Even a pro wrestling bad guy like Randy Orton has a heart. Especially when it comes to family. That has been apparent in the last few weeks even as the heel Orton won the Smackdown tag team championship with Bray Wyatt last weekend at TLC and the actor Orton appears on USA Network’s Shooter on Tuesday as James Richards, a former Navy SEAL who leads a militia group.
On Thanksgiving, Randy and wife Kim welcomed daughter Brooklyn Rose. “Everybody is doing great,” Orton said this week. “The baby is perfect. Mom is healthy. They came home on Thanksgiving so that was pretty cool.” Days earlier, Orton stepped out of character during the Survivor Series pay-per-view to check in with Shane McMahon’s sons in the front row after McMahon took a wicked spear. “He whacked his head pretty hard,” Orton said. “I knew where the family was. I didn’t think the camera was going to be on me. I wanted to reassure the kids that daddy’s OK and he will be fine.”
Orton also was wearing an orange bracelet to raise awareness for leukemia after his 5-year-old nephew T.J. was recently diagnosed. “He’s a little badass,” Orton said. “It’s going to be a long journey. That’s why I wear the bracelet and will continue to wear it.” As a third-generation wrestler, Orton has been steeped in the wrestling business by his grandfather, father and uncle. Now a father of five kids, Orton fully understands to how his kids react to seeing him in the ring, too. While promoting Shooter – which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET after Smackdown – Orton talked family, wrestling, his new tag team partner and more with For The Win. His Shooter episode is part of WWE Week on USA with Raw on Monday (8 p.m. ET), Smackdown on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET) and the 14th annual Tribute to the Troops on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET).
LET’S TALK ABOUT “SHOOTER.” HOW DID THIS ROLE COME ABOUT FOR YOU?
I got an opportunity while I was out of action in the ring after shoulder surgery in December. I was a couple of months away from being cleared and was still at home. Basically, that made me one of the candidates. They talked to a couple of other guys and wanted to give me the opportunity. You don’t really get to audition. USA Network talks to our people and the network wanted me to play the role. It was really cool that they picked me. It does make you feel good. I was really impressed with the director. He was willing to work with me. I needed a little extra in terms of pointers because I’m not as experienced as the other actors. It was a great group of people. The crew was awesome. Ryan Phillippe was great. Just a man’s man. He talked to me on the same level. There was no big-leaguing anybody on the set.
THIS WAS TAPED IN JUNE AND IT AIRS IN DECEMBER. THAT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN YOUR DAY JOB WHEN YOU PULL THE CURTAIN AND ARE IN FRONT OF A LIVE AUDIENCE OR GET FEEDBACK IMMEDIATELY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. IS THERE A SENSE OF DREAD OR CONCERN ABOUT HOW IT WILL BE RECEIVED GIVEN THE TIME LAG?
On a personal level, I always have dread. I’ll go back home and watch my matches with the kids and critique myself. Most guys should do that. I’ll cringe if I see something that didn’t look good, but it’s too late because it’s already out there. With Shooter, I actually never saw a finished product. I did some voice-over work so I’ve seen some of the scenes. I have confidence that I did a good job, but you’re always waiting to hear. It’s a little bit similar because even in the ring, if there is a good reaction from the crowd, there also are all these people watching at home.
IS ACTING SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE TO DO MORE OF AT THIS POINT? AND HOW DOES THAT FIT INTO THE DEMANDS OF THE WWE SCHEDULE?
Most definitely. I have five kids and a beautiful wife. This is me now at 36. I don’t see myself moving to LA to pursue an acting career. I’ve done a few auditions this year. I don’t make a lot of noise about it, but I am trying here and there. Every once in a while, I get an opportunity or a call back and do an audition with my cell phone on an off day so I can be home. Scheduling the time is hard. We book our shows well in advance and it’s hard to make changes. You never know what the storylines are going to be. That remains the bigger struggle and that’s just a fact. I’m hoping to continue to get work outside of WWE while still being part of WWE and doing these things on the side so I have more experience when the schedule is light enough to pursue these other goals. I will say, though, that I really do enjoy my day job and what I’m doing with the Wyatt Family. For the first time in a while, it’s been intriguing. It’s easy to get stale. But with the new creative and the storyline, I’m very excited to be part of WWE right now.
THIS ISN’T PART OF THE STORYLINE AT THE MOMENT, BUT YOU AND BRAY ARE BOTH THIRD-GENERATION PERFORMERS. THAT HAS TO CREATE A UNIQUE DYNAMIC GIVEN THE VAST EXPERIENCE YOU BOTH HAVE?
That’s definitely a fact worth pointing out. There is a lot of back story and things we can do to give our characters more layers. Working with second- and third-generation guys like when I worked with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in Legacy, those guys get it. They have a leg up on everyone else. We were raised in the wrestling business and pick up a few things like etiquette, how you talk around the guys and respect for the guys who have been around longer and paved the way. It’s cool to be in there now with a guy who has old school in his blood.
LET’S CIRCLE BACK TO SUMMER SLAM. THE ENDING WAS PROBABLY MORE GORY AND MORE BLOOD THAN ANYONE INTENDED WITH BROCK LESNAR OPENING YOU UP THAT WAY. GIVEN HOW UGLY IT GOT, IN HINDSIGHT, WAS THAT THE RIGHT FINISH?
I think with Lesnar, it’s always going to be him coming him every few months as a monster who destroys guys who work 200 days a year. There is a tendency for that to get old. I could have looked a little better that night and that would have helped me a lot regardless of the finish and not hurt Brock’s character at all. But the fact that you’re asking me about it three-four months later, means we created a buzz. But the fact that I had a concussion and was out for three weeks and wasn’t able to do anything pissed me off. We say this a lot in the back when someone gets hit harder than intended, we knew what we were signing up for. It’s a rough sport. It’s a rough business and very physical. A few more people need to respect how things can go sour out there.
WANTED TO ASK YOU A BIT MORE ABOUT T.J. AND WHAT YOUR FAMILY IS EXPERIENCING WITH HIS LEUKEMIA DIAGNOSIS.
He’s my sister’s son and was diagnosed about two months ago. I get to meet a lot of sick kids and I’ve left some of the Make-A-Wish meetings that we do with tears in my eyes. You find yourself being upset for complaining about little things the night before and then realize these kids have so much on their plate. It’s gut-wrenching and makes you feel so selfish. All you want to do is put a smile on their face when you know they are in pain. You leave the room and know you got as much or more out of it than the kid did. Now, my little nephew is one of those kids. You don’t think it could happen with someone close to you, but it’s real. My sister and her husband are good people and very strong. I don’t know if I’d be as strong in the same position. My sister is going to nursing school at the same time and also has two other kids who are 3 and 6. It really opened my eyes and gave me a greater appreciation for what the families have to go through.