'Terminator: SCC' Actor Looks to Make His Model Memorable

The very last thing you’d ever want is to be targeted by a cyborg assassin, but that is exactly the predicament future hero John Connor has found himself in on Fox’s sci-fi television series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Sent into the past to murder John, the terminator known as Cromartie has demonstrated enhanced strength, resilience, and tracking abilities. Nonetheless, somehow John and company have narrowly managed to survive every encounter with their relentless adversary, or at least so far. With recent roles in Deadwood, The 4400, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and No Country for Old Men, imposing 6’2" actor Garret Dillahunt was brought in to bring that unstoppable force to life and become the latest model in the Terminator franchise.

“I think Deadwood started me on this path when they were so generous and let me play two different characters,” says Dillahunt. “I’ve always enjoyed those actors who really transform themselves from one role to the next. I liked Cromartie because it was a complete change from the last thing I had done. I thought ‘How will I play a robot and make it unique?’”

That is a good question, considering Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick made them iconic villains in 1984’s feature film Terminator as well as 1991’s sequel, Terminator: Judgment Day.

“I guess the jury is out if I have made it my own, or will do that, but I guess it’s about time,” offers Dillahunt. “I thought Arnold was fantastic. I loved that movie and had seen it in the theatres. What saved us is Terminators can’t all be alike; we are made to pass. In effect, Robert passed better because he looked like a normal man. Arnold doesn’t pass in everyday life as a human being because he stops traffic. I felt free from the burden of having to imitate Arnold or surpass him. I could be my own. And who knows what damage has been done to my chip with all the time travel and losing my head. Cromartie could develop ticks or flaws in his program that gives him some individuality as well.”

Nonetheless, as an emotionless robot with the ultimate poker face, Dillahunt admits it’s been interesting speaking through body language rather than vocally.

“Everybody has ideas about how the Terminators are supposed to act,” he says. “I always thought if we are supposed to pass, we can’t act like robots so for the most part, I try not to. The biggest challenge is Cromartie hasn’t succeeded yet; I’ve made some huge efforts to get John and haven’t. To not show frustration, disappointed, or anger about that is hard. It’s like when Robert Patrick hooks in the car, gets shot off it, simply gets up, and starts running again. That is a good metaphor for their whole psychology. He didn’t beat himself up or curse because he got shot off the car. Instead, he just got up, started over, and was happy to do it.”

Typically enforcing a “kill first, ask questions later policy,” Cromartie shocked everyone by sparing Agent James Ellison’s life in the season one finale, even after decimating the rest of a S.W.A.T. team.

“Ellison was spared because he possessed no threat to Cromartie and could lead him to the Connors, so why ruin that?” notes Dillahunt. “That was a smart thing for him to do. The relationship does get a little more detailed towards the end of these 13 episodes. You will see it change dramatically. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you are going to have a series or movie about the end of the world, religious elements are going to come into play. It’s inevitable.”

In the meantime, another surprising move was Cromartie’s covert approach of adopting a secret identity to blend in more.   

“That has absolutely been fun to play,” reports Dillahunt. “It reminds me of the Jason Bourne character. There’s actually a lot I’d like to take from the Terminators and apply to everyday life in terms of their lack of hesitation and doubt. That quality I think is admirable. They don’t waste time wondering how this will affect them. It’s a job that has to be done and they are the ones to do it.”

Not that Cromartie is above a well planned ambush. In the episode "Mousetrap", he kidnapped Charley Dixon’s wife, rigged a house to explode, and tricked John into meeting him at the Santa Monica pier. A double threat, he has proven resourceful in both brain and brawn.

“I like him a little more devious and I don’t want to say desperate, but he’s pulling out the stops,” reveals Dillahunt. “Cromartie wasn’t being so cautious then. His straight ahead approach hasn’t worked. He lost track of the Connors and had to find them again so he grabbed the first person he could that would lure Sarah out. That episode was a lot of fun and I loved the water stuff.”

Lately, Cromartie hasn’t been the only Terminator in town. With Cameron and this season’s Catherine Weaver on the loose, he definitely has some formidable opposition to contend with.

“Well, certainly compared to Weaver, he seems like a little bit of a caveman,” offers Dillahunt. “She seems like she passes a lot better, seems smarter, and is a lot more powerful. I think he would have a hard time keeping her down. Cromartie would truly have to be at his best. As for Cameron, I’m excited for that day. I hope they actually get to throw-down and trade some punches. Cromartie could give her a hard time.”

After a small dunk in the water a few weeks ago, Cromartie has been laying low but as expected, it’s nearly impossible to keep a functioning Terminator down.

“We shot the episodes out of order so we’re all a little confused what’s next,” explains Dillahunt. “My next appearance is a real active one though. Cromartie gets even closer and we shot some real terrific fights between me and the Connor gang. I got pretty close to John and almost got my hands on him, but he’s a slippery little guy.”

Given their similar missions, another interesting development could be an alliance between Cromartie and Weaver.

“They certainly seem like they are on the same side of the law as it were,” agrees Dillahunt. “Just be patient because your idea will be rewarded. You should write for the show.”

As if Cromartie isn’t villainous enough, one project Dillahunt is eagerly anticipating is the release of The Last House on the Left. Based on Wes Craven’s 1972 horror movie, the remake finds Dillahunt as the sadistic Krug, who terrorize two teenage girls along with his fellow escaped inmates.

“Apparently, Krug was the inspiration for Freddy Krueger,” explains Dillahunt. “I don’t know what it is about that word Krug and Krueger that Wes likes so much. It is hard to play these guys because they are so vile and you can’t help but wonder if there is a purpose. However, it depends on the ensemble you are with. You just want to tell a good story and part of that is the bad guy. It’s still pretty graphic and we had never seen a movie like that back in the day. It didn’t really do it for me when I saw it just because my tastes have changed. If any movie deserves to be remade, it’s this one. Not a lot of people even know about the original movie and it’s not like we are remaking The Godfather. I had a great time on it, it was a challenge acting wise, and we were with a group of people who really wanted to transcend the genre and the material. I say that because we made a movie I’m really proud of and I can’t wait for it to come out.”

Returning to the Sarah Connor Chronicles before concluding the interview, it seems appropriate to mention that while past Terminators have spouted some memorable dialogue, Cromartie has yet to utter those three famous words, “I’ll be back.”

“The closest thing he has is ‘Thank you for your time,’” says Dillahunt. “Other than that, in the premiere this year, I only had one line as I introduced myself to the public which was ‘We’ll see.’ That has become the catch phrase on set in regard to all kinds of things. Will we get picked up for the back nine? People said ‘We’ll see’ all the time.”

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