IN CONVERSATION WITH PATRICK SCHWARZENEGGER
Patrick Schwarzenegger was most recently seen in HBO Max’s series ‘The Staircase’. Currently he can be seen in the series ‘The Terminal List’ alongside his brother-in-law Chris Pratt, who stars and executive produces the series. ‘The Terminal List’ debuted on Amazon on July 1. Besides being a successful actor, Patrick is also involved in and co-founded multiple business ventures.
Patrick, you have many projects out now and coming up. You’re starring in HBO Max’s ‘The Staircase’, a series that chronicles the investigation, surprising trial and indictment of Michael Peterson. The miniseries is based on a true crime story. How did it make you feel starring in a project with such a heavy story? Did you have any special preparations before you began filming?
I was a huge fan of the documentary. During Covid, my family and I all watched it and became obsessed with it. So when I got the e-mail for the audition for this project, I was ecstatic. And I was even more excited once I learned that it was HBO Max and that Antonio Campos, our director was part of it. And Colin Firth and Dane DeHaan and Sophie Turner, Toni Collette and on and on. I mean, the cast was just unreal. So that was an amazing honor to get to work with all of them and to work on this project and bring a real story to life through dramatized version.
Antonio had us all do a bunch of different kind of preparations. And in the documentary there was not much at all about any of the kids. We had to learn a lot about what the family dynamic was before the murder and before the trial, then during and then after, and how these different characters and siblings evolve over time and their character arcs. We wanted to be as true to the story as possible. But at the same time, Antonio wanted to bring to light different ways that Kathleen could have died. So that was kind of part of the show and I think that’s what people really loved about it.
On July 1 ‘The Terminal List’ debuted on Amazon. What can you tell us about this series, its story and your character?
It’s really hard to describe ‘The Terminal List’ or my character without giving any spoiler away. But the project is based on this really amazing book series that Jack Carr, who’s a former Navy seal, wrote. And my brother-in-law, Chris Pratt, auctioned it and brought the story to life through this Amazon series. It’s kind of a psychological thriller with action, that’s about a Navy seal whose mission gets compromised and it’s got tons of different action. It’s got crazy psychological twists that you would never see coming. And there’s a bunch of people that are huge fans of the book series.
For me, it was just an honor to get to work with all these real Navy seals. In America, that’s some of the highest caliber men in the armed forces. We got to work with them and see their mindset and how they train and how they operate and how they work. The preparation we got to do for that included spending time with these Navy seals and working with them in the tactical training. It was really great. And Donny Mitchell, who I play, is the youngest platoon member. So he is kind of the young gun, the baby face of the group. And he has kind of a pivotal moment that changes the series.
As you already mentioned, ‘The Terminal List’ is executive produced by your brother-in-law, Chris Pratt. How has it been working with someone that is your family?
I’ve known Chris for a while now and I love him as a brother-in-law. He’s a great father to my nieces, a great husband to Katherine and a great friend and mentor to me. But to really get to see him work, producing a project and show running and bringing it to life and acting in it, was a whole other kind of space to see him in. And also how dedicated and motivated he was. He’s really good friends with a bunch of our Navy seals, so it meant a lot to him to bring it light in the proper and correct way.
What genre of films or series is your favorite to star in? Do you feel more comfortable playing certain roles than the others?
I’ve always made it kind of my goal to continuously change and adapt and find new roles to challenge me and to work with. ‘The Terminal List’ is a lot different than ‘The Staircase’, which is a lot different than ‘Moxie’, the last film that came out last year. And it’s a lot different than ‘The Boys’, which we’re filming right now for Amazon.
So for me, I just always love to change it up and work with really high caliber people and studios and producers. And that’s what I’ve gotten to do recently. It’s been a lot of fun and I just want to keep doing that.
Acting is in your family, but you are also a graduate of the University of Southern California with degrees in Cinematic Arts and Business. When did you know you wanted a career in acting and what made you pursue it?
