UPDATED on Sept. 23 with added comment from Maynard James Keenan.
Forget the paranormal stuff that keeps Eddie McClintock busy on “Warehouse 13,” just take a look at his own Hollywood odyssey – the 42-year-old actor has seen more pilots go missing in action than the Bermuda Triangle.
“I’ve been on so many shows that just faded,” McClintock said with a weary shake of his head. “This is my fifth series and ‘Warehouse 13’ was my tenth pilot. And I’ve been on shows I thought for sure were going to stay on the air and they just disappeared. So I’m enjoying every minute of this, but sometimes it doesn’t feel real. But this one seems to be working out.”
To say the least. Tonight, the whimsical “Warehouse 13” wraps up a magical first season after delivering record numbers for SyFy — formerly known as the Sci Fi Channel but perhaps worthy of the moniker Sigh Fi since “Warehouse” is pulling in the biggest female viewership numbers in the 17-year history of the cable outlet. The women are coming for the show’s paranormal plots but also its flirty fun — think “Fringe” stirred to a light froth, or maybe “Moonlighting” with magical artifacts — as well as McClintock’s rugged good looks and crooked smile.
The show stars McClintock as Pete Lattimer, an impulsive, rule-bending Secret Service agent who proudly trusts his gut instincts and has a personal life that’s a bit of an ummade bed. That’s the exact opposite of his new partner, Myka Bering (portrayed by Joanne Kelly), whose approach is cerebral and by-the-book. He’s all smirk, she’s all squint, and together they have been exiled to a strange new assignment in South Dakota where they guard a classified warehouse loaded up with mystical objects that are too dangerous to let out of the box — yes, it’s a lot like that hushed, anonymous federal archive in the final scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
McClintock was ready to crate up his Hollywood career when “Warehouse” came along. With two children and a decade of only vagabond success, the native of Canton, Ohio, considered walking away from acting altogether. He had a nice four-episode run as a guest star on “Bones” in 2007 and memorable turns in “Friends,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Felicity,” but there was persistent disappointment when he stepped into the leading-man role.
“I was on a show called ‘Stark Raving Mad’ [in 1999] with Tony Shalhoub and Neil Patrick Harris,” McClintock said. “The reviews were great. We won the People’s Choice Award. I bought a Porsche, which is what one does. It was a 911, champagne-color with the Boxter red interior. It was the first year they changed the engine from air-cooled to water-cooled. Then the show got canceled and I lived out of my Porsche for three years.”
There were plenty of other disappointments. “Holding the Baby” on Fox had the look of a winner. McClintock said he remembered a limo ride in New York where he found himself wondering, “How will I handle the fame from this?” With a wry wink, he adds: “It didn’t turn out to be problem.”
There were shows that, just in their titles, seem like reminders of a sparse and feckless career — such as “B.S.” (no, it actually stands for “Boarding School”), “Crumbs” with Jane Curtin and Fred Savage, and “Say Uncle” with Teri Hatcher and Ken Olin. Some others McClintock has a hard time even remembering the names of, but, he notes, “[You] remember the rejection.”
McClintock in some ways is an accidental actor. Growing up, film was a major bonding experience between him and his father, but the boy was more interested in sports and his artwork than he was in pursuing stardom. In college, he studied design but, like so many art students, he looked around and realized that he was good, not great, and that a career would be hardscrabble struggle. He ended up in Los Angeles selling insurance for an uncle — a life chapter which, showing the limitations of nepotism, ended with McClintock getting fired. By his 30s, his wandering had taken him into acting in beer commercials, soap operas and, eventually, prime-time television shows.
McClintock still pursues his art. “Warehouse 13” fans may be surprised to learn that McClintock did the album artwork for “V is for Vagina,” the delicately titled Puscifer album. Puscifer is the latest heavy music venture for Maynard James Keenan, one of the more elusive personalities in all of rock and the frontman for the ferocious prog-rock outfit Tool and A Perfect Circle.
McClintock became pals with Keenan about 14 years ago, meeting through a mutual friend, Moon Zappa. The two found they had plenty in common — both grew up in Ohio, competed as wrestlers and felt like outsider souls in Los Angeles. The artwork for Puscifer took six months and it’s clearly a source of pride for McClintock, who enjoys the artistic expression of illustration and the adrenaline clarity of competitive sports but still seems uneasy in Hollywood acting, which is a messy combination of both.
Keenan, interviewed via e-mail, said of his friend: “Heart and passion. Few have it and even fewer stay true to it. Eddie is one of those few. Visual artist, actor, friend, annoyingly loving father, arch nemesis. I’ve watched him tackle all challenges without pause for over a decade and his time has finally come. Congratulations are due.”
McClintock may not enjoy winning so much as he just hates losing. Over an hourlong cheeseburger lunch at the downtown restaurant Pete’s, McClintock talked more about his past near-misses than his current hit. He also talked about his intense anxiety about throwing out the opening pitch at recent game of the Tampa Bay Rays, especially after watching President Obama “throw out a pitch and short-hop to the plate — while wearing mom jeans.” McClintock spent weeks preparing and, thankfully, didn’t embarrass himself.
“I didn’t disgrace my father and really, everything I do is to make him proud,” the actor said of his dad, Theodore “Ted” McClintock. “I know that sounds silly….”
Family is important to the actor, who married Lynn Sanchez in 2005. The pair have two young sons. While McClintock can enjoy the leering imagery and hard thrash of music by his buddy James, he also is pleased that his own work is wholesome enough to be considered brainy family fare. The show is like “Torchwood” without the torchy sex, and that’s just fine by McClintock; it’s OK with SyFy executives, too, who have seen the show top the ratings of signature shows such as critically acclaimed “Battlestar Galactica.”
“I love that it’s a family show,” he said. “We need family right now, with the economy being the way it is and everyone afraid with terrorism and the things going on in the world. So how nice is it to have everyone be able to sit and watch the same show, something scary and funny and thrilling and heartfelt. It’s not gratuitously violent or overtly sexual. Kids can watch it and still get a little scared but not leave the show with post-traumatic stress syndrome. For me it’s a dream job; I get to be silly and funny but my character is also smart and accomplished.”
McClintock laughed and thought back to his youth: He used to watch “Happy Days” with his father, and the boy got so into the show that he got himself a leather jacket. “Maybe one car an hour would drive down my street in rural Ohio but I remember putting on my Fonzie jacket, slicking my hair back and standing out by the street just waiting for somebody to drive by so I could do my Fonzie. Silly, right? I actually got to meet Henry Winkler recently and tell him that story. That was so worth all the kicks to the groin I’ve gotten in this business for the last 12 years. That was magic.”
— Geoff Boucher
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Top photo: Eddie McClintock in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times. “Warehouse 13” photo of McClintock and Joanne Kelly from SyFy. Two examples of McClintock’s art, courtesy of the artist.