From ancient Rome to the far reaches of space, Nick E. Tarabay has built a career on visiting fictional worlds that would make imaginative 10-year olds salivate. Hell, our inner kid is jumping up and down in excitement over his latest project, “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” because that’s what happens when you tell grown men that they get to watch giant monsters fight giant robots. Add the actor who plays Captain Boomerang into the mix and you pretty much just ransacked our childhood and brought one of our action packed action figure play sessions to life. Bravo to you!
We recently sat down with Tarabay to discuss how “Pacific Rim: Uprising” exceeded his own expectations, the feeling you’ll get when you leave the theater, and what fans of “The Expanse” can expect headed into Season 3.
TrunkSpace: This has got to be an exciting week for you. You just had the “Pacific Rim: Uprising” premiere the other night. How did that go?
Tarabay: Dude, it was fucking awesome is what it was.
TrunkSpace: When you’re shooting a movie like that, you must have your own idea of how the visuals will look in your mind. Did they live up to what you were expecting?
Tarabay: To be honest with you, and then some. Look, I’m old-school. I grew up watching movies before all the special effects and all the stuff, so when I see it now, it’s mind-blowing. It’s like, “How did they do that?” You see these robots, all CGI, but they’re characters. It’s amazing. I can’t even describe it. It’s amazing. So good. I was blown away.
TrunkSpace: And with this franchise in particular, what they did with the effects… the colors just pop right off of the screen.
Tarabay: Yeah, they were crazy. I was looking like, “Holy shit!”
TrunkSpace: “Pacific Rim” has such wide-reaching, international appeal. Does promoting it feel different because of that worldwide reach?
Tarabay: Absolutely, man. It’s great, because you don’t even have to speak English to like it. It’s such a beautiful, entertaining movie, and it’s got a lot of punchlines, and it’s got a lot of comedy as well in it. The action is just badass. You’re gonna love it. I mean, anybody will see it and be like, “Wow, that was fun.” As much as I love Oscar-winning movies and drama and all this stuff, I also love a good, entertaining movie. There’s nothing wrong with that. You go there and you just have fun, and your imagination gets to play, and you feel like a kid again. It’s beautiful. Just beautiful.
TrunkSpace: And in a day and age where, as a society, we’re so divided, it’s kind of nice to go see a movie where humanity is having to come together for the better good.
Tarabay: Absolutely! And also, it’s a diverse cast as well, which I’m for, through and through. I’m loving that Hollywood is on board with it now. It just shows you that, why not? What was the fear before from having a diverse cast? Me especially, coming from a different background, I appreciate it even more, because I think there’s a lot of talent out there, and a lot of gems out there, that just need an opportunity, just like me. Just give me the opportunity, and I will raise up to it and then some.
TrunkSpace: And the beauty in that is, a kid somewhere who doesn’t feel represented will see something of himself in the diverse cast and maybe feel inspired to chase his own dreams.
Tarabay: Absolutely. You hit it on the nail. I mean, look, I grew up in a culture, unfortunately, especially in my time, where nobody takes it seriously. It’s like, “Alright, get a real job, and then do the acting on the side as a hobby.” But who’s anybody to tell anyone else that this is not good enough? And to me, that hits on an artistic and a personal level. We were created in a way that we’re all artistic in one way or another, so for us not to fully realize that or acknowledge it, and by God have the support, it’s such a sad thing. And when I see that, when I see that onscreen, I’ll tell you, I’m lucky and I’m very old-school, because to me, that’s what I love about art. When it’s good, you don’t see diversity, you don’t see color, you don’t see culture. You just see something that brings everybody together.
TrunkSpace: And everyone might see or find something different in it, and yet they’re still bonded together collectively by that piece of art.
Tarabay: 100 percent! It has all these elements and then some, and it’s just… it’s good old fun. Just good old fun.
TrunkSpace: As an actor, do you have a different relationship with the work when there’s a very good chance that the audience is coming out to see the monsters and robots? Does your perspective of what goes into it, and what you take from it, from your side of things change?
Tarabay: Oh, not at all, dude. I loved it. I saw the first movie, and I was a fan. I think it’s just fun. I loved it. Doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not like I was, “Oh, I wish there was more of me or more of him or more of her than there is,” because let’s face it, I think the number one actor, the number one cast in this are the jaegers and the monsters. That’s the number one actor in the show, and then we come afterward. (Laughter) That’s my opinion. Some people might disagree with me, but I think that’s what it is. People wanna see those big monsters fight, and obviously the drama is gonna feed into it and that makes it even more delicious, but let’s face it, I wanna see those monsters kick ass and see what they do, so it’s all good, man.
