Brian Patrick Stepanek is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Arwin Hawkhauser in the Disney Channel Original Series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. He was also a Sector Seven Agent in the 2007 Michael Bay film Transformers, and also had a supporting role in The Island. He is now known to play Tom Harper, the father of quadruplets on Nickelodeon's Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn; and the voice of Magnifo on the short-form Cartoon Network series Mixels.
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Hey, I'm Brian Stepanek. I played Arwin on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody". I was also in Michael Bay films "Transformers", "The Island" and "Pain & Gain".
I've been in over a hundred commercials.
For those of you in the pacific northwest or Chicago, I played Dex in those phonebook commercials.
And I'm currently playing Tom in Nickelodeon's "Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn" and I'm a bunch of voices in the Dreamworks animated feature "Home" in theaters now!
Basically, Angelina Jolie and I run Hollywood. Victoria's helping me get started today. AMA.
What was your favorite episode to film of The Suite Life?
Btw thanks for the AMA
You're welcome (for the AMA).
My favorite episode of THE SUITE LIFE was probably "Bowling." It was where they find out that Arwin used to be a pro bowler. There's a scene in that where i go in slow-motion, and at the end you realize I was just going slow - it's revealed at the end I'm just going slow for dramatic effect. I did that just as a joke in rehearsals, and it ended up being such a hilarious part of the show. I really enjoyed that.
If you had a chance to pick one movie from the past in which you haven't acted and could choose a role to play as, which one would it be?
First of all, great question!
I would say - because the movie that made me want to do this was BACK TO THE FUTURE - I would love to go back when I was 16 or 17 to play the Michael J. Fox character of Marty McFLy.
I would've loved to have played that role. In my office, I have an original poster for BACK TO THE FUTURE behind me, because it affected me that much.
Hi Brian, thanks for doing this AMA.
Could you tell us how you landed the role of Gandu Three Echo on The Island?
And could you tell us a little bit about what shooting that movie was like?
Edit: Also, what was working with Michael Bay like?
I booked the role because I'd done a commercial for JEEP with Michael Bay. And I had auditioned for that. And that's how I met him. So the next time I auditioned for him was for THE ISLAND, and that part actually got larger as we shot - i was only supposed to be in 4 scenes as comic relief, but midway through shooting, all of a sudden a new juicy scene with Sean Bean was added. That's how I ended up being murdered. And if you watched it until the very end, you'll see that I'm alive at the end - because we shot the end before they knew they were going to murder me! So when it came out, people on IMDB were like Wait a minute! Gandu's still alive! so that's a neat little tidbit.
It was really fun to shoot.
I almost died in the elevator scene because the big piece of glass in the back of the elevator broke loose when I was leaning on it, and I was 3 stories up. And luckily one of the extras in the elevator reached out and caught his finger on the neckline of my bodysuit, and stopped me from going back. And the glass shattered on the ground, 2 stories below. So if you watch the scene and I look particularly terrified, there's a reason why!
I love Michael Bay.
There's lore out there about MIchael. We've had our run-ins. But he's a blast to work with. He's very funny. And extremely passionate about what he does. He's an energizer bunny.
Do you miss being Arwin?
I miss - part of being Arwin was being able to work with that crew, and those writers, and that cast. And I think I miss that as much as playing Arwin. He's such a goofball. Arwin was supposed to be in his own pilot, where Selena Gomez played my niece.
We shot it!
And Arwin goes and becomes a "manny" to his widowed-sister-in-law and her 3 kids, the oldest of which was Selena Gomez, and the house was run by a computer, so Arwin immediately taps into that and wreaks havoc.
And that pilot was shot at the same time as WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE, so Selena was in both, obviously, and they picked WIZARDS.
But it was really, really a fun project. And it was all the same writers as SUITE LIFE, and a fantastic crew, and just a great show. But they chose WIZARDS.
Do you get accosted by excited kids on a regular basis?
And I love it. I love kid fans. Because they are completely genuine, and SO thrilled to see you. It would be like when I was a kid, back in Cleveland, Ohio, and I saw John Ritter, my head would've exploded, because he's one of my idols. Him or Robin Williams, they are both my idols, so sad they're gone.
