Michael Vartan hopes to land a canine co-star as he heads into pilot season this January

We recently chatted with Michael Vartan about his latest Blu-ray and DVD release Colombiana, where he stars opposite Zoe Saldana as a sensitive painter who falls in love with a deadly assassin.

While talking about the movie, we hit upon the cancellation of Hawthorne, which ended with Season 3, and the fact that Michael is heading into pilot season this January with an open mind about the future. That, and he hopes to land a canine co-star.

Here is our conversation.

We just saw you on the Hero Dog Awards. How did you get involved in that? Are you a big dog person?

Michael Vartan: Yes. I am a huge dog person. They asked me to be a part of that, and I said, "Absolutely!" I know it sounds like a joke, but I was so honored. I joke around with my friends that I love dogs more than people. So, it was a no brainer for me. I think this was the inaugural show. I'd never heard about it before this. It was pretty cool, and some of the stories about these dogs and the people that own them were very emotional.

What I want to see is a Michael Vartan action movie that has you, a gun, and a dog...

Michael Vartan: Yes. I would love that, too. I want to see a pilot that is a dog and I. I don't care what we do. If we are a rescue team, if we are cops, if were are astronauts and this is the first dog on the moon. I don't care what it is. Just that the show goes on for ten years. That dog would be my favorite co-star of all time. America? We love our pets in the states. If you shop at Skymall, if you are flying anywhere, two/thirds of the magazine is devoted to pet stuff. People joke, but its true. You murder a whole village of innocent people in an Indian and Cowboy movie, no one really cares. But as soon as that dog dies, people are weeping.

Are you referencing Cowboys and Aliens?

Michael Vartan: No, I haven't seen that.

Oh, cause that's what happens. The aliens kill a whole bunch of cowboys and Indians. No one makes a sound. The dog dies, and everyone weeps. Then, not to give anything away, but the dog comes back, and everyone cheers. I thought maybe you were referencing that...

Michael Vartan: No, but that's it exactly. Hooray for the one dog! Too bad for the people.

Where are you going from here? I don't see anything on your upcoming slate...

Michael Vartan: Well, I was on Hawthorne for three years. That is a show that was just cancelled recently. I am looking forward to pilot season. That is right around the corner. That starts in early to mid-January. It's an exciting time for an actor. It's a little scary being out of work, because you don't know what is going to happen from paycheck to paycheck. On a creative level, for the next month or two, the world is my oyster. Who knows what is out there. It's exciting to be back in the fray and be back in the mix. Being available for all of these upcoming projects. And most of the best work is being done on television. Look at HBO, and Showtime, and TNT. These aren't shows anymore. They are like small, beautifully crafted movies. You look at a lot of the movies out there, and they are not that good. The business is changing. Some of the best stuff is on television now. I am fortunate that I have a way in. And can afford to do pilot season this year. The cool thing is, all of these channels now have really good shows. Pilot season used to only be for the big networks. But now, its all year around for the cable networks. You know, as an actor, once you sign a contract for one show, you can't do anything else. For the last three years, I have been out of the loop. Now I am back in the loop.

TNT has such great shows. But they seem to keep getting canceled. What is happening there?

Michael Vartan: I don't know. Like you said, they have some really good shows. If you look at some of the actors they have in their stable, there are some great ones. They have Emmy winners, Oscar winners, it's not a lack of talent or creativity. It's like any network. It's hit or miss. I was on Alias for five years. I was on Hawthorne for three years. If you told me that every TV show I do throughout my career, I was going to get three years out of, I would sign immediately. It is so hard to get a pilot. Then once you get a pilot, it is so hard to get that pilot made into a series. Once you get that series, you shoot six or seven episodes. Then, it is so hard to get an order for season 2. So, even though I tell people that Hawthorne was cancelled after three years, and they go 'Ah, that sucks!', I don't say anything, because there is really no need to. But internally I am thinking, "Are you kidding me? That was awesome! We had a great run. We had three years on television. It is so hard to do that." It is so difficult to get a show on television. I don't know what the deal is with TNT. It's probably the same with all the cable channels. Some of them are hit or miss with the marketing and the publicity. That Nielsen ratings thing? Its 2011, the governemnet can scan my retina from outer space, and we are still using the Nielsen ratings? I don't know if this is true, but I heard that there are only three thousand Nielsen boxes in America. So you are basically making hundred million dollar decisions based on three thousand people, when there are three hundred million watching TV? Come on!

Who owns a Nielsen box? No one my age has one...

Michael Vartan: It makes no sense. Obviously there are all sorts of ways to find out who is watching what. But then you are prying into people's privacy. There are all the issues that come with that. But there has to be a more comprehensive, simplistic, and accurate way to figure this out. When I was on Alias, our ratings were crap. They were so bad. We never had good ratings. Yet, we would show up at some Comic-Con thing, or some event at Disneyland, and there would be 80 thousand people there. It was weird. We didn't understand it. How come we have such a big fan base, but our ratings are so bad every week. I don't know if that is a true discrepancy in the number of people who were watching compared to the ratings. I find it weird that, in this day and age, with Twitter and Facebook, there has to be a better way to keep track of this stuff.

With Alias, that was one of the first shows where people were starting to watch it on their computers as oppose to watching it on TV.

Michael Vartan: Right. That's when TiVo first came out. On Monday mornings, we would get the TiVo breakdowns as well. Not just the overnights, or the national ratings. The network told us these were just as important. Because it meant people were watching your show. They might not watch it live when it airs, because that time frame doesn't suite them or their family. But it's still being watched. We thought that was more along the lines of what was happening with our show. It's weird that there just isn't a better way in this day and age.

I don't know anyone that watches a show while it is airing. Not in my age range. We don't have the patience for the commercials.

Michael Vartan: Exactly. I am a huge fan of Parks and Recreation, for example. My wife and I just plowed through the first couple of seasons on DVD. Now we are watching it every Thursday, and the commercials are unbearable. We've decided that we won't watch it on Thursdays. We will just watch it on Friday or Saturday. Those Commercials are death. They are so bad.

Hawthorne Season 3, the final season, will be available on DVD this spring.