Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter was one of the better seasons of the bunch. When I look back on the seasons that I watched with great enthusiasm, very few come to mind. As a matter of fact, I put it at 5 out of the 18, but Season 3 resides in the top spot. It featured a great cast, and the continuing rivalry between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock.
Among the standout cast members, Tait Fletcher would create an indelible memory when he stood up to his team coach, Ken Shamrock, in a heated exchange. He wasn’t the biggest name to emerge from the season, but success would be his, regardless. It just wouldn’t be with a career in fighting.
Instead, Fletcher has found himself in the enviable position of being a Hollywood stuntman, and actor, currently seen as Lester, a bad guy heavy on one of the most popular shows in television history, Breaking Bad. His never ending flow of movie and television projects didn’t just crop up overnight, though. He’s been a SAG card holder since 2000, when he did a small film called Lockdown, featuring rap star, Sticky Fingaz.
There would be a few more roles sprinkled periodically throughout the next 10 years, the appearance on TUF, and a couple more professional fights before he would find continuous success in his acting and stunt career. These days, he’s doing big budget films with the likes of Johnny Depp, Jennifer Aniston and Denzel Washington, not to mention plenty of TV roles, as well.
On this very special day, when Breaking Bad is ending its historic run, I sat down with Tait to talk a little about his show biz journey, his current and future projects and even managed to get a fun summation of the current season of The Ultimate Fighter. I couldn’t help but notice throughout the hour that we chatted, how his other phone was either ringing or buzzing every 3-4 minutes. He never once diverted his attention from the conversation, though, immediately silencing the interruptions. I can only imagine, on a day like today, where he’ll be picked up by a limousine in a few hours to attend a Breaking Bad red carpet wrap party that Aaron Paul is hosting, that his phone will be abuzz continuously for the rest of the night. Here’s what he had to say:
There’s No Business Like Show Business
In the beginning, I didn’t want to do the film work full time. I worked at night clubs, as a bodyguard; I did all that sh*t to maintain my grappling and fighting career, because at the time, that was the easy thing for me to support it fully.
Then, in ’09, I was like, ‘What do I do here?’ I had just gotten knocked out, and I realized that there’s not much longevity in fighting. There’s a bunch of journeymen fighters and a couple guys that see real success and make good money. I had a conversation with Dana White, and he basically said, ‘This isn’t for you. With your age, and where you’re going right now, you’re just not gonna be able to do this.’
I met a dude that knew the first guy that helped me get the role in Lockdown and helped me get my SAG card. I worked on a show with him, and then we started doing jiu-jitsu together all the time. From there I worked on another film, and then I got a real taste for it. It was perfect.
This guy became one of my best friends. He told me, ‘Don’t quit whatever you’re doing. You never know where this will go.’ I’m invested in a couple of bars, I own a gym, and some other sh*t. He’s like, ‘You’ve got to keep doing you, because the whole landscape has changed, and there’s no room in the industry for new guys on a permanent, regular basis. It’s very difficult to make a living off work like this.’
That was the best advice, and I still think it is today. It’s like when Hemmingway would speak at universities and colleges. They’d ask him what advice he had for young writers, and he would say, ‘Absolutely quit. Unless your soul burns for it, don’t write.’ I believe that about fighting, too. I didn’t do all those stick fights, and grappling and MMA fights for nothing. At the time, I had a need to do them.
Every f*cking knucklehead out there that’s like a wannabe fighter thinks there’s some kind of magic. They never want to hear that you have to work super hard, all the time. My whole thing is, if you’re not doing whatever it is that you love, then you’re doing the wrong thing. If you’ve got to look for the end in it, that’s a waste of your time.
I feel the same way about stunts and acting. There might not have been any room for permanence. It might have been an impossibility. F*ck it, I’m gonna go ahead and do it anyway. I have to do this. So, I just went after it with that kind of fervor, and how I got the job on Breaking Bad is because I’m Tait F*cking Fletcher, goddamnit [laughs].
Lady Gaga has this awesome quote. She said, ‘Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m scared. I want to crawl back in there and pull the covers over my head. Then, I put my feet on the floor, and remember that I’m Lady Gaga, goddamnit, and I get up.’
I owe a lot of people in my life, and I’m not gonna let them down. There’s a whole lot of people on both sides wondering if I’m gonna fall, and I don’t know. I’m just going to keep doing what I love doing, and keep representing myself in the way that the people I look up to would be proud. That’s how I behave and that’s how I go about trying to get work.
I train very hard. I work on my acting, I train at gymnastics, I train my movement, all that kind of thing, everything that goes into it. I do it all on my own. I don’t have an agent or a manager to speak of. I just hustle. There’s nobody out there that’s going to represent me as well as I will do for myself.
The scene where I drag Jesse off is amazing, but it’s got nothing to do with me. It’s f*cking Aaron Paul, and watching how that guy prepared for that scene was incredible. For 20 minutes to a half hour before we shoot that, and we shoot it maybe 10 times, he’s gone. We’re in this big, open arroyo, so you can see and hear everything. The sound carries in a really distinct way. He’s crying and sobbing and screaming. He’s really having fits. This is all to himself, about 300 yards away. He’s pacing and he’s frantic. He really works himself into a state before a scene like that…I’ve just never seen anything like it before. I learned so much from watching him.
When we did that scene, he told me he was going to fight me in it for realism. I said, ‘Cool, I will take care of you. No problem, you’re safe with me.’ He is f*cking wild [laughs]. He’s a squirmy, strong f*cker. It was rad. It was really cool.
I admittedly don’t keep up with The Ultimate Fighter much, but I had heard that Ronda Rousey was coaching. I caught a clip from it, and there’s all these girls, but I just saw all these guys, too. My friend was like, ‘Yeah, it’s a mixed house.’ Holy f*ck! They just want all the drama [laughs]. They’re making it like an attempt to have an orgy in the house [laughs].
That’s kind of a crazy thing to do. I’m gonna put a bunch of dudes in the house that are competing against each other, not only for fights, but I’m also gonna distract them with pussy. Uber talented, athletic pussy. That’s crazy.
Then you’ve got a bunch of girls, and knowing just how girls are, there’s a couple girls that are gonna be like the piranha types. Most of the girls that are actual, serious fighter, there all about their own business. I bet none of those girls are the least bit interested in that personal element. It sets a really weird tone for that house, I bet. It seems like it would be watching probably. I have heard that Ronda cries a lot and is very dramatic.
I just got done with a movie called Equalizer with Denzel Washington. I have an awesome, awesome scene with Denzel in there that’s going to be rad. Right when I got home from that, I got a job for a television show called The Mindy Project. It’s me and Keith Jardine, and Dana White is also making a cameo in it. It’s a cage fighting thing, but I’m not sure when it airs. That’s kind of impromptu stuff that just comes up.
I hope to get on the 5th Pirates of the Caribbean movie and I hope to get on the new Star Wars movie. I could play like a rogue jedi in that, or I’d love to play one of Boba Fett’s guys.
*He also has an abundance of other businesses in the start-up stages, including a coffee company and a coffee truck.
Advice For The Masses
It falls under the universal law of reciprocation. What that means to me is that, we sort of all go by this thing, ‘As soon as I get mine, I’ll be happy to give back.’ That’s not what the truth is. The truth is, to give, and look to serve, no matter where you’re at. That’s where all the good stuff comes from. Treat people well regardless of how you feel. Be generous and kind. When you can do that, it enriches the world.
*All images generously donated to Bloody Elbow by Tait Fletcher*
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