Peter Facinelli travelled to Ireland to promote the next instalment of Stephenie Meyer's 'Twilight' saga, 'New Moon'. The actor talks to RTÉ.ie about his character, Dr Carlisle Cullen, the new film, as well as 'Eclipse' and 'Breaking Dawn' plus his new TV series 'Nurse Jackie'.
Taragh Loughrey-Grant: This is your first time in Ireland?
Peter Facinelli: Yes, I'm very excited I wish I had more time though...hopefully I'll get to see some of the city but with London's Comic Con, it’s a flying visit.
TLG: I love the story of how shocked the 'Twilight' cast were with the phenomenal response you and the film received at last year's US Comic Con. Can you tell us a little more about it?
PF: The producers took Robert [Pattinson], Kristen [Stewart] and the three bad vampires, the nomads. There's such a big cast, they didn't want to bring everybody so this year everybody's going and I'm really excited.
Anyway when they got there they expected there to be a small fan turn out but instead the whole place went crazy and thousands of fans turned up at the 'Twilight' conference, chanting out names and basically going nuts. It was brilliant and totally unexpected. That was our first encounter of just how much people loved the show.
TLG: You've already had plenty of interaction with the fans and you know what they're like?
PF: It's pretty intense but in a good way.
TLG: You also represented the film at the recent London Film and Comic Con, what was that like?
PF: It's fantastic. You go into a room filled with screaming fans.
TLG: Of the entire cast you probably look the most different in real-life - with your natural brown hair and sallow skin as opposed to the white blond and luminously pale-skinned Dr Carlisle. Fans must react when they meet you in person?
PF: Yeah, what I get is most people say I look so much younger in person then in the film but I always take it as a compliment because I worked really hard to make sure that Carlisle appears older.
I knew that I don't look that much older than I am, so I really had to act it - how do I bring his 360 plus years onto the screen! I did a lot of research on where Carlisle grew up, where his travels would have taken him and what was going on during all those periods of time in history.
Then I worked on his movement, I felt like he would have a very refined movement and then his speech pattern, I thought would be very proper. I wanted him to still have those qualities that he had centuries ago and still have that instilled inside of him. When you add up the way he walks, talks and his clothes, he appears a lot older.
TLG: As per 'Twilight' author, Stephenie Meyer's book, part of 'New Moon' was filmed in Italy however as those scenes didn't involve your character, you didn't get to film there. Do the directors stay so loyal to the books because of the fans?
PF: I was sad about that but Stephenie didn't write me in! The director always stays loyal to Stephenie's books. When you have something that works, why fix it? The fans have quotes from the books tattooed on their bodies so you don't want to stray too far from that. [Laughing] Otherwise people will have to get their tattoos lasered off!
TLG: As far as fans go, do you find their loyalty a little extreme?
PF: I'm just ecstatic that there's such a loyal fan-base out there. I hear stories of fans flying in from other States to come visit when we're having an autograph signing or something and that's dedication. Some of them even sleep out over night at signings or on film sets. They're very dedicated, I've been doing this a long time and I've never experienced it, it’s a whole other level for me.
TLG: I heard that you went to Disneyland with your family recently and bumped into Stephenie Meyer's with hers by complete accident?
PF: Yeah, we were in Disneyland and we were sitting having dinner at 'Pirates of the Caribbean' with thousands of people and Stephenie Meyer was having dinner literally two tables over, completely unplanned and unbeknownst to either one of us that we were going to be there. She has three boys and I have three girls. So it was really fun to run into her...it’s a small world after all!
TLG: Are your kids 'Twilight' fans?
PG: Well I've a 12, 6 and two-year-old and the twelve-year-old read the first two books and the six-year-old saw the movie and the two-year-old saw a few [toddler friendly] parts.
TLG: Director wise you've had Catherine Hardwicke for the first part, Chris Weitz for 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' and you've recently found out that David Slade will direct 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse'. Why a different director for each film?
PG: I don't know, I think 'Harry Potter' got a start at that so perhaps they felt like each director brings different elements and they wanted to have a fresh take. They looked at that franchise and thought it worked for that and hoped that it would work for this.
