What can be said about Travis Van Winkle? Well, the actor a charm so typical of Hollywood stars — a spark and magnetism that inevitably manages to attract us to the screen to see his series and movies. With over two decades of making it big on film and television, Travis has done absolutely everything. He has been part of such mythical series as The O.C., 90210 and Law & Order: LA, he has faced horror icon Jason Vorhees and fallen on the twisted games of psychotic Joe Goldberg in Netflix’s You.
Now, he joins forces with the living legend Arnold Schwarzenegger in the series Fubar which has become one of the hits of the year for its mix of action, comedy and secrets, being renewed for a second season a few days after its premiere. But that’s not enough for Travis — this year he will also premiere Road House, a remake of the 1898 film that will star Jake Gyllenhaal and that will offers a good dose of mystery and punches. It has been more than proven that Travis is a real-life superhero.
Travis, Fubar was just released and it is a great action series. Are you a fan of this kind of genre? If so, which movies/series are your favourites?
Thanks, I’ve always loved the action genre. Few of my favourites: The Fugitive with Harrison Ford, Total Recall with Schwarzenegger, Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise, and Die Hard with Bruce Willis.
What would you say that Fubar has that no other series currently airing has?
Your character, Agent Aldon, is a brave young CIA Agent who fights risky missions with the character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Do you remember the first day you met him?
I do. I was nervous to meet him. This whole idea of celebrity is strange because I’ve “known” Arnold my whole life and he had no idea who I was. I’ve watched all his films and have admired his pursuit of physical excellence, not to mention he governed the state I live in (California), so all of this made it surreal to meet him. The first time I met him was a quick handshake, but the next time I saw him we were in the makeup trailer getting ready for a scene and I decided in one shot to get all the praise out of the way and I told him everything I respected and admired about him. Honestly, it was more for me than for him and it was a long list! Once I got that out of the way, I felt we could get to work.
Did you get any advice from Arnold during filming?
He’s hilarious. He always brings mischief to the set, cracking jokes and having fun. While he is incredibly prepared, he never takes anything too seriously. When I would mess up on a line or two he would pretend to snore or fall and just give me shit. It’s the kind of playfulness that’s helpful when you work 14-16 hour days. In between takes, if we were talking too much about character and backstory, he’d say “it’s not a documentary about backstory.” Now just imagine that in his voice. Amazing.
It gives the feeling that the entire cast has a lot of chemistry. You must have had a great time filming the series! Is there an anecdote that you want to tell us?
It felt like most of the time we were just goofing around on set and there just happened to be cameras. We got lucky. After being in the business a while, you appreciate when you have a cast that gets along and enjoys each other on and off screen and it helps that our story is lighthearted and ridiculous.
The show starts when the main character is about to retire. Do you think about those years that are to come?
Man back up, I’m 40 years old! I’m not thinking about retirement yet, I’m just getting started! As an actor, I’m not interested in retirement. I want to act until it’s not physically or mentally possible. I’ve chosen an unconventional career that doesn’t conclude at 65 (I hope).
Throughout your career, such as in the series Instinct or The Last Ship, you have played various law enforcement officers, perhaps it was a sign of fate! Have you ever thought of actually becoming one?
Although I deeply respect officers and military personnel, I’ve never seen myself wanting to go down that path in real life. I like to research each role and I interview men and women that are in those positions which helps me imagine what it would be like. And I always do my best to represent them in the most authentic way possible.
Your physical transformation for the role in Fubar is truly amazing, too. What was the physical training like for this role?
Thanks. Knowing I was working with a man that achieved physical perfection inspired me to show up in the best shape of my life. It’s Arnold, how could I not? I learned how to successfully put on muscle with Netflix’s YOU, and applied these lessons to my FUBAR prep. I wanted Aldon to be more flexible and agile as a CIA operative, so instead of working out heavy for 5 days a week to put on muscle, I worked out a much lighter 6 days a week to maintain it. Nutrition is key, so I adhered to a nutrition plan from Grant Roberts. And yes, deep down, I wanted to impress the big guy, and one day on set he pulled me aside and said “Hey you’re ripped” and I’m pretty sure I blacked out after that. Needless to say, it meant a lot.
Beyond the physical, I would like to know what values move you as an actor and as a person within the Hollywood industry.
At the core, I just want to be useful in life and leave every situation better than I found it. I apply these same principles to work. Every industry has its challenges and as an actor, I don’t think it’s always meant to be an easy journey, but I’ve learned when I show up with kindness and work my ass off, good things happen. This industry is a true team sport with many different departments all working towards one goal. I appreciate every chance I get to contribute and if we’re lucky, we’ll make something special.
Your first television role was almost two decades ago. How has the industry changed since then? And how have you changed as an actor? In what ways have you evolved?
The industry has changed a ton. You were either a film actor or a television actor. As we’ve evolved into this golden age of television and long-form storytelling, the ability to do both is the dream. Throw theatre in there and that’s the one-two-three punch! Now there are no barriers. Auditions have changed dramatically since COVID. Studios can cast a wider net because everything is digital. You can send in audition tapes from anywhere in the world and if you need to do a chemistry test or any kind of reading in front of the studio, you can do it via Zoom.
I’ve been in the game for 20 years and thankfully I’ve changed a lot! My inner critic doesn’t hold the same sway which allows more of a freedom and lightness that wasn’t available when I was cutting my teeth. Mostly, I’ve learned to enjoy the process and am not afraid to ask for help along the way. I surround myself with people that can help elevate my ideas, my craft, and my mind. You can’t do it all on your own. We need others. I need others.
During your career, you have played a multitude of characters that are very different from each other. Is there a character in whose life you have wanted to stay?
Nah, I like my life too much! But I do learn something from every character I play and there are a few memorable roles I’d love to expand on.
I have to ask you this. In a battle to the death, who would win: Jason Vorhees or Schwarzenegger?
This would be EPIC to see Conan the Barbarian (Schwarzenegger in his prime) face Jason Vorhees (the most recent Derek Mears version). The only hope I have is that an AI will now create this imagery after this interview comes out.
I am a big fan of the Friday the 13th franchise. The creators of Hannibal are developing a series called Crystal Lake. If they offer you a round two, would you agree to face Jason again?
100%. Since he had his way with me in the first go-round, I would love to go toe-to-toe with him again, but this time I would bring my therapist. We would somehow capture him and make him talk about his feelings. Hopefully, he would realize killing is not the way to healing.
You will soon be releasing the remake of Road House. What can you tell me about that project?
The Jake Gyllenhaal and Doug Liman combo is a good one and it’s honouring the late great Patrick Swayze. It’s going to be an exciting project. I get to butt heads with Gyllenhaal’s character a bit, and if you blink you’ll miss me, but it’s a fun role and I’m happy to be a part of it. Not to mention I’m a police officer. Good eye, SCHÖN!
Fubar is streaming now on Netflix.
photography. Sam Ramirez
fashion. Jordan Shilee @ The Wall Group
talent. Travis Van Winkle
grooming. Kimberly Bragalone @ Exclusive Artists
photography assistant. Andrzej Lawnik
fashion assistant. Hayley Langer
interview. Juan Marti