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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Man vs. Monster: GODZILLA’s Patrick Sabongui

Between writing, directing, and producing, many of today’s Hollywood actors wear several different hats when it comes to the projects they choose to work on. Variety is the spice of life, and actors who solely act are becoming less and less common as the years go on. But actor Patrick Sabongui chose to add a different title onto his resume: stunt man. With dozens of projects under his belt as both an actor and a stunt man, Sabongui’s star has been rising for years… and it’s just about to shine even brighter. Starring in a major summer blockbuster this year and a highly-anticipated superhero show in the fall, Patrick Sabongui is a name you’re going to notice—and he won’t need to be kicked through a door to get your attention.

Born and raised in Montreal, Sabongui was an active and well-rounded child: he grew up speaking three languages (English, French and Arabic), played football competitively, loved to learn, and had a full social life. He also practiced martial arts and was an avid rock-climber. “Everything I did when I was young, I saw as the same thing: living life to the fullest. I’ve always been that way,” Sabongui tells me. “And I remember thinking that acting was a way to experience even more of life.”

Credit Patrick Sabongui

Credit Alex Chian

Sabongui’s first play was Hamlet, in which he produced, co-directed, and starred as the titular character. “I felt that, as far removed as I was from the Prince of Denmark, I somehow still took on some of his life experiences after the play was over,” he recalls. “I know it wasn’t real, obviously—and some of it was stuff I would have preferred not to take home with me. But when you immerse yourself over and over again in the same story, part of you feels like you’ve experienced it in some capacity. I guess acting is my way of sampling more of what life has to offer.”

While at theatre school, Sabongui received a lot of stage combat training and went on to be a fight choreographer for the professional stage. “Thanks to martial arts, football, and rock-climbing, fighting, falling and taking a hit or two are second nature to me. I wasn’t new to the concept of staged violence,” he says.

After graduating from high school, Sabongui decided to pursue acting at a post-secondary level: he earned a BFA in Drama for Human Development from the National Theatre Conservatory in Colorado, and then later, a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Acting from the University of California.

“I found I hit a plateau fairly quickly in terms of the roles I was being considered for,” Sabongui says, recalling his first few years as an actor. “Because of my skill set and stage-combat experience, I kept getting plugged into action-oriented roles. I appreciate how cool that is, and I love playing them, but I knew I was capable of doing more. That’s why I went to graduate school in California after college—to break out of that mold. To stretch beyond my limitations and to try and realize my full potential as an actor.”

Once in California, Sabongui’s career began to take off. As he began booking small roles on television shows such as Fox’s 24 and CW’s Smallville, he discovered another possibility for his career: becoming a stunt man. It was his first television job that planted the seeds in his mind for doing stunt work—after spending the day watching stunt men working on a fight sequence, he discussed it that evening with his future wife, Kyra Zagorsky.

Credit Patrick Sabongui

Credit Alex Chian

“It wasn’t until I was telling Kyra about it over the phone that it occurred to me that this might be a viable career to supplement my acting,” he says. “So I hung up, did some research, made a bunch of calls, and within a few months I began booking stunt work. I love the stunt world: the training, the acquisition of skills, the community, the sense of overcoming one’s fears for a living… but I think I still see it as an extension of telling a story. Sure, it requires some specific skills and techniques that I’ve worked hard to gain and maintain, but I’m still a storyteller at heart.”

Now, over ten years later, Sabongui is an expert at falling from great heights and crashing through windows. “Kiefer Sutherland kicked me through the window of a moving subway car on 24—that was tricky,” he recalls. “Steven Segal kicked me through the driver-side window of a compact car, rear-end first… I’m still not sure how I fit through that one. But I did!”

Stunt work has not only helped supplement Sabongui’s career and expand his skill set, but it’s helped him keep in touch with his full body as an actor. “I’ve always seen acting as a full body experience. As an actor, I think it’s important to be connected to your whole body, whether or not there’s action involved,” he says. “The ability to move freely in character is essential. I think that connection to my physical being comes from my martial arts background.”

