Michael Gladis, who plays Patrick Woijchik on AMC’s Feed the Beast, talks about the secret to pulling teeth on-screen, his character’s signature pliers and what Mad Men‘s Paul Kinsey would think about The Tooth Fairy.
Q: What was your reaction when you found out your character’s nickname was “The Tooth Fairy?”
A: Well, I wanted to know why and when I figured it out, I thought it was great. You know if a mobster has a name like “The Tooth Fairy,” he has to be bad.
Q: Can you describe Patrick’s relationship with his father, Ziggy?
A: It’s really interesting because so much of the show deals with father and son issues. In Patrick’s case in particular, you can’t help what family you’re born into and he was sort of born into the wrong family. His father is a constant reminder that Patrick will never be good enough or nearly the gangster that his father is. No matter how hard he tries to please him, Patrick also wants something else for his life. His father would never approve of what he wants and is an obstacle. Patrick loves him and wants his approval, but he’ll just never get it.
Q: In Episode 3, Patrick watches Ziggy get stabbed in prison. What was your reaction to that scene?
A: I don’t think Patrick can blame himself necessarily because it was beyond his control. I love that scene. In fact, from a production standpoint, I told the art department that they’d have a highly motivated 6-foot-two-inch, 200-plus-pound actor trying to get through that window. I told them to build and make it as strong as they could because I would literally try to break it down. They did a great job and that gave me the freedom to really go for it in that scene. It was really powerful and it was a fun scene to play.
A: I think he’s a reluctant mobster, especially because his father went to jail and the only way for his family to maintain its position in the Polish mob is for him to take over and try to be as strong of a figurehead as his father. He’s never going to be half the mobster that his dad was. His dad is the real deal. [Laughs]
Q: There’s a lot at stake for Tommy and Dion with Thirio’s success. What’s at stake for Patrick?
A: I think it goes back to him wanting to be back in that [restaurant] world. That’s the world he feels he belongs in and it would do a number of things. His father would rather Patrick kill Dion, and Patrick is taking this risk by letting him live. If he were to actually get paid back the money that they’re owed, that would prove that Patrick’s decision was right and it would give him a way into that world that he loves so much.
Q: Your character gives stolen cocaine to Dion to hide, despite that fact that Dion has a drug problem and, in fact, burned down Patrick’s previous restaurant in a coked-out rage. Why? Does he trust Dion or is it a test?
A: That’s like the stupidest thing ever, right?! I had the same question for Clyde [Phillips] because it confused me as well. His answer was that it’s a test for Dion, but it’s also about the dealer giving the addict drugs as a way to control him and keep him dependent. There are all those things. It’s to put himself in Dion’s good graces, but it’s more of a test than anything.
Q: How did they make the scenes where you pull out teeth look so realistic?
A: That’s camera magic! [Laughs] There are no actual teeth being pulled, but I bet it has to do with the sound effects. It’s pretty easy to stick a bloody tooth and a pair of pliers in an actor’s mouth and have the actor wince in pain, but when you get the sound of roots tearing, that really adds to it.
Q: Did you get to keep the pliers as a souvenir?
A: The props department still has the pliers. There are two pairs of pliers – one that we use to knock around and bash into stuff, and one that we kept pretty and clean. I certainly would like one when we’re done.
Q: As a copywriter, what kind of slogan would Mad Men’s Paul Kinsey write to describe the “The Tooth Fairy”?
A: My dear friend Geoffrey Arend tweeted something I’ll use: “Sometimes you have to use yours words, other times you have to use your pliers.”
Read an interview with Jim Sturgess, who plays Dion Patras.
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