The Fascinating MR. Facinelli

by | Nov 1, 2021

The multi-faceted Peter Facinelli discusses his latest film releases, meteorology, acting, directing, and how he keeps passion alive.

He’s handsome and stylish, but there’s so much more beyond his dashing good looks. His charisma captivated audiences in the record-breaking Twilight saga and box office smash The Scorpion King, and in the critically acclaimed TV series Nurse Jackie, his idiosyncratic, NYU-trained acting skills were on full display.

While Peter Facinelli’s magnetism is incontestable, his success is no mere coincidence or the result of a singular lucky break. The adroit star launched production company A7sle Films, co-wrote a novel, and made his directorial debut with the film Breaking & Exiting starring Milo Gibson (son of Mel Gibson) and Jordan Hinson.  In his second directorial feature, Facinelli took on the ultimate trifecta – writing, directing, and acting in The Vanished, which reached the top spot on Netflix upon its release and continues to be a streaming favorite.

As one who wasn’t content just sitting in his comfort zone while the world was in quarantine, Facinelli has no less than three feature films headed for the screen, including the newly released 13 Minutes in which he stars opposite Amy Smart, Thora Birch, Anne Heche, and Trace Adkins.  He takes on the role of producer as well as actor in The Unbreakable Boy, set for release in early 2022.

Your latest film, 13 Minutes, will land in in theaters on October 29th. It’s about ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances.  You play a colorful meteorologist.  Tell us about him and his relationship to the plot development in the film.

It’s a movie about a tornado that occurs in Oklahoma. It follows about six story lines.  When the tornado hits, you get to learn how the characters grow or don’t grow from the experience.

My character, Brad, takes you through the eye of the storm that’s coming. And he’s way out there. Weather men in that part of the country are kind of celebrities in their own right. They’re larger than life personalities.  As the tornado passes through,  he starts to realize it’s going to hit his home and affect his family.  He has to make a decision – work or family.  I think the character has a lot of layers, which is why I was drawn to it.

The story tackles many salient sociological issues.  How are they addressed in the film?

The story deals with farmers and the farming crisis, homophobia, immigration, racism. There is a thread that weaves all these characters together. But the bottom line is that they’re all human. And when the store storm comes, all of the problems they have drop, and it becomes about being in survival mode. Those issues become so minutiae because they’re just human beings trying to survive. It’s life and death, and those are the two things in front of you. It feels like a microcosm of the devastation that we’re dealing with now. A lot of people feel separated because we’re all going through our individual traumas, and yet, we’re all interconnected.  There’s a beauty in how humanity can rise to the occasion.  While it appears to be a disaster film,  I like to think of the disaster as a backdrop for watching humanity and how they deal with crisis. There’s something that happens when nature takes over and that’s terrifying. You’re at the disposal of having to wait out Mother Nature.

 

What methods were taken by you as an actor and the production team to portray the people and circumstances in an authentic way?

It was written in a very layered way. As an actor, I need to bring truth to my character. I watched a lot of footage on meteorologists to get their persona.  Like I said, they’re a little larger than life and they have these fun names. For example, there was one weatherman who literally found out his home was about to be hit while he was on live TV, so I watched some video footage on him. And I learned a little bit about meteorology and language I wasn’t familiar with, like the difference between a weather watch and a weather warning.

Since you mention it, what is the difference?

A weather watch is when one might be coming, and a warning is like, “It’s coming,!”  And then verbiage about when it’s actually there and the different degrees of what a storm looks like.  I remember talking to one person who was on the set who had lost their home three times to a tornado. It’s a real tragedy knowing what that experience was like for her.  When you read in the paper or you see it on TV, you’re removed from it. When you’re in the thick of it, you’re actually learning what the devastation looks like from real people who have experienced it.  When I watched this movie I could feel my heart sink when I saw that sky turn black. And they did such a good job with the special effects. But it’s the human story and the characters are what draw you in and you get to understand their strength and resilience.

