TPM: Tell us some things people don`t know about you.
Peter: I think by now, after over 20 years in the business, people know almost everything about me. Sometimes I feel like way too much. LOL.
TPM: With parents from Italy, do you also speak Italian?
Peter: I speak some. I can understand it more then I speak it. I was the youngest, so by the time I was born, English was the primary language spoken in the house. But my grandmother lived with us, and she didn’t speak English, so I had to speak Italian to communicate with her. When I go to Italy, it all comes back to me quickly.
TPM: What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?
Peter: Over the years I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many different genres. I’ve done comedy, action, drama, romantic comedies, sci-fi films, fantasy, bio-pics… Each script is different. Each script has a different tone, a rhythm. When I find that tone, then it helps in how I approach the material.
TPM: Why did you want to be involved in the “Twilight” series?
Peter: Initially, my agents called and asked if I wanted to be in a vampire movie. I said, “no.” I had a preconception that it was a “B” Blood and Guts movie, as those were the type of “vampire movies” being made at the time. But they told me this was different. That it was based on a novel, and I should read the book. I got it that day, and read it in one sitting. I loved that it was this beautiful love story set in this vampire world. The complete opposite of what I thought it was. It had mystery and was romantic. I called my agents immediately and asked them to get me a meeting. I met Catherine Hardwick, the director, the next day.
TPM: What will the audience think about in the car as they drive home after seeing “Gangster Land”?
Peter: “DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN?” The film is based on all true events. If things these people did were so savage and so brutal, it’s hard to believe that they actually happened. I remember doing a scene where I come out of a car and walk straight up to a guy and shoot him in the middle of the street. After shooting him five times my gun jams before I can deliver the final bullet and he lived. This scene actually happened in real life. Exactly that way. I remember thinking…In some weird parallel universe, this event is happening right now. And here I am recreating it. It was a hard story to tell.
TPM: Call someone out by name: who must watch “The Wilde Wedding”?
Peter: With a cast including Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Minnie Driver and Patrick Stewart... EVERYONE must watch “Wilde Wedding”.
TPM: Who in the “S.W.A.T.” seriesmost like their character?
Peter: I would say, Shemar Moore. His character is cool, edgy, tough, smart, he’s got swagger, yet he’s humble. Shemar has all of those qualities.
TPM: Which is your favorite character ever played and what sort of person is going to love that character?
Peter: I’ve played so many fun characters. Asking me my favorite character is like asking me who my favorite kid is out of my all my children. I created all of them, so they were all my favorite to play at the time. But if I had my back to the wall and had to choose one, I would say my character in “Nurse Jackie”… “Coop.” On paper, he could read like a real A-hole. But I found a childlike part of him, like a 12-year-old trapped in a man’s body, that made him endearing and likable. He was like a kid with no filter, that was unaware of his surroundings. So he never meant anyone any harm in what he said. He just was socially inept. That made him sympathetic to me. And in playing him that way, he became endearing even when he was doing A-hole things. You were able to laugh at him, and inability to function socially became comedic. It was an enjoyable character to play, and I got to explore that character for seven years. It makes me happy when people stop me on the streets and tell me they loved that character, and that he was “so funny.”
The most significant gift for me as an actor is helping people escape their lives for a moment and take them on an emotional journey... They say laughter is the best medicine. Giving the gift of laughter through that character makes me feel fulfilled.
TPM: What makes a good scene partner.
Peter: One who listens.
TPM: Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite line of dialogue?
Peter: I learn so many lines, that I usually forget them after I say them to make room for the new ones. LOL
TPM: What’s the biggest challenge about taking on a role?
Peter: Each script is usually a piece of that characters life, where they are at that moment when the story is told. The challenge is understanding who that person was before we caught up with him in the story and what led him to be who he is when we meet him. That is the unwritten part of the character. The backstory informs who the role is, why he is who he is, and why he reacts to things the way he does. I believe that is what makes the character three-dimensional, understanding the whole of him so you can play the part of him.
TPM: If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?
Peter: Can I play me? I’m not done with this character yet.
TPM: What’s the last thing you do before the camera crew say “Action!”?
Peter: I close my eyes and focus on what has just happened in the moments before the scene, and the intention of the scene, and I breathe. It’s like standing at the edge of a pool, looking in, and when they say “ACTION,” it’s time to jump.
TPM: Who do you look up to (as an actor/director/etc.) and why?
Peter: I’ve always looked up to Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They are the reason I became an actor. I watched “Butch Cassidy” and the “Sundance Kid” when I was in third grade.
They looked they were having so much fun. I thought to myself… “I want to do that”.
TPM: When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?
Peter: I’ve recently taken up guitar. So now I bring it with me to sets. One of the hardest things as an actor is the downtime. You’re waiting so much of the time. It’s hard to keep an energy going all day, sometimes 14 hours a day. I find guitar helps keep my mind focused, and I like the challenge of learning something new.
TPM: Is there a humanitarian cause, organization or story that you support? Which on and why?
Peter: I’ve been a big advocate and promoter for ALEX’s LEMONADE FOUNDATION. “Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation” (ALSF) raises funds for research into new treatments and cures for all children battling cancer.
It is named after Alex, a girl who had cancer. Before she passed away, she held lemonade stands to raise money to help find a cure. When she died, her parents decided to create this foundation in her name, inspiring people to hold their own lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to the foundationto hopefully one day find a cure. I read about the foundation and reached out to the parents. I thought it was so beautiful how they took such a painful experience of losing their child and courageously made it into something proactive, so that hopefully one day other parents wouldn’t have to lose their child to cancer. I love how children can get involved as well. I’ve held Lemonade Stands with my kids, and it’s a great way to get your children involved in giving back and helping other kids. It’s never too early to teach them to give back and help others. You can find more information here: https://www.alexslemonade.org/about/ meet-alex
TPM: Any piece of advice for our readers?
Peter: A homeless man asked me for money one day while I was walking on the streets of Manhattan. I asked him what the money would be used for. He said to eat lunch. Instead of giving him money I offered to take him to lunch. He chose the pizzeria in front of us. I sat with him, and heard his story, how he became homeless, the family he had... He told me so many people walked by him, and he was invisible to them. He thanked me for “seeing” him. When I was leaving, he looked me in the eye and said, “Always remember… Nothing is true, Nothing is False… It is all how you view things through your own looking glass”. So I’ll leave your readers with that to chew on.