While performing stunts on big-budget Hollywood action films such as 300, Immortals, The Bourne Legacy, Mission Impossible: 4, Tron: Legacy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, Sabongui has also built an impressive acting resume. With roles on shows such as Fox’s Almost Human, USA Network’s Covert Affairs and Psych, and TNT’s King & Maxwell, Sabongui’s face is one many television viewers are sure to recognize. He also had roles in the Hollywood films Sucker Punch, This Means War, The Cabin in the Woods, and White House Down, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Fox.

Sabongui has had a long and fulfilling career up until this point, but with the summer movie season finally here, things are only going to get better. The year 2014 is a big one for Sabongui, and it’s taking off with a bang: he plays Master Sergeant Marcus Waltz in the much-anticipated blockbuster Godzilla, opening all across North America today, May 16th.

“[Sergeant Waltz] has a huge responsibility on his shoulders,” Sabongui says. “The stakes really couldn’t be any higher. But in the face of all that, Waltz retains his humanity. His unit essentially becomes monster hunters, but he seems to stay grounded and level-headed.”

Credit 20th Century Fox

Credit 20th Century Fox

The story of Godzilla has a long history of films in Japan, with twenty-eight “Godzilla” films being produced by Toho Studios from 1954 to 2004. A 1998 film entitled Godzilla was produced by TriStar Pictures and directed by Roland Emmerich, but it was met with a negative reception from critics and fans of the franchise. Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers are hopeful that their Godzilla film will be much more positively received.

Sabongui, for one, isn’t worried. “The VFX are flawless, and the script by Max Borenstein is exceptional. You feel for every single character… including Godzilla himself!” he enthuses. “It’s amazing to me how [Borenstein’s] story created these very believable human characters caught up in horribly unbelievable circumstances. I think the other iterations of Godzilla tried to do the same thing, but this contemporary version really speaks to our modern sensibilities. The combination of Gareth Edwards’ direction and the studio’s backing also makes it a real immersive experience. It may also have one of the most effective soundtracks I’ve ever heard.”

Fans of Godzilla are eagerly anticipating the film’s release, hoping to see the monster they know and love in a bigger, better incarnation. The scale of Godzilla’s production was massive, with cast and crew spending four months in several cities in Canada’s British Columbia before moving down to Hawaii to continue filming there. Filming large-scale disaster scenes impressed the many onlookers who came by the Godzilla set—and surprised more than a few people who stumbled upon it accidentally.

Even Sabongui was in awe of the size and scale of Godzila’s production. He recalls one of his days off in New Westminister, a town outside of Vancouver—one day that really drove home for him just how big this project really was.

“I wasn’t even working [that day], and I was on the elevated train. I looked out the window and the road below looked like it had been bombed out; giant pieces of street were missing, huge blocks of concrete and asphalt were ripped out of the road and were strewn about, cars were over-turned and still smoldering, buildings were charred and the pedestrian overpass was smashed to bits,” he remembers. “A bunch of us jumped out of our seats to take a closer look, and I remember this feeling of worry surge through the train as we all thought the same thing: what if the track up ahead was also damaged? It wasn’t until we rounded a corner that I noticed a film production tent sitting peacefully two blocks away. Everyone slowly returned to their seats and became excited about the possibility that Godzilla might be shooting here in town. I couldn’t help but smile and think, ‘Wow. I’m working on one of the biggest monster movies ever made.’”

Credit Nicole Gurney

Credit Nicole Gurney

With Godzilla set to storm box offices worldwide, it would be no surprise to see Sabongui’s name popping up in more and more big Hollywood films. But Sabongui isn’t one to limit himself: this year he can also be seen in The CW’s new show The Flash, which was picked up this past week and is set to air in the fall. The Flash is based upon DC Comics’ characters and is spinning off of The CW’s popular show ArrowThe Flash tells the story of Barry Allen, a scientist who is given the power of super speed through a freak accident and becomes the Fastest Man Alive. Also starring Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, and Tom Cavanaugh, Sabongui plays policeman David Singh.

“I play David Singh, the captain of the police department that Barry Allen, aka The Flash, works in,” Sabongui says. “My character is a fixture in the comic books, and will definitely factor into the series. We should be going to camera soon!”