But it does happen more than you might think. And it's amazing.
did you film the suite life at a real hotel?
No, we did not. The exterior that you see in the opening credits is all graphics. It's all computer animation. I don't know if they used an existing hotel for that exterior or not, but i know a good portion of it was computer graphics. We shot at a studio in Hollywood. And that stayed there for as long as we shot the show, which I think was about 3 years.
What's up? I'm just another Stepanek checking in.
Probably should ask a question...did Arwin ever get to date Carey?
Uh - unfortunately, Arwin never got to date Carey.
Although the first episode I ever did was the "Blind Date" episode where the boys set Arwin up with Carey. And Arwin was originally a regular character n the show, he was written to be a regular character, but they didn't have enough time in the pilot. So I think I came in the 5th episode of Season 1, and was a recurring guest star. So I was never a regular in the cast.
The Island looked like an extremely physical and difficult shoot. Glad everyone came out okay.
I'm glad your part was expanded. It worked well for Lincoln to have a group he can dialogue with and not just Jordan.
You did a great job in the film and it was a blast to see in theaters.
Thanks for answering my questions! I appreciate it! I look forward to seeing your future work.
Thank you. I look forward to you watching my future work.
What was the strangest thing that has happened to you on the set of any film/show/commercial?
Um... probably the being on the set of THE ISLAND and having the glass on the elevator fall backwards.
When you almost die - it tends to stick in your head!!
Do you find kids easier or harder to work with than adults?
I find it harder to work with kids, but it's much more fun. Kids' attention span between takes is sometimes a little shorter. But the kids that end up booking the roles out here are pretty exceptional human beings. To get through that gauntlet of auditions, they have to be pretty exceptional.
For example, the kids on "Micky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn," are exceptional kids. They're very bright, very charismatic, but like any 10 year old, their attention can go in any direction. So occasionally they act like 10 year olds, and that's okay. Their energy is a blast to have around on-set.
How was the Kids Choice Awards?
It was hot.
The orange carpet was very hot. It was a warm day.
I had a lot of fun. I was constantly reminded that the title of the show is "Micky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn," since they were a huge draw. We just kinda stood behind them and framed the picture.
Again, it goes back to kids being excited. I got to take a picture with a contest winner for TEEN BEAT or something, and she wanted to take a picture with me, and I was so flattered. She was like "I wanna take a picture with Arwin!"
I just think it's the best awards show out there, because it's just a rock concert.
Do the parents recognize you, too? Or do they give you a weird look like "why is my kid hugging this guy"?
I have a great story.
I'm at the premiere for the movie HOME.
I'm in the lobby of the theater. And a mom comes running over to me with what looked like her 6 year old daughter, and says "Can I get a picture with you?" and I said "Sure!" and I bent down to take a picture with her daughter, and she just put her arm around me, and took a selfie with just her (the mom).
So I think the answer is parents recognize me quite a bit.
Because they watch these shows over & over with their kid. So they're as familiar with me as their kids are.
Please tell me there's some video footage of that.
I would love to watch the pilot.
There is some footage out there, if you YouTube and look up "Housebroken" you might be able to find it. There's something out there that has a few clips of it. But obviously Disney has not released it officially.
What's your favorite dinosaur?
Oh my gosh, I don't know!
I'm gonna say... my only reference for dinosaurs is JURASSIC PARK. SO I'm gonna say a raptor. Because it was a dinosaur I'd never heard of before, and I thought it was just such a cool, smart dinosaur that I thought I'd just go with the raptor.
Did you and Phill Lewis ever go out and party?
Phill and I are both fathers. He has 2 daughters, and I have 3 kids, so we don't go out and party. We're too tired to party.
But we do have lunch occasionally!
Phil is actually a big-shot multi-cam director now. He directs MIKE & MOLLY, I think he might've done TWO AND A HALF MEN, he does a lot of the Chuck Lorre shows. He's having a lot of success as a director, and I'm really happy for him.
Were you familiar with any of the bands playing before the show?
I was really hoping Billy Joel and Elton John were gonna be there. Disappointed to find out that they weren't.
