert Patrick, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Ari Stidham and Ernie Hudson – has drawn strong ratings on CBS in the United States with almost 14 million viewers tuning into the series premiere. And while CBS has yet to make an official decision, the show is widely expected to earn a back nine/full season order in the coming weeks.
Ahead of the UK premiere, TVWise recently sat down with series star Robert Patrick to discuss the show, his character Cabe Gallo, working with Elyes Gabel, what fans can expect from the rest of the season and much more.
Spoiler Warning – The following interview contains spoilers which some UK readers may wish to avoid.
TVWise: What can you tell us about your character Cabe Gallo?
Robert Patrick: We don’t really know what Cabe’s military background is, but I am sure he has some. He’s a smart guy, college graduate, but also has street smarts. Something has happened in his past with his own family where he lost a daughter. He met Walter at about the same time he was going through some personal crisis and Walter sparked something in him. He was really intrigued with Walter and his intellect and decided to nurture that and created a relationship by giving him the tools that Walter needed to reach his full potential. Walter didn’t really relate to his father very well, so Cabe kind of becomes a father figure to him. They have a good strong relationship and you are going to see in an upcoming episode something happens where Walter feels that I betrayed him. Cabe’s job is to essentially let Walter grow and continue to reach his full potential as a leader of this group of people and do good for the world. The bottom line is it’s about doing well. That’s the thing that [series creator and executive producer] Nick Santora drilled in me. My character is this cantankerous old guy who is kind of grouchy, but bottom line, we are about doing the right thing when you are supposed to. It’s been a lot of fun and very gratifying.
TVWise: What attracted you to the role?
Robert Patrick: Well, I was looking for a nice steady gig on television. It allowed me to do movies in between and it also allowed me to stay in Los Angeles. They offered me the part and when I go the script, they told me that it was produced by CBS Studios for the CBS network – which is always a good sign. When the studio is making something for the network that is always a good business model. Also, there are some great people involved with the project such as Justin Lin directing, Nick Santora, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman; so things were really adding up.
Scorpion is this really wonderful take on the action/drama with a little bit of comedy. When you are looking at it from that point of view, you realize that it has a lot of entertainment value and there aren’t many shows out there like that. It presented itself as being something very unique and the role spoke to me as well. I could see many of my past roles being able to inform this role. It became an absolute no brainer and I would be crazy not to do it. How lucky I am that they are offering this role to me and there was really no downside to it. You read the script, you find out that Walter O’Brien is a real guy and then you meet your cast and get excited about that. It’s funny, when I read the script and we started working on it, I knew it would get picked up to series.
TVWise: Did you get to talk with the real Walter O’Brien while preparing for the role?
Robert Patrick: Not before, but I met him at lunch while we were filming the pilot. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over initially. You kind of get intimidated wondering what a guy is going to be like who has a 197 IQ, but when I met him he was a really nice, personable guy. He told us some great stories and great things that he is involved with. He gets these assignments and is gone from us for a while and then he pops his head in every once in a while to say hello and visit us on set.
TVWise: Your character obviously has a history with Walter O’Brien, will that back story be explored more as the series goes on?
Robert Patrick: Yeah, that’s definitely something this is good conflict and good drama. It’s something that we will definitely deal with over the years and continue to try to resolve that and explain that to the audience. We have some upcoming episodes of the series that will deal directly with that. They are doing such a beautiful job with the way they are writing my character. The writers are acknowledging that something happened, but is my character some sort of a dark, mysterious government guy who is up to no good? Or is Cabe a good guy who is trying to do good work? They are building that side more and I love what they are doing. The episode we are about to start up I am really excited about.
TVWise: Cabe has to walk a fine line between protecting Walter and his team and pleasing the people he reports to…
Robert Patrick: Yeah, I would absolutely agree with that. I have to protect Walter from the government bureaucracy and the protocol that is involved with big government and hindering people from actually reaching their full potential. I have to give him a lot of room to wiggle and do his thing, but at the same time I have to watch him because he can really go way off the reservation. Not only do I have Walter, but I have the three other members of the team and that’s why we recruit Kat McPhee’s character. She’s a very important part of the team. She’s the person I rely on to help me keep them in line and I expect her to help me out. It’s not an easy job to translate the world to these geniuses.