It’s funny, because my dad also has a degree in business. He was taking business classes while he was body building, even before he started acting and filmmaking. He was the one that taught me “If you’re gonna do acting, that’s great, but there’s a lot of downtime while you’re on set. And there’s a lot of downtime even when you’re the biggest star in the world and you’re working eight months of the year or 10 months of the year. There’s always gonna be a few months where you don’t have something”. And he always said that it was a big issue for a lot of actors when they didn’t get work. They had identity crisis where they didn’t know what they were doing with their days or their weeks, they felt that they didn’t have passions on the side.
And so he always said to me “You should really invest in getting a business degree or study whatever else you want, so that you have it. Not that if acting doesn’t go right, but so that you have things to keep you busy and that you’re always keeping your mind going”. I’ve always loved business, ever since I was a kid doing a lemonade stand, and I continue to love it. It’s something that I work on and go to the office every day when I’m not filming. We work on our businesses and growing them and that’s been kind of an another career path for me that has really gone tremendously well and has continued to grow.
Would you say that your father’s career was something that inspired you to want to be in acting as well?
His career inspired me in many ways, not just to act. I think growing up for him and even for me, this system that we’re placed in, is that you do one job, become good at that job and you kind of climb the rank as life goes on, and then you retire. I think he was one of the first people, especially in the film industry, that broke that mold and said that you can do more than just film. You can do business and film and mix business with film. Like Planet Hollywood, which was one of the revolutionary things where they utilized actors to build a business. Now it’s very common, with different tequila companies or protein companies or whatever, but back then it was very revolutionary. Or for him to go into politics or whatever else charitable contributions.
It’s something that was not the norm, nor standard for an actor or for anybody. Usually you stay in your field and you stay in your box and that’s what people know you for. And I think I never felt comfortable with just being a business person or just being an entrepreneur or just being an actor. I always wanted to do more than that. I definitely look up to and am inspired by his career path and his choices. And I think the number one thing is, he never let people dictate what he can and couldn’t do. It was always about what his dreams were, what his passions were, where he wanted to go, not where he thought other people told him he should go.
Besides your dad of course, who is your biggest role model?
My mom. I work with my mom on our own brain health company that raises money for Alzheimer’s and it’s called ‘Mosh’. We have a protein bar with brain health ingredients. I work with her on a lot of things, from business to giving back. She’s always taught me that no matter where you are in life or how well you’re doing, to always find ways to give back and to help others. Her and my dad always said that no one is self-made. They always got help from another person and there’s always someone out there that needs help. We’re in a fortunate position to give help, whether that’s financially or through other means. She’s a huge mentor. So is Chris. They’re all very helpful and they’re always people that I could go to when I need advice or I need help. I trust them and I know they have the best in mind for me. And they’re all extremely great at what they do.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned thus far in your career?
I think giving back is always very important. It’s always better to give than receive. That’s always been a really important pillar of my life. And patience is another thing. Too often everybody wants kind of overnight success. They want to be a movie star right away, they want to make million dollars right away, or they want to be this thing and that thing. But things take time. That’s always a big reminder that I’m in it for the long haul. And that there’s a lot of things that I’m doing behind the scenes that no one will ever know or acknowledge, but there are things that are making me better. People always see just the finished product and I’m always remembering all the hard hours of work and things that go into getting you there. Having your eye on the end game is always important.
What are your goals for your career going forward? Would you say that you have any ‘bucket list’ wish or goal to achieve?
I’ve got a lot of different goals. On the business side, my main goal this last year and the years coming up was to create our own company, and that’s what we did with ‘Mosh’. The past five, 10 years has really been learning from other individuals and helping and investing and growing other companies, so that I would have the knowledge and expertise to go and build our own. So that was something that was a big goal of mine, and to continue to grow that and make it successful and raise money for Alzheimer’s, continues to be the same thing. Like I said before, I’m about the incremental gains and doing things every year that continue to push towards my overall goals.