TrunkSpace: In terms of your character Sonny, can you give us a sense of what his journey is without giving too much away?
Tarabay: Sonny is an edgy guy who wants what he wants. He’s a rough dude, and he tussles a little bit with John Boyega. It’s just fun, dude. I watched myself onscreen and, you know, in acting we tend to always look when we see ourselves on the screen like, “Oh, I could have done this better, could have done this better,” or whatever. I looked at it and I was like, “That was perfect.” I loved it. I loved me in it. (Laughter) And I think the audience will, too.
And hopefully in the third movie, you’ll see more of him.
TrunkSpace: Is it difficult promoting a project in this spoiler alert age and worrying about what you can and cannot say leading up to a launch date?
Tarabay: Yes and no, I guess. It all depends. I have a couple of other projects that I’m working on that I cannot say anything about, and I’m dying to tell. When people ask, I’m like, “Yeah, I’m working on something, I just can’t tell you what it is!” And I mean, I get it. Look, as artistic as it is, it’s also a business, and I can see why the studios and the production houses are saying, “Let’s keep it so the audience will be enticed more and they wanna see it more and spend more money,” and all this stuff. It’s also advertisements. We love what we can’t have. We want it all, what we cannot and what we don’t know. So it’s all part of the advertising. If I tell you, “Hey, there’s a big movie coming up, it’s gonna be spectacular, and I’m in it,” now you’re really curious. If I tell you what the movie’s all about, now you might be like, “Yeah, I’m not sure if this is my genre,” or, “I’m not sure if this is it,” or, “I’m not sure if I like this,” and right away you’re out. But if I leave you in the dark a little bit, now you wanna know, and now you wanna go see it, and now you investigate more. So it makes sense.
TrunkSpace: The breadcrumbs that lead us into the theater!
Tarabay: Absolutely, man! But in this case, you’re not gonna regret it. You’re gonna go there, you’re gonna watch a movie, you’re gonna leave feeling good.
TrunkSpace: You’re no stranger to characters and worlds that have big, passionate fan bases, from “The Expanse” to Captain Boomerang in “Arrow,” and even “Longmire.” Was that by design or has it been luck that you’ve landed in these projects that have such passionate fandoms?
Tarabay: You know, it’s a little bit of both. I think luck has a lot to do with it, obviously, but also hard work and having the right people around. Look, if you work, if you keep that dream of yours alive every day… which is probably one of the hardest things to do – just keeping it alive through the ups and the downs that we go through, especially as an actor ’cause most actors, we have more down than up, and more down time than the times that we’re working. For example, for me I always go back and do theater, just to keep that instrument sharp, to keep that dream alive, to have that faith going to stay positive. I think that plays a big part into bringing these elements into your path. And also, obviously having the right people around you – from agent, manager, publicist – that help you realize that dream, also plays a part of it. But I think luck has something to do with it as well. And then obviously you have to deliver once you get it, so I’ve been lucky enough that a lot of the jobs that I’ve been getting have been through relationships that I’ve made, like Captain Boomerang was a straight offer because the showrunner, Marc Guggenheim, such a wonderful man, I’ve auditioned for him a couple times a year, and he liked my work, so he gave me the role. And there’s a show that I’m doing, “Taken,” now, which came out of nowhere, and it was the showrunner from “Person of Interest” that offered me the role, just straightaway. So, good people like that are all around, and good work, I think, it is appreciated. I’ve been lucky. Even “Spartacus,” I did with Steven DeKnight, and now Steven DeKnight is directing this, so if you’re having these kinds of relationships, delivering, and having the right people, it all plays a big part of it.
I think the hardest part is this: trying to stay positive throughout the whole journey. That’s the hardest part of it all, trying to stay positive, trying to stay sharp, trying to stay focused.
TrunkSpace: We know that the latest season of “The Expanse” kicks off in a few weeks. What are you most excited for in terms of your character’s journey in Season 3?
Tarabay: Oh, dude! I don’t know what happened in Season 3, they just… it’s way bigger! It’s just way bigger! The first episode is so grand, it’s gonna feel like a finale. It’s so big, and there’s so many things going on, and you’re like, “Wow, what just happened?”
“Pacific Rim: Uprising” opens today.
Season 3 of “The Expanse” kicks off April 11 on SyFy.