It may seem that it was just recently that Peter Facinelli emerged as part of the pop culture explosion of vampires and teen love when the Twilight series claimed its throne in 2008. Peter became known as the patriarch of the fictional cullen family, Dr. Carlisle Cullen, the leader of the only clan of vampires who had the decency not to feast on other humans in the 20th century. But what the younger generation may not know is that Peter had already made quite the impact in the late 1990s, when he played the infamous jock Mike Dexter in the 1998 teen comedy hit, Can’t Hardly Wait. And if you are wondering why the actor didn’t quite become Hollywood’s typical poster boy for teen heartthrobs back then.
Peter tells August Man Malaysia that it’s because he has always searched for roles that differed greatly from one another, freeing him of the film and television genre stereotypes that many of his peers tend to fall into.
“The fun of acting for me is creating a character that is different from anything I’ve played before,” Peter Facinelli tells us. “I remember when I got the role of Carlisle Cullen, someone on a message board was irate. They wrote, ‘I can’t believe Mike Dexter from Can’t Hardly Wait is going to be Carlisle Cullen.’ That was funny yet scary to read. I took it as a challenge.”
Dr. Cullen was a hit, but so was another doctor that Peter played̶the goofy Fitch Cooper on the television series Nurse Jackie, on which he appeared as a recurring character for six seasons. Peter will also appear in Odyssey, a new action-thriller series filled with conspiracy and the like. He tells us, “It’s exciting for me because on Sunday nights this spring I’ll be on Showtime 9.30‒10pm playing Coop on Nurse Jackie, and on the same nights I’ll be on NBC from 10‒11pm playing Peter Decker on Odyssey.”
In our interview with Peter, we get to know more about his numerous facets as an actor, as well as his vast array of writing and producing projects.
Tell us more about your latest projects.
I’m just wrapping up on a new show called Odyssey which airs on NBC on Easter Sunday. I play a lawyer who discovers that a company he’s doing a merger on is using money to fund Al-Qaeda to control the markets and gain advantage for money. Anna Friel plays a soldier who is on the run in Mali. Her squad was blown up by a drone because she found out similar information. It’s a fun conspiracy show that taps in on politics, corporations, and American greed. But it’s a smart show that asks questions; can one person make a difference? I’m also producing a movie I wrote with Killer Films called Hour of Lead, and I co-wrote a young adult novel that Little Brown is releasing in August called After the Red Rain.
You have been going on fairly strong since the 1990s—do you feel that the advancement of technology and the internet has contributed to your later, more explosive success following Twilight?
I feel like certain advancements in technology allow you to have a wider platform to reach people. To connect with fans, and let them know what you’re up to. I would say I have better access to reaching my fans more now than ever. I think, however, doing solid work leads to getting more work. But I enjoy having the ability to connect more.
What else has changed for you since then—career wise and industry wise?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work for 20 years in the business. I’ve never looked at it as a race. I’ve just tried to enjoy the journey, and it’s really gone past in the blink of an eye. Industry wise, filming has moved mostly to digital filming over using film. Even make-up artists used to take your pics with Polaroid cameras for continuity, and now it’s all digital cameras. But other than how we film things, emotions are emotions. So I guess other than being more comfortable expressing those emotions even more truthfully as I get older, the work I do doesn’t change.
You’ve played plenty of versatile characters in movies and television series—is it particularly challenging or fun to switch these characters on and off?
I’ve played many different characters in film and TV. The fun of acting for me is creating a character that is different from anything I’ve played before, to explore that person’s life. I remember when I got the role of Carlisle Cullen, someone on a message board was irate. They wrote, “I can’t believe Mike Dexter from Can’t Hardly Wait is going to be Carlisle Cullen.” That was funny yet scary to read. I took it as a challenge. I had left a very strong image in that person’s mind with a character I played, an obnoxious jock named Mike Dexter. I had to create a character with Carlisle Cullen that was so different, yet strong enough to imbed a new person their mind and make them forget Mike Dexter when they saw me on screen. I always thought it would be fun to have a party and invite all the characters I’ve played through the years. From obnoxious Mike Dexter, to cool/hip cop Van Ray on Fastlane, to goofy Coop on Nurse Jackie, to calm, father figure Carlisle Cullen in Twilight, to the passionate seeker of truth lawyer Peter Decker, who I now play on Odyssey. Would be a fun party.
What has been your most memorable (or unusual) acting role so far? And why?
So many. I learned at the beginning of my career only to take jobs I am passionate about. So my litmus test is... “Will I be excited on the drive to work in the morning?” If the answer is yes, then I know I can give the role my all and I can take the job. I’ve gotten to work with some fantastic actors and played so many different characters that each one now is like an offspring. So I can’t really pick any favourites. That question, I would give over to the audiences watching the work and let them decide which they think are most memorable.
You’ve also appeared in a wide array of genres—is there an ultimate dream role you have yet to play?
I’ve done, comedy, drama, dramedy, action, fantasy, sci- fi, horror, and romantic comedy. I really don’t have a favourite. I just like a good story, doesn’t matter to me the genre. I do have more fun though, when I get switch it up. So if I feel like I just did a specific genre, I tend to look for another genre to play in so I don’t get bored.