Speaking of looming tornadoes, what goes through your mind when a movie of yours is about to be released?  Are you a bundle of nervous energy or do you try to remain calm and focused?

I’ve learned to let any expectations go, because at the end of the day, making films is a collaboration; everyone on the set and every department.  But one of the biggest collaborators of a film is the audience, and now it’s their time to collaborate with the filmmakers and whether they show up and like it or don’t like it. I could never bank on anything being successful or not successful. You just make the art, and then you give it over to the audience and then hope that they enjoy it or take something from it. Our job as artists is done and now it’s the audience’s turn.

You also star in The Ravine, which has received numerous awards at international film festivals and will soon be available for streaming.  You portray an ostensibly normal man who murders his wife and child.  How are his actions contextualized in the film?

For me, it was about dealing with mental issues before they become something bigger and then become something that you can’t take back.  My character is a guy that on the outside has a family, and children. You know, the best friend character. And he seems to be a guy who’s jovial and fun and charismatic. One night he snaps and the movie becomes about how  something like that happen and why.  It asks a lot of questions.  It deals with the mental health of someone who has come to a place where he does that. The book is based on a true story written by the real life character played by Eric Danes. He (the author) had a lot of questions to answer about his friend and how he found forgiveness.  It’s not something that we’re saying is okay. What we’re saying is, how do you get to that point?

How did you get into the mindset of someone who could commit such a heinous act?

I have a family of my own and trying to imagine how a person can get to that place is difficult.   Because he is based on a real person, I didn’t want to paint him as a monster, a sociopath, or as somebody who didn’t care about people, but as somebody you would know.  There’s this tragedy., but it doesn’t define who he is as a whole. It was such a despicable act and it affected so many people’s lives.  I don’t even know if I could find forgiveness for that.  But when you don’t forgive, you carry around this burden.  So it’s almost like you have to find forgiveness in order to move on. And I think that’s the message of the movie. When I was playing that character, it was very important for me to not portray him as a one note monster. I tried to figure out how did that night come to be; Was it just selfish motive? What was his upbringing like, and why he didn’t have the tools to deal with certain things? Maybe if he had reached out to other people, maybe this night wouldn’t have happened. And that’s how I approached it.

Now that you’ve not only acted, but directed, produced, and written, do you now view each aspect of film making differently than before?

As an actor, it’s very much about my part and what I’m doing. When I’m producing, I have that head on. When I’m directing, I have that head on. I compartmentalize each job, unless I’m doing all four jobs and then it becomes more difficult to juggle, and even then you can’t do them all at once. It’s a collaboration and you do learn one hand feeds the other and the other hand helps the other.  You realize the director is not just focused on you as an actor.  You realize that when you have done all those other jobs that you’re a small cog in the bigger wheel.  I enjoy all of them. Each one is just a different form of story telling.  I don’t think I’d ever give up acting fully though, because there’s a part of me that loves the high wire act of being so vulnerable. It’s terrifying and rewarding at the same time. It’s an adrenaline rush, but that’s when you’re focused and it’s it’s like nothing else. Almost like a moving meditation -it’s a beautiful ride that sometimes takes you on this emotional journey that you didn’t plan or didn’t know where it would lead.

Do you feel you can take on acting, directing, producing and writing with an equal amount of passion? How do you keep that passion from dissipating when you are in a rut?

I’m a very passionate person. When I take something on, I take it on 100%.  I feel more than confident to take on any part I would still say that there’s no part that’s ever like, “Oh, this is easy. I know exactly what I’m doing.” But you give everything you can and then you grow and you learn.  If I don’t feel that passion anymore, then I have to look and find inspiration to rekindle that. Watching a really good movie inspires me, which makes me passionate about going off and filming something.

Who are the hybrid actors/directors that inspired you?

I’ve always been a fan of Paul Newman.  I think Robert Redford did a great job transitioning into both.  I also just love that they seem like good people, family people. That they do charity work. They seem well balanced.

Finally, what was your last TV binge that got you addicted?

Honestly, Squid Game.

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