Hollywood has found massive success in the recent trend of popular superhero films, and television shows like Arrow and ABC’s Agents of Shield prove that superheroes can succeed in a serialized, live-action television format, too. This fall will see the arrival of four other shows based on comic books, including Fox’s Gotham, a Batman prequel series, and ABC’s Agent Carter, a period spy drama that ties into Marvel’s Avengers universe. So what’s so special about The Flash?

“Even though they first introduced The Flash in CW’s Arrow, the comic books provide their own self-contained universe. Plenty of fodder for The Flash series to stand alone. What I love about the DC Comics Flash universe is that almost everyone is hiding something. You never know who has powers they’re concealing, covert alliances or secret relationships,” Sabongui teases. “Maybe Singh has a skeleton or two in his closet…”

One would think that a blockbuster movie and a new television show would be enough to keep Sabongui busy, but his schedule is just as full as ever. This year he’s assistant directing a new play by Tito Kamel called Welcome Back to Harlem: A Hellfighter’s Story, which is about the cultural renaissance in Harlem in the 1920s and the impact of African-American soldiers returning from WWI. He recently worked on his first Western film—a reboot of Lonesome Dove, with Tom Beringer. He’ll also be seen in Night at the Museum 3, which comes with an extra-special perk: kid approval.

“I’m really excited to share that one with my kids—we’ve watched the first two a bunch of times,” Sabongui says. “Being in Night at the Museum 3 might just win me the coveted ‘Cool Dad Award’ in the Sabongui household!”

Credit Frazer Harrison Getty Images North America

Credit Frazer Harrison
Getty Images North America

When he isn’t busy working on one of his many stage, film or television projects, Sabongui co-directs a not-for-profit organization called Fulfilling Young Artists. Founded by actor Sage Brocklebank (Psych), its mission is to help young actors grow as artists and work towards finding fulfillment in their careers.

“Acting is a profession riddled with disappointments. It’s easy to get down on yourself and lose the sense of passion and wonder that got you into it in the first place,” Sabongui says. “Rejection is part of the career, but that doesn’t mean living the life of an actor can’t be rewarding. There are things an actor can do, perspectives and actor can adopt, that trump that all-too-common feeling of failure.”

Fulfilling Young Artists is a free program that pairs twenty early-career actors with twenty hand-picked mentors, all of whom are established actors. The program consists of six months of one-on-one sessions, as well as group discussion forums featuring speakers that lead conversations about various topics related to leading a positive, fulfilling life as an actor. At the end of the six months, the mentees perform a unique piece that they’ve developed under the tutelage of their mentor.

“The final outcomes have been awesome: short plays, films, voice-overs, scenes, spoken word pieces… and some works that defy conventional labels.” Sabongui enthuses. “Within a few years, our alumni have done incredible things. Some have exploded onto the film and TV scene, created professional acting opportunities for themselves and their peers by producing films and plays, and launched community-oriented organizations.”

In such a high-pressure, challenging career field like acting, the skills and confidence gained from a mentorship program such as this can be invaluable. “Most importantly, [our alumni] continue to see themselves as artists and creators rather than a product to be bought or rejected,” he says. “You can’t underestimate the effectiveness of leading an empowered life!”

While the focus is on the mentees and giving them new tools and mindsets to survive in a creative field, Sabongui has to admit that he gets more than a little bit out of the program himself. “We claim to be doing it for them, but the experience has proven to be just as fulfilling for the mentors as it is for the mentees,” he says.

With a packed filming schedule and a rewarding family life, it’s a wonder that Sabongui finds the time to give back and encourage young artists the way that he does. It proves that Patrick Sabongui is a man dedicated to his craft—and dedicated to helping others find the same fulfillment in their passions as he has.

To keep up with Patrick Sabongui’s upcoming projects, follow him on Twitter. For more information about Fulfilling Young Artists, check out their official website.

Godzilla opens nationwide on May 16, 2014. For more information and showtimes, follow them on Twitter and visit their official website.

The Flash is coming to The CW this fall. For the first look and to keep up with all the news, visit their official website and follow them on Twitter

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  1. Catching up with The Flash’s Patrick Sabongui | The Hudsucker - November 21, 2014

    […] in May our Janna Jeffrey spoke with Patrick Sabongui about his turn in the summer’s biggest blockbuster, Godzilla. These days the actor is in […]

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