- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2001

LOS ANGELES For a guy with a menacing scowl and beefy build, Patrick Warburton wonders how he has wound up playing so many goofballs.

There's Mr. Warburton's best-known role, the hulking, simple-minded Puddy on "Seinfeld." He provides the voices of both Buzz Lightyear and the Little Green Men in the animated series "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command." He also was the voice of Kronk, the dopey manservant to Eartha Kitt's evil sorceress in "The Emperor's New Groove."

His newest foray into television is a live-action version of the superhero cartoon "The Tick," debuting on Fox this fall. Mr. Warburton stars as a crusader for justice clad in a bulky rubber suit whose language is laced with corny motivational metaphors.

"There's something kind of big and absurd about me," Mr. Warburton says in an interview to promote his new movie, "The Dish."

"I got to a point where I said, 'Look at yourself clearly now, not as you want to see yourself. You're a bit goofy, people won't really take you seriously. Don't take yourself seriously and just have fun.'

"I've always had sort of a twisted sense of humor… . I look at myself in the mirror, sometimes I think I'm good-looking, sometimes I just think I look like a freakish dork. There are things, like my Cro-Magnon forehead, that I think are a little bit cartoonish about me."

Mr. Warburton, 36, has been acting since the mid-1980s, starting in commercials and moving into TV roles about 10 years ago.

Since "Seinfeld" ended, Mr. Warburton has tried to fit in more feature films, including last year's "Scream 3" and the upcoming Tim Allen film "Big Trouble," directed by "Tick" executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld.

The first role he took on after "Seinfeld" was as un-Puddylike as imaginable. Wanting something with more edge and sophistication, Mr. Warburton took the lead in the low-budget independent feature "The Woman Chaser."

The brooding, noirish film about a merciless car salesman who decides to make a movie earned praise from viewers who enjoyed Mr. Warburton's deadpan but psychotic performance and scorn from people who thought the film strayed into misogyny.

Mr. Warburton believed it was important to take on such challenging roles to stretch as an actor and show that he was more than merely Puddy.

"You'll be a victim of typecasting if you let that happen," Mr. Warburton says. "That means that's all you've chosen to do or that's all you can do. With me, it's going to be neither. I'm going to make sure that I do different things. And I also know that's not all I can do."

Ironically, it was Mr. Warburton's work as Puddy that caught the eye of the Australian team that produced "The Dish," a comedy starring Sam Neill that is based on the real-life misadventures of the Aussie satellite team that relayed the TV images of the first moon landing in 1969.

"Dish" director Rob Sitch says: "If you see someone play a character who seems dimwitted, but he does it brilliantly, it's almost 100 percent that he's a good actor. We watched 'Seinfeld' and thought, how good is that Patrick Warburton?"

In "The Dish," Mr. Warburton plays a straight-laced egghead with thick glasses who works for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Mr. Warburton could relate to the slide-rule geek he plays in "The Dish." With his 6-foot-3 frame and linebacker's build, Mr. Warburton looks like the sort who was a jock growing up. But, in 10th grade, he says, he stood 5-feet-6, weighed 105 pounds and wore Coke-bottle eyeglasses.

His father is an orthopedic surgeon and his mother had been a professional actress who still did local theater while raising Mr. Warburton and his three younger sisters in Southern California. He caught the acting bug from her.

Mr. Warburton and his wife have four children of their own strong motivation to maintain the busy workload he has had since "Seinfeld."

"I hope the trend can continue," Mr. Warburton says. "I look at my little brood and think, 'Boy, I hope this acting thing keeps working out, or you guys are all going to have to fend for yourselves.' And I don't want them to have to fend for themselves."

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