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At a photo shoot in Culver City, California, Peter Facinelli sits casually in a windowsill with his legs outstretched, his back to the glass. He’s tall and lean with classic Roman features: the broad forehead, the Aquiline nose. Against the natural light streaming in through the large plate glass window, he becomes a silhouette, his sharp features casting shadows on his face. He fixes his gaze on something in the distance and seems pensive, wistful, a bit moody. He leans forward to look intently into the camera and then, without warning, springs to his feet and climbs onto the window’s ledge. His posture has changed, his energy suddenly powerful and exuberant. Just like that, he has morphed from one character into another.
For those who have followed Facinelli’s career, this effortless transformation should come as no surprise. The actor’s curriculum vitae spans a long list of diverse and complex characters, ranging from the All-American wonder jock Mike Dexter in Can’t Hardly Wait to the compassionate and evolved Dr. Carlisle Cullen of the Twilight saga. As Dr. Fitch Cooper on the critically acclaimed Showtime series Nurse Jackie, he plays a hilariously bumbling but well-intended surgeon suffering from a nervous compulsion dubbed “sexual Tourette’s.”
The diversity of Facinelli’s many roles is no accident. He says he was determined from the onset of his career not to be typecast as the macho Italian stereotype, something that must have been difficult for the self-described “Guido from Queens with an accent the Jersey Shore kids would be jealous of.” It seems Facinelli has made an entire career out of defying expectations and proving people wrong, starting with his parents.
“When I was younger,” he says, “I told my parents, ‘Hey, I want to be an actor,’ and they kind of laughed, so I never brought it up again.” Until college, that is. As a freshman at St. John’s University, Facinelli was on the prelaw track, something that earned ‘oohs and ahhs’ from his blue-collar, Italian immigrant parents. But when he took an introductory acting course to earn an easy A, he enjoyed it so much that he considered transferring to NYU to study acting full-time.
“When I told my parents, they were like, ‘But why?’ I told them if you’re going to be a lawyer, you have to stand in front of a jury and that’s kind of like performing, so it would help me overcome my shyness. They bought it, so I went to NYU and studied theatre.”
In his senior year at NYU, he was cast as Lucifer, the devil, in an independent film called Angela. After that, the jobs started rolling in. He left NYU just fifteen credits shy of graduating, but with steady work on the horizon. Within a year of booking his first paid acting gig, he was on the big screen as the now infamous Mike Dexter in Can’t Hardly Wait.
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