When you're an actor you work with people and it becomes like a family so it's always sad when Catherine [Hardwicke] wasn't directing the second one. There's a comfort level there, you've all worked together and she hand picked us to play those roles too.
Then we moved on to 'New Moon' and we had a new director and I wondered what that was going to bring but it was great. It was 180 degree different energy with Chris [Weitz] and as an artist he brought his view and his perspective to the movie which then forces you to start looking at it and not get too comfortable.
TLG: Originally you weren't cast as Dr. Carlisle, how did Catherine Hardwicke end up choosing you for the role?
PF: The truth is they wanted to cast a little older because they were worried that he [Dr Carlisle] would look the same age [as his kids]. I know in the books he looked younger but they were going to change that for the film and then when that actor couldn't do it, I guess I was next in line and they decided to go back to the origins of the book.
When I read [for the audition] I felt very comfortable playing it and I thought it went really well and I was really bummed that I didn't get it. When I read the book and went up for the role, there was something inside of me that felt like I was supposed to play this role. I felt when I read the book that as a father I understood what it was like to be a patriarch of a family. So when I didn't get it I wasn't just disappointed it but I was like 'Wait a minute, that was supposed to be mine' and then it came back to me - it was all meant to be.
TLG: How did you prepare for your role as Dr. Carlisle?
PF: Somebody asked me once 'How did you get into the mindset of playing a vampire and what kind of research did you do?' and for me it was less about research on playing a vampire but more of a study on what it was like to be human because the vampire I play suppresses all of his vampire tendencies and wants so badly to hold onto any human characteristics that he has.
So I really thought about why he wanted to be human so much and what draws him to humans and that’s why I love Carlisle so much. The fact that he's a doctor and dedicates his life to giving back to humans and the fact that he has the strength not to give in to his natural tendencies of feeding on people.
People look at the bad vampires, the nomads and think they’re the bad vampires but they're the normal vampires, they’re just doing what vampires do. We're [the Cullen's] the abnormal ones, we're a lot stronger than normal vampires to be able to go against every animal instinct that we have, to try to be something else takes a lot of strength.
That's why the baseball scene is one of my favourites. People look at that scene and say it's so cool and its fun to watch but that's their outlet. They suppress being vampires all day long and then they get to be in an environment where they can let loose and that was the fun of it for me. That was one of the first scenes I shot too.
TLG: You're currently working on the American series, 'Nurse Jackie' with Edie Falco, as another doctor.
PF: What's fun about playing that role [Dr Cooper] is that they share the same occupation as Dr Carlisle but they're completely 180 degrees from one another. Carlisle is this patriarch and he's this rock, this calming force and Dr Cooper is this cocky charismatic Doctor, on the outside. On the inside he's self-conscious and has these low self-esteem issues and so he has this quirk that whenever he gets nervous he grabs breasts, it’s a form of sexual turrets!
TLG: Aside from the obvious giggles, how did you find acting that role?
PF: Yeah you're right. On paper, it was really funny but then it was difficult to shoot it because it's like a conscious thing, it's very difficult to play something that’s supposed to be a subconscious thing so it became kind of challenging. I know it sounds easy to grab breasts but it's weird to reach out and touch someone's sexual organ when it's not sexual at all. It was harder than I thought it was going to be, harder...[Laughing] okay, not harder but difficult!
TLG: In the third and fourth books the Cullens play major roles.
PF: They're much more prominent than in the second. I'm excited to shoot the third one, it's one of my favourite out of the series. There's a lot more action in it and so as a guy, I get to do some action stuff which is fun to watch Carlisle roll up his sleeves and duke it out with some other vampires, I'm excited to shoot that one.
Then the fourth one's quite nice too, I think the fourth one for me is really more about the family. Bella gets pregnant and how the family deals with it and how they all come together to support her and the birth...given the fact that they're vampires! So there's some really interesting things to play, I love the whole series.
'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' opens on Friday 20 November 2009.