• Television

Simon Phillips on “FUBAR” and working with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Irish-born actor Simon Phillips can’t help smiling as he talks about working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the new Netflix action spy series, FUBAR (launching May 25).

“When I was asked to audition and I realized I’d be working with him, I immediately said, ‘I will be there!’” Phillips says. “I’m an ’80s baby so this was a really easy decision for me as I’m collecting all these ’80s icons and hoping that a bit of their magic rubs off on me somehow.”

The actor/writer/producer has over 100 film and TV credits on his IMDb page, including parts in the Amazon series Age of the Living Dead (2018-23), the film Stealing Chaplin (2020), a gruesome portrayal of Santa Claus in the Christmas horror films Once Upon a Time at Christmas (2017) and The Nights Before Christmas (2019), and a role in the upcoming season of the Netflix series, The Witcher (2023).

But working with his idols is nothing new for the London drama school graduate. The list on his résumé of 1980s stars that he has had as screen partners includes Bruce Willis (Survive the Game, 2021), Mark Hamill (Airborne, 2011), Robert Englund (Strippers vs Werewolves, 2012), Rutger Hauer (The Reverend, 2011), Jean-Claude Van Damme (U.F.O., 2012) and Mel Gibson (Panama, 2022)

In FUBAR, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a CIA operative who is about to retire before one last job reveals that his daughter is also working in the CIA and needs his help. “I have an email from Netflix, which is about five pages of things I can’t say about the show or my role,” Phillips confides with a grin when we catch up with him on Zoom from his Canadian home. “I didn’t realize there was homework attached to this role!”


When pushed for a description of his character, Phillips will admit he does not play a hero. “I’m in the first episode and I set the tone for how badass Mr. Schwarzenegger is – in real life, but also in the show,” he says cautiously. “I play one of these unpleasant characters who comes with henchmen to try and corner him but, of course, Arnold has the upper hand.”

Phillips admits he didn’t do his own stunts, but adds that he was impressed with how physical the star of The Terminator films, True Lies and The Expendables films remains at age 75.

“When you see these action scenes, they are about five seconds on TV, but sometimes they take all day to film! Arnold is a pro at doing it, so that’s easy for him. All the henchmen are stuntmen in my scenes because I’m not going to do any of the actual fighting – I let these guys go ahead and do all that and I just do the talking,” he laughs. “All I can say is that, obviously, in a fight between me and Arnold, who do you think is going to win?”

Phillips says he was initially nervous about meeting Schwarzenegger. “But he was everything I hoped he would be,” he says. “He’s got boundless energy and doesn’t act like his age. He also had energy and time for everybody on set so, for example, even when he wasn’t on camera, he would stay for my closeups which is a very generous thing for an actor to do. He said, ‘Simon was there for mine, I’m there for his!’”

The actor recalls getting support from the action star when producers told him he would be learning a few German lines and playing someone with a Flemish accent. “I didn’t even know what that accent sounded like, but they promised I’d get a voice coach,” he says.  “There’s a couple of lines of German at the beginning, and when I said them on set, Arnold came over during the break and started talking to me in German because he thought I spoke real German, which reassured me it must sound right! I told him I was worried about the accent, and he encouraged me and said, ‘You’re doing a terrific job.’ He reminded me he’d been playing Americans for 40 years and even in this show, he’s a CIA operative but nobody questions he still sounds Austrian! It was that insane confidence that I hope I picked up from Arnold!”

Phillips admits he always feels a little starstruck when he works with one of his idols. “I feel like with these guys, they won’t be around forever and they’re my boyhood heroes and I grew up on their pop culture, so to be an actor around these iconic people is amazing. They just don’t make movie stars like this anymore and they’re the last of that time in the ’80s and ’90s when movie stars were really movie stars. It gives you a rich tapestry of life to draw on, when you rub shoulders with the last of a dying breed, so it’s real bucket list stuff for me.”

Asked if there is anyone else from his bucket list left for him to work with, he smiles and replies immediately, “Somebody needs to find me Sylvester Stallone! Imagine I’m collecting these collectible cards and I’ve got a lot of these action guys I’ve been lucky enough to work with. I need him to complete the set, but I keep checking my phone and he hasn’t called yet.

“So if you see him, let him know!”