The music that i know of is thanks to my 10 year old son, who's a huge music fan. So Iggy Azalea I knew, 5 Seconds of Summer I knew... Jennifer Hudson, and all those - the ones I knew are through my son.
It would've been great to see Earth, Wind & Fire.
Have you done stand up comedy before? If so, what venues? If not, why not?
I have done standup before. I did standup for about a year, right before my first son was born. And realized that i started WAY too late in my career to be going down that road. I learned that if you're gonna do standup, you have to start young, so you can develop your craft. It takes 5,6 years to get a good half-hour of material. And I was already on TV guest-starring on things, and here i had a baby, and going to open mic nights at 6 o'clock - that's really hard work! I think the reason I chose not to was because i chose to do improv at Second City.
I think I prefer being onstage with other people, than being by myself.
what are favorite commercals you do?
I did a SuperBowl commercial with Matthew Broderick that was a spinoff of FERRIS BUELLER years ago. I was his agent, his talent agent, in the commercial, so the equivalent of the principal in the movie. That was fun, because i got to shoot it with Tom Phillips, who directed THE HANGOVER - he directed that commercial.
I also did a Capital One commercial where i turned into a werewolf. And the makeup on that was really fun to do. It took like 6 hours to put it on. I'm a HUGE sports fan, and I've only been able to do one commercial with a sports celebrity, and that was Randy Johnson, and that was cool, although he barely talked to me.
And then I did a bunch of commercials for Dairy Queen, for about 6 years. In one, I got hit in the face with a basketball by a little kid. And there was a series of Dairy Queen commercials where my breath catches fire because the burger I was eating was so hot. And that commercial did very very well. I really enjoyed working with the director Baker Smith, and he's a huge fan of mine.
And then of course, the Dex phonebook commercials. Anybody who lives in those regions would recognize me.
OH! And I did an OnStar commercial, for the campaign that used Batman. And I played the Riddler in one of those commercials. It was pretty cool - we had to get approval for me. DC Comics had to approve me being the Riddler - and Jim Carrey had just done the role, so I had to be a combination of old-school Riddler with Jim Carrey Riddler...
Hi Brian, thanks for doing this AMA! I used to watch Suite Life all the time with my dad, and without question, our favorite character was Arwin. My question is, do you still keep in touch with any of the other Suite Life cast members?
Well thank you! I miss Arwin. I keep in touch with Phil Lewis who played Mr. Mosby. I did an episode of THE CRAZY ONES last year and when I walked on set I found myself standing next to Ashley Tisdale. We both freaked out.
Is HOME as cute as it looks?
YES. It's a fantastic movie. Very funny and heartwarming. I cried a little.
I remember. You're the biggest Lottery Loser in the room.
I've been dying to ask, how tall are you?
Six foot one. How tall are you?
Loved you in suite life and transformers. Have you thought of taking on more serious roles (as opposed to comic relief)? Also, how did you get your start in acting?
When I first came out to Los Angeles, the first things I booked were dramatic roles in SIX FEET UNDER and NYPD BLUE.
So... the trick is to get the decision-makers out here to see me as a dramatic actor. I just did a short film called SIMON SAYS that is making the rounds on the festival circuit that is doing very very well where i play 2 roles - the main protagonist, and I also at the same time play the voice in his head that exists in this other kind of reality... that is the antagonist. It's the voice in all of our heads that tells us we're not good enough, so that we can't succeed out of fear. And it's doing very very well. I'm hoping maybe the right people will see that film someday and it will take me in that direction.
I went to Syracuse University and did a one-man musical called "Herringbone."
And a young upstart producer in Chicago brought the show to Chicago, and that's how i ended up in Chicago. And once I got there, I started touring with the Second City touring company, and did lots of commercials and whatever voiceover and TV I could do in Chicago.
And I played the lead in a show called ME AND MY GIRL in Chicago and I won the Jeff Award (it's kinda like Chicago's equivalent of the Tony Awards). And after I won that, I decided I needed to move, because I knew if I didn't move I would get too comfortable. So I moved out to LA and auditioned like crazy.