Multi-Hyphenate Don Lake on Suiting Up for Netflix's 'Space Force' | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Multi-Hyphenate Don Lake on Suiting Up for Netflix’s ‘Space Force’

As a one-star general, what did you like about the character of Brad, and what did you see as his redemptive arc in season one?

It was [my] best role because of the people involved before the camera and behind the camera. It was just super talented people. What I loved in him was his complete devotion to General Naird. They’ve known each other a long time. We mention in one of the episodes that I pulled General Naird from a burning F-15, and that’s why he’s always indebted to me – because I saved his life. That’s why I haven’t been fired, because I’m terribly inept. And that’s what I loved about the character as well – he’s not good at his job at all. That computer on his desk? He knows how to turn it on. That’s about it. He’s a Post-it Notes guy. He keeps a journal. He’ll even, if he needs to, write something on his hand to remember it. He never bothered to catch up with technology.

Don Lake as Brad Gregory in Space Force

But General Naird has him as his assistant because he feels indebted, because there was a moment of bravery somewhere back there where he pulled him from that burning wreckage. They’ve been together a long time. With Brad as his secretary, so to speak, it does kill me that he is a one-star general; that makes me laugh. And that’s why Naird’s always telling him, “You’re a one-star general. Act like it.” It’s like, “I am. I’m trying. I’m doing my best. I’m not to mold, I know that.” As long as I get him on a phone call at the right time or I get someone in to meet him at the right time and he’s there to meet them, that’s all I’m concerned about. When I read it, I loved it. A guy I always loved growing up was Don Knotts, and there’s a little bit of Don Knotts and Barney Fife in Brad.

I could definitely see that. When you get into heated words with Fuck Tony (Ben Schwartz), I love that. It shows a darker side to Brad.

Right. And they have a great relationship, him and Fuck Tony. They’re abrasive with each other, but deep down they like each other, because there is a fist pump once in a while when we resolve something. We figure it out and we get it done, but you know those people who love to bicker? They love the verbal jousting, Fuck Tony and Brad.

And you have an ability to riff with every character. Brad has these funny side adventures throughout the series. You mentioned that there was, to a certain extent, some improvisation during principal photography. How did you become so adept at improv comedy?

I was part of Second City in Toronto in the early ’80s, up to ’84. That was where you really got to improvise; that’s all you did. And then, years later in ’89, they opened up a Second City company in Los Angeles. So they took three or four people from Chicago, and three of us from Toronto, and they put us together and they formed a new company in LA. So my wife and I moved down from Toronto for that, and I did more improv there. And then [I] started working, started doing some series’, so it’s something I learned early on. It’s always been something I really enjoy doing. It’s just writing on your feet. And having a character and just keep embellishing the character and move a story along at the same time.

And it’s always [so fun] to be on the cliff, as they say, where you don’t have anything – you have no idea what’s going to happen next, and then these things are born from it. And you always do, “Yes, and.” That’s the rule in improv. “Yes, and,” so you heighten and explore. Those are the only rules you follow. But if you do that you can pretty much go anywhere with anyone and improvise together. It’s like a jazz musician. You can go anywhere, set down that trumpet, and play with the rest of the guys on a given take.

On that note, which actor on the show – and don’t throw anyone under the bus if you don’t want to – did you have the best chemistry with?

It’s hard to compare, only because his relationship with everyone is different. Personally, I get along with them all. He can be abrasive – verbal jousting with Fuck Tony – and that’s a lot of fun to play with. At the same time, he’s intimidated and so devoted and wants to not let down General Naird. Yet that’s all he does is let him down and mess up. I have a whole other different relationship with Erin [Diana Silvers], the daughter, because I’ve known her for a long time and I used to babysit her. I don’t think I’ve had as much fun and been with such a talented cast as this group. And Jimmy [O. Yang], who plays Dr. Chan, is a different flavor, completely, and we hope to do more. I don’t have a favorite because you get to play a different game with each person; a different relationship with each person – I can’t compare them because they’re all so different; they’re so beautifully unique – and that comes from a great show that Greg and Steve created.


And Malkovich – he’s so fun and he’s so smart. Of course, with all his work, I was so intimidated. It was like, “Oh, I’m going to meet him. Oh my god, that’s John Malkovich.” He is so funny. He tells such great stories. He’s so generous with telling stories of movies when people ask him about them and his experiences in the business, and all his interests are so fascinating. He was a wonderful surprise, because I had no idea he was going to be like that.

Is he as eloquent in person as he is delivering his lines in all of his work?

Yeah. He is. He’s very smart. He’s very well-versed. He’s interested in so many things. I mean, he has fashion clothing lines in Europe, I believe the States too. He makes his own wine. He’s a builder. He’s an architect. And he’s done so much work. But like I said, he’s so funny and he’s so nice and he so much likes to laugh.


You sit around on these breaks when you’re shooting, and you’re just talking and laughing. He said one day, “I really think that everybody in this cast truly enjoys each other’s work.” They truly enjoy watching somebody else work or working with each other. And they appreciate each other’s humor, and they so enjoy it. And you don’t get that all the time, but this group was really like that.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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