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In The Mix
June 06, 2014

Nixing the Niche

Pablo Schreiber refuses to be cornered.

Robin Roberts

Growing up in rural British Columbia, Pablo Schreiber never imagined he’d become famous as a sadistic prison guard called Pornstache.

Following his dream of playing in the NBA, he enrolled at the University of San Francisco to play on a Division 1 team. When he didn’t make the cut, Schreiber headed for Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University to study theater.

“It was acting or nothing else,” he says. “I didn’t have any other skill sets to fall back on.”

Performing is in Schreiber’s DNA: his father, Tell, was an acting teacher, and his brother is Tony-winning actor Liev (Ray Donovan). He says he’d love to share a stage with Liev, but they never talk shop: “We leave all that for agents and managers. When we see each other, we mostly just talk kids.”

Schreiber’s first professional gig was a walk-on in Julius Caesar at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Roles on stage (Awake and Sing!), TV (The Wire, Weeds, Ironside) and film (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Manchurian Candidate) led to his most infamous characters: George “Pornstache” Mendez on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and psycho slimeball William Lewis on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU.

“It was a lot of fun to play Pornstache and very interesting to play William Lewis, but that’s not a niche I’m going to be living in for long,” Schreiber says, referring to Lewis’s suicide on L&O in April. Pornstache, however, will survive Orange’s second season.

As juicy as the Orange role is, Schreiber is eager for other, ‘stache-free parts. “It was interesting that those 2 roles materialized at the same time, because I hadn’t done a lot of villain roles. But that’s what cemented that idea in people’s heads of me as a villain. I think that perception is going to shift pretty quick with the next job.”

He plays a fighter pilot in HBO’s The Brink, shooting this summer. Directed by Jay Roach and starring Jack Black and Tim Robbins, “It’s a half-hour comedy about the U.S. being on the brink of the next World War,” Schreiber says.

Sounds like Pornstache is in for a close shave.

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