TVWise: There is definitely this mix of old school versus new school between Cabe and the team and that dynamic not only adds tension, but humour as well…
Robert Patrick: Absolutely. I think that is a very accurate description and that has been the fun part. When I went to college, computers took up the entire floor of a college building and you had to go learn the binary code. Now, it’s a different generation of kids and the old ways are starting to fall to the wayside. We have to get in there and pick out the good parts of the old way that still make sense and that can help us. I like the fact that my character is open minded enough to at least listen to what they want to propose. That part of Cabe I really like, but at the same time, Cabe likes to stick it to them and say stuff like “Back in the old days, this is how we did things”. It’s fun and I think the audience is enjoying it. The demographics we are going for are a little bit younger, but I think it skews that way and the stories are that way. It’s a bunch of young kids showing the old guy a thing or two and the old guy gets to show the kids a thing or two.
TVWise: Would you say that with Walter, Cabe is looking for both closure redemption through his career?
Robert Patrick: Oh yeah. I think Cabe has suffered like all of us; disappointments in his life with some of them have been devastating. The biggest one for Cabe to deal with is letting that kid down and really trying to figure out how I repair that relationship because it is so special. Especially since Cabe lost his own biological child and it had a devastating effect on Cabe and his marriage. Walter represents a fresh new start for Cabe and I think that he would have been a great father and I think Walter is giving him that chance to be a great father.
TVWise: You have some great scenes with Elyes Gabel, who plays Walter O’Brien, what is it like working with him?
Robert Patrick: Elyes is terrific and he’s a wonderful guy to work with. We really do have a great chemistry and it’s funny because we are nothing alike and we both come from two completely different worlds and backgrounds. Even with that, we are really comfortable with each other and we trust each other as actors. We enjoy doing scenes together and I think we got lucky that we like each other. I think that translates and it makes the job that we are doing so much easier. He’s very funny and makes me laugh all the time and sometimes he frustrates me, but it works. When you are making a television show, you are a family, especially a show with this many cast members. For the most part, you are together all the time and you really do become a family, crew included. You have to hope you get along with each other and we are really lucky that we do get along. We generally care for each other and I hope that comes across to the viewers.
TVWise: What do you think separates Scorpion from other dramas on television today?
Robert Patrick: We are not afraid to have fun. Everything that we are doing is based in reality. Everything that happens has happened to the real Walter O’Brien or it is a scenario that has been proposed to him that he’s thought about and they have figured out ways to make it work for us. It doesn’t mean that everything we do has really happened, but it means it’s been thought about or something that he’s been aware of, so that’s how the writers go about it. We have great writers and they have done a wonderful job of making it entertaining and fun. Now you can sit there and poke holes in some of the stuff that we do, but that’s ok. We are making Indiana Jones – a serialized version of an action adventure if that makes sense. There is a fun element that we aren’t going to get rid of, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have real dramatic and heartfelt moments. I think there is a lot of room to wiggle there and I think that is what will keep people tuning in. The wonderful thing that I am hearing from people is that they really enjoy it.
This show is unique because families are tuning in and watching it. Kids are getting into the program and finding that it’s cool to be smart and cool to actually think. It’s a nice hour escape after a busy day of work.
TVWise: What can fans expect from the rest of the season?
Robert Patrick: We are going to continue to explore the characters and their relationships. All the cast are great actors that have wonderful things that they can do and bring to their respective parts. Each character has their own idiosyncrasies, flaws and phobias. It’s just going to be interesting to explore it all. We are going to introduce a character here and there and it’s just going to continue to evolve like that. I am really happy with the family dynamic that the ensemble has put together and I like that feeling. I am sure when things get comfortable, they will come in and rustle things up a bit and make us have to scramble. It’s so nice to be on such a great network and have their backing as well. It’s nice to be on a winner.
Robert Patrick plays Department of Homeland Security Agent Cabe Gallo on Scorpion, which premieres on ITV2 tonight (October 23rd) at 9pm.