Interviews

A New Leaf: Ben Patterson Shapes Up for a New Role

One of the stars of "Greenleaf," Oprah's new show, talks training, food and abs.

Hers Guy: Meet Ben Patterson

Ben Patterson stars in the upcoming drama series Greenleaf. The show is executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and will premiere on her channel OWN on June 21 at 10 p.m. EST. Muscle & Fitness Hers caught up with the actor, who plays Noah Kendall in the show, and asked him about everything from his abs to his love of baking.

M&F Hers: You were a competitive swimmer in high school; did you play any other sports?

Ben Patterson: In addition to swimming, I also played football and volleyball. It was one of those things where I looked at all the sports that were offered at my school and thought, "I'm gonna do everything." But I think I excelled more in swimming because it was an individual sport. Competitive swimming was intense, but I got to train with the best of them.

We’ve seen some pictures, and you’ve got some killer abs. What is your favorite abs workout? 

I still swim; the luxury of swimming is that you can swim until you can’t walk essentially. I swim for about 20 minutes (an hour if I get enough time) a few times a week. 

When I’m at the gym I do a combination of stairs, the bike, and any of the ab or situp machines. If the gym is a little crowded, I’ll do some hanging leg lifts. I also do yoga a couple times a week, which, as you know, is like a “super everything” workout.

How do you find the time to train, especially with work as well as a five-month-old at home?

You know, it’s one of those things that, it’s like juggling. Once you learn how to juggle it’s just a matter of what objects are thrown at you. We also have a nanny, I’m not gonna lie. I do have some help. I make really good use of my time. And then as soon as 5:30 hits, the nanny leaves and I switch into dad mode and get things done with the baby. Also, as a workout Ilike to hike with him so I’ll put him in the stroller and get the dog and make a 80-minute hike a few times a week.

You seem like a fitness fanatic. Is that how you’ve always been or was it something that started focusing on a little later in your life?

I think one of the things in my life that’s been consistent, since maybe eighth grade, is some sort of physical activity. My dad went to the gym pretty much every day, and still does to this day. He's 70 years old and still as strong as ever.

I think it was more of, he had all the Muscle magazines around. And all the Arnold and Van Damme movies where fitness was the underlying theme of whoever the hero was. Who knows, maybe that’s why I got into acting as well! But it was one of those things where he didn’t force us to work out, he just always worked out and I noticed and started realizing that it was something that was part of one’s daily life. 

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What is your diet like?

Well I eat pretty moderately. I’ve never had dietary restrictions. I also cook for myself. I keep my options open, but when I do want to go out and get a really good burger, I’ll get it. I don’t like crazy. I enjoy cooking but my diet is pretty open. I also enjoy baking; my favorite thing to bake is probably a pineapple upside down cake. I’ve been making that since I was in high school. It’s one of those things where like once you learn how to make it you think "I can have this anytime!" so I can violate everyone’s belief that you can’t eat and have an eight-pack or a six-pack or whatever!

What’s your favorite junk food?

My favorite junk food is probably a toss-up between barbeque and a really good burger.  LA has a lot of really good burger spots. If I’m driving from Oakland to LA, one of the stops, on highway 5, is an In-N-Out that’s just 13 cars deep, but it’s worth it. 

Tell us a little bit about Greenleaf and your role in the show

Greenleaf is the epic take of Grace Greenleaf, played by Meryl Dandridge. She comes home because of a death in the family and some apparent wrong doings that have been for years had been overlooked or covered up. 

I play Noah Kendall, and I’m actually the ex-boyfriend from childhood, so it’s kind of like a bittersweet coming home. We’ve all grown up, she has a daughter, I have a fiancee. And now it’s the father and son struggle, the mother/pdaughter struggle, a power struggle, there’s accusations of corruptions, of abuse. There’s all these kinds of things that play into everyday life, but it just happens to have the backdrop of a church in the south.

What was it like getting to work with Oprah?

Getting to work with Oprah is wonderful. She plays Grace's aunt, and she is also an executive producer on the show, along with Craig Wright. Oprah is very genuine, very kind, very gracious. She’s also very focused and very professional which causes a trickle-down effect where everyone around her is super nice, super genuine, and very humble and welcoming. But it’s also like, you’re working with this iconic figure that you’ve grown up watching and it’s just amazing. You feel like “oh my god” and then for me as the actor I know that I have to go like “oh I gotta switch gears and get into work mode." I keep in mind that I have to hold up my end up the acting bargain and make sure I’m there for my character and for whoever I’m working with. It’s a really fantastic ride and she is a fantastic person. 

What is your best workout tip?

I think my best advice, and this is something I actually do, is to find someone at the gym that looks the way you want to look, and just do what they do. Do maybe at least one basic exercise, and then go from there. You know it’s not hard and you’re not stalking them, it’s like "hey I’m not creepy but I’ve been watching every exercise that you've been doing."

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