Arnold Schwarzenegger Gets Candid About Chasing Success and Taking on His First Scripted TV Series, ‘FUBAR,’ at 75
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Luke Brunner in 'Fubar' — which is loosely based on the concept of his hit 1994 film 'True Lies.' Photo: Courtesy of Netflix
For Arnold Schwarzenegger, there’s nothing more exciting than filming action scenes. Which is why he’s thrilled to return to the action genre with the debut of his first ever scripted TV series, FUBAR, which premièred on Netflix Thursday.
“It is as much fun as it always was. You know, there’s some people that really get off on this. I’m one of them that I love when we prep and we block out big action scenes and big shoot outs and where you jump and roll …” the 75-year-old Austrian-born actor told me during a recent virtual interview, his eyes lighting up while describing the action scenes he gets to do.
Schwarzenegger, who rose to fame as the world’s top bodybuilder and youngest Mr. Olympia in history before launching his Hollywood career in the ’70s, believes that some opportunities come up once in a lifetime. And he’d simply never been asked to do a TV series.
“I’ve been part of a lot of TV projects in the past, but not a series,” he explained. “I think because this is the age of streaming, there are now so many more opportunities, not just the networks but other independent production companies … But Netflix is without any doubt, the leader in all of this. So, that’s why I was very excited to be offered … to do this series.”
Created by Nick Santora for Netflix, FUBAR is part action, part comedy and part family drama. Filmed partially in and around Toronto, it follows CIA operative Luke Brunner (Schwarzenegger), who is on the verge of retirement but is forced to go back into the field for one last job. When he discovers that his daughter (Monica Barbaro) has also secretly worked as a CIA operative for years, they realize their entire relationship has been a lie and they truly don’t know one another at all. It gets extra tough when they are forced to team up as partners.
For Schwarzenegger, the idea of loosely taking the concept of his 1994 hit action-comedy True Lies (co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis) and turning it into a series that plays with comedy and big action is what appealed to him and, according to the actor, what really makes this show. Another True Lies co-star, Tom Arnold, makes a guest appearance in FUBAR, and Schwarzenegger tweeted a photo of them biking in Toronto while filming the show last summer.
Growing Older and Wiser in Tinseltown
The former California governor scored his first major Hollywood hit with Conan the Barbarian (1982) and then followed with action classics like The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), Predator (1987), The Running Man (1987), Total Recall (1990) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) — which established him as one of the most bankable and adored action heroes in the world.
Schwarzenegger shared, however, that he’s aware he’s older now, and that he did momentarily question whether he could still pull off action hero moves. But, he’s certainly not letting aging get in the way of any physical demands of the role.
“I’m exercising every day, I ride my bike every day, go hiking everyday, I work with weights every day. So that kind of slows down the aging process a little bit. But nevertheless … I feel great, ready to do the action. I feel confident.”
Watching him speak over Zoom in his Austrian accent and still commanding the room was quite a moment, taking me back to the days my siblings and I watched all the Terminator movies over and over. For generations of movie-loving fans, Schwarzenegger proved a big part of their childhood and this moment talking to him about his career was not lost on me.
FUBAR co-star Monica Barbaro, at 32, was born during Schwarzenegger’s action hero heyday and plays his on-screen daughter. She shares most of her scenes with the actor and raved about her co-star’s professionalism and his “very laid-back attitude” about the work, which she found refreshing.
“We just had a fun time giving each other a hard time and that kind of became our dynamic throughout, which made it a lot of fun,” Barbaro said during the joint interview with Schwarzenegger. “It allowed for this interesting father-daughter dynamic and a lightness that we needed for some of the deeper issues. So, it makes it a little bit more palatable even though we’re talking about a very real father-daughter familial stuff.”
Even though the two portray a difficult father-daughter relationship on screen, they are quick to complement each other in real life. Schwarzenegger shared that, “She was so good with the action and it was so great working with her … She could be blindfolded and take guns apart and put it back together. She prepped and prepped. She’s just like me. She believes in reps, reps, reps. I think that’s why we’ve worked really well together.”
The series itself is certainly entertaining — not just the action but, also, watching a dysfunctional family break down barriers enveloped in comedic elements. Schwarzenegger’s character Luke often looks back at his career and the choices he made and the compromises he had to make.
The show touches on larger themes of self-discovery, career and ambition, and Schwarzenegger, surprisingly, got candid and emotional about his real-life journey.
“I’ve learned that I was wrong when I was young when I thought that the most important thing is for me to be successful,” he explained. “And then, eventually, you get wiser and you get older and more experienced and smarter and then you realize that maybe this ‘me’ should turn into ‘we.’ And that the greatest pleasure actually is to give something back to society and to serve people.”
He added that, today, when it comes to his acting career, his attitude is one of service — something he learned from his tenure as governor of California, and not “‘Okay, how can I be more famous? But the first thing that comes to my mind is how can I entertain people regardless of where they are?
“So I think, to me, I learned that giving back to people and entertaining people and serving them is the greatest joy.”
FUBAR is currently streaming in Canada on Netflix.