In film, my goal is to just continue to work with really high caliber actors and directors. I don’t care if it’s a five minute role or if it’s a one hour role, I want to continue to find ways to learn and to grow, to surround myself with great talent and, continue to build my brand and presence and knowledge in the acting space. I have other goals of finding material myself and creating it from the ground up, like Chris did with ‘The Terminal List’. Going out and finding a book and optioning it and showrunning it and producing it and starring in it and doing all of it, but I still have a lot to learn to get to that point.
I’d love to have a production company where we went and spit out our own material and create original things. I think that there’s a lot of people like The Rock, Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg, those kinds of actors that have continued to push the realm of not being just an actor and created their own content house in studio and production. Adam, Sandler’s another huge example, but I think those are kind of the next steps in my career as I get to my thirties.
You are actively involved with multiple charity organizations, which include Best Buddies, Special Olympics and Move for Minds. Why is charity important to you?
I think there’s always people that help each other. It’s just the importance of giving back. It doesn’t need to be with charitable contributions or financial donations, it can be in the terms of volunteering, it can be in the terms of spreading awareness, whatever it might be. If my dad didn’t have someone to pay for his ticket to get to LA and sponsor him in the gym and to pay for his stuff and help him as a training partner, he would’ve never gotten to America or been able to become a bodybuilder. If my mom didn’t have mentors in the news business to allow her to be one of the first real leading women to be in the news channels and to give her that opportunity, who knows where her news career could have gone.
My family and my grandmother specifically has always been extremely embedded in giving back, with her creating Special Olympics and my grandfather creating the Peace Corp. So it’s been something that’s kind of been drilled into my head ever since I was young. That’s why this new company I do with my mom, ‘Mosh’, is a beautiful thing. It’s a blend of my world. It’s taking business and showing that you can be a mission driven company and be for profit, but also give to a non-profit. We can raise money for Alzheimer’s, which is what Move for Minds does. It raises money for Alzheimer’s and brain health research and it’s just another way of bringing awareness to it.
My mom is so passionate about that and I am too. We lost my grandfather to it. We’re just in a really fortunate position to be able to do so. And I think it’s important and you feel great from it and you do great from it. It’s kind of a win-win for everybody involved.
You are also involved in multiple business ventures and are the co-founder of ‘Blaze Pizza’, ‘Rumble Boxing’, ‘Cubcoat’s’ and ‘Super Coffee’. What excites you about business, and what actually drew you in the business waters?
I think it’s the creativity angle. If you were to line up what are the similarities between a business and a house or a construction and a movie, it’s a really beautiful thing to watch a dream become a reality. If you really watch and you get to visualize this idea of words on a paper becoming a set design, going into hair and makeup, creating a film, editing and watching the final product, or having an architect design a house, going out and building it each day for a year, it coming to the end result, you see this end product or a business.
I had an idea for a pizza shop, where people can customize their pizzas, and I watched it grow from the first store to the second to now 380 stores. I sold that company, but to watch something really grow is pretty amazing and it’s very satisfying. It reminds you that anything is possible. To actually physically see something being built or being finalized or finished, it’s like a real dopamine hit. And I think that is kind of the parallel between all three of my industries; business, real estate and film. I just love to watch things being built, watch them grow and see something come from an idea and from a visualization to a reality.
You are currently filming the highly anticipated Amazon spinoff series ‘The Boys Presents: Varsity’. What can you share with us about this series and some of your other upcoming projects?
There’s not much I can share. ‘The Boys Presents: Varsity’ is a younger version of ‘The Boys’ and what’s it like for these characters to be in college and climbing their way and ranks up. You will have to wait and see.
Interview by JANA LETONJA
Talent: Patrick Schwarzenegger
Photographer: Agata Serge
Stylist: Avo Yermagyan
Groomer: Candice Birns
Producer: Anna Makovchik
Editor: Timi Letonja
Styling assistant: Mary Yermagyan
Video production: One Ten Media
Director: Alexander John
DOP: Marty Rush
Camera: Andi Cher
Production: Look Ad Me