Happy birthday, Robert Patrick
One of the industry’s hardest-working actors turns 54 today. From ‘Terminator 2′ to now, a tribute to his awesomeness from a lifelong fan.
Robert Patrick turns 54 today. This slightly bewilders me, as I still remember being traumatized as a child by the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and nine years later, counting on him to protect me from super soldiers during the final two years of The X-Files. I was a Robert Patrick fan not that long after I was out of the womb, so this calls for some sort of a celebration.
The first movie I ever saw was Terminator 2 in 1991, and my first movie memory involves being terrified of the liquid metal guy. I was five (and before you start jumping on my parents, they didn’t know I’d snuck into the room). The T-1000 had that unnerving tone of voice and that downright almost violating glare and I had nightmares that it was going to kill me instead of John Connor. At the same time, though, I was intrigued by the fact that something I knew wasn’t real was having a very real effect on me. (To this day Terminator skeletons still make me uncomfortable.) It was my experience with the T-1000 in Terminator 2 that got me interested in entertainment and made me a Robert Patrick fan.
In the intervening two decades, I’ve seen just about everything Robert has done, and I do mean everything. Ask my friends about how I made them go see Spy Kids with me just because he had a bit part in it. There’s an honestly subpar direct-to-video flick called Perfect Assassins that’s a guilty pleasure of mine as it co-stars Robert and my high school crush Andrew McCarthy. And although I can’t watch it without laughing at his hair, I do own a copy of Double Dragon.
The truth is, while the projects he’s in haven’t always been keepers, his performances are. No matter if it’s villain or hero, comedy or drama, every role he plays still registers somehow. I know that when I see his name in the credits, I can expect at least something that I’m going to remember, even if it’s screaming at my TV because I rented Mexico City only to see him get killed off in less than five minutes.
You’re probably wondering why I went for the picture from The X-Files at the top of this article instead of something more recent, and that’s because I love Special Agent John Doggett most of all. It was Robert’s casting that got me to watch X-Files in the first place, and so I’m a bit biased, but Doggett was the FBI agent I wanted on my side. I loved that he was tough but not cold, strong but also equally vulnerable, and even occasionally witty. I had as much of a crush on that man as you can have on a fictional character. Beyond that, though, I enjoyed watching Robert get to play that role over a prolonged period of time, seeing how the character grew and changed, and all the things I got to learn about Doggett along the way.
I was ready to let The X-Files go after the train wreck that was most of Season 9, but even so, it broke my heart to leave that character behind when the show was cancelled in 2002. I still think about Doggett today, pretending that he’s still with the FBI and continuing to do all sorts of heroic things. I also think it’s pretty cool that the man who played my favorite science-fiction villain is the same one who played my favorite science-fiction hero.
In more recent history, Robert played Colonel Tom Ryan on the CBS military drama The Unit, and I loved what he did there even as sometimes I loathed his character. Now he’s teamed up with Unit creator Shawn Ryan on ABC’s Last Resort, and I’m just glad that I get to see him on my TV again — this time with Andre Braugher, who is also an incredible actor. Every time those two are in a scene together I get chills; that’s just too much awesome for one show.
But beyond all that the Robert Patrick that I’ll remember most fondly is the man himself. Two decades after that moment in my family’s living room, I met him when he was moderating a talk with Hal Holbrook last year. I nervously wandered over, thanked him for all the fond memories, and snapped a picture with him. That was all I’d ever hoped for. To my surprise, when the talk was over, Robert approached me and my friend, shook our hands and thanked us for coming. He told us that he was just going over toward the bar if we wanted to join him. “Did Robert Patrick just invite us to hang out with him?” I asked my friend in disbelief.
And that was how I spent the next hour – just me, Robert Patrick, and three of my friends, standing at the bar, talking about everything from The X-Files to that time he was on Hell’s Kitchen. I was honored that he was so generous with his time and that he cared so much about what we had to say. I’ve gotten a few compliments in my day, but Robert Patrick telling me he liked me is always going to rank near the top of the list. It was honestly one of the best nights of my life. Even as the five-year-old in me still worried, just a bit, that he might kill me.
There’s so much that I have to thank him for, whether it’s getting me interested in movies, or the performances that I’ve enjoyed literally as far back as I can remember, or the fact that he made a childhood dream come true and then some. Even after almost a thousand words, I don’t know how to sum up how great Robert Patrick is, so I’ll just say this: Happy birthday, Robert. I hope that your special day is as awesome as you are.