A Mighty Strange Role

by Staff

Patrick Warburton will admit that playing a big blue superherowasn’t first on his list of career goals.

“Itwasn’t the direction I was pointing myself in,” Warburton toldZap2it.com. “But it didn’t take much persuasion to get me to do it.”

And so, Warburton did in fact put on the blue costume, and he’snow protecting The City as the title character in “The Tick,” alive-action version of the Ben Edlund comic book series premieringThursday night on Fox.

“What interested me wasn’t playing a superhero,” he said. “Ireally liked the character, and the show has an entirely new twist on(comic-book heroes). It’s very satiric and clever, and that reallyappealed to me.”

For those not familiar with Edlund’s comic or the Fox/ComedyCentral animated series based on it, The Tick and his ex-accountantsidekick, Arthur, fight crime in The City. But they also spend a lotof time hanging around Arthur’s apartment and shooting the breeze ina diner with fellow heroes Batmanuel (Nestor Carbonell, “SuddenlySusan”) and Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey).

These are not your average do-gooders. In fact, Warburton isn’teven sure The Tick qualifies as a superhero.

“He’s without any real powers” — save for insect strengthproportional to that of a very big man — “and he’s very silly. Idon’t think he’s much of a superhero.”

Sometimes,though, trying hard is all that’s necessary, and The Tick triesimmensely hard to live up to the traditional comic-book code of whatit means to be a hero — eternal optimism, stilted speechifying, asteadfast moral compass. Of course, such values are in short supplyin The City, so Arthur and the rest are constantly cleaning upwhatever well-intentioned havoc their pal has wrought.

The role suits Warburton, 37, an easygoing father of four, as wellas the bright blue costume he dons every day on the set — which, forthe record, is extremely hot and makes it sort of tough to movearound.

“It doesn’t weigh much, but it’s restrictive and cumbersome,” hesaid. “My fingers are the size of sausages, and the only part of methat’s exposed is my face.”

Not that he minds it all that much: “If that’s the price I gottapay, then I’m perfectly willing to do it. This could be the one thingthat puts my kids through college.”

“The Tick” is also likely to help people disassociate Warburtonfrom his best-known role so far: David Puddy, the on-off-on-off-adnauseam boyfriend of Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on “Seinfeld.”

After his run on the NBC classic ended, Warburton got offers toplay a number of slightly dense, Puddy-esque characters. He turnedthem down, instead seeking out roles like the twisted would-befilmmaker in the independent movie The Woman Chaser and an Apollo-eraNASA scientist sent to Australia in The Dish.

“It’s simple,” he said of the way he avoids being typecast. “Youjust have to make sure the choices you make are different. The Tickis very different than Puddy. Puddy was a real quiet kind of mystery,and The Tick is on the other end of that, very enthusiastic andoutspoken.”

Warburton wasn’t familiar with The Tick before being offered thepart by executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty, Men inBlack), but he started watching the cartoon with his children.

“The kids got into the cartoon, so at first I would just notice itsort of peripherally as they were watching,” he said. “But once I gotinto it, I really dug him.”

The series pilot was filmed more than a year ago, then bouncedaround the Fox schedule several times before finding its Thursdayhome. Warburton says die-hard fans should see things they like –Edlund is also an executive producer of the series — and non-fansshould enjoy the show, too.

Because of an obscure legal issue, the live-action show’s creatorshad to change the names of some characters. The cartoon’s DieFledermaus is now Batmanuel, while American Maid had to be renamedCaptain Liberty.

“We’ve worked with a new cast of villains,” Warburton says. “We’renot out to re-create the animated series. It’s a 3-D world, and we’llhave new characters and stories. But The Tick is still the samewackadoo.”

“The Tick” premieres tonight at 8:30 on the Fox Network.

Patrick Warburton plays the oddest of heroes in ‘The Tick