Wildfires were ravaging swaths of California as Tyler Labine was leaving his wife and three children and trying to get to the airport. He needed to be in New York, on the set of NBC’s drama New Amsterdam, by morning. After a series of mishaps including a no-show shuttle and the highway shutting down, Labine made it to the Santa Barbara Airport to take a rescheduled red-eye. Once in New York he was immersed in another drama — thankfully this one fictionalized — where he plays a very patient psychologist.
Labine is one of those reliable character actors, a face you know from Boston Legal, Reaper, Sons of Tucson and Mad Love. He jokes about his credit as “the stoner” on The X-Files. (Yes, he really was stoned.) In a wide-ranging interview, he answers our “5 Questions.”
- What were a few of your jobs before you became an actor?
I was a recycling swamper in the early ’90s. I went around on the back of a truck and sorted out recycled goods. Then I was a pizza delivery guy in Maple Ridge [a suburb of Vancouver]. I lost my way more often than not. I constantly had to eat the cost of pizzas. I used to go, “Forget it. I am going to eat them!” And I ditched pizzas.
- What movies can you watch repeatedly?
The Breakfast Club, Raising Arizona and RoboCop.
- What three items do you have to have in your fridge or pantry?
Kombucha, a carbonated fermented black tea with honey drink. I always have to have some kind of apple — a Fuji or a Pink Lady. I am an apple freak. And I’ve got to have my vegan protein powder. I am not a vegan.
- Tell us about a time when you were starstruck.
One was my favorite on-set moment ever. John Lithgow and I were doing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and I was walking by him on the street. His assistant came after me and said, “Mr. Lithgow would like to meet you!” He was sitting in his chair and reading The New York Times or something very intelligent. And he said, “I’m Johnny Lithgow.” I said, “I’m a huge fan.” And he said, “Oh, pshaw!” And I said, “That’s such a John Lithgow thing to say.” And he cracked up.
- What was your biggest splurge?
I had a series when I was 19 (Breaker High), and I thought I was getting paid a fortune. It was not very much in hindsight. On my dad’s advice, I bought an Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer truck. My dad was like, “Go for it!” It was totally impractical. I wanted something to put all my friends in and go camping. It was tricked out. I jacked it up, and put in crazy speakers, tinted the windows out. I could not afford it and had to give it back to Ford and learned my lesson.
Tyler Labine stars on NBC’s New Amsterdam which airs Tuesdays at 10/9 central. New episodes begin tonight.