Apr 9, 2014
12:42 PM
Arts & Entertainment

‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ Series Stars Connecticut’s D.J. Cotrona; Tarantino Film Update

‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ Series Stars Connecticut’s D.J. Cotrona; Tarantino Film Update

El Rey Network

A still featuring Connecticut native D.J. Cotrona in "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" on El Rey Network.

The moment being described here by Connecticut-born actor D.J. Cotrona is his response when asked to synthesize the experience of starring as bank robber Seth Gecko in “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” on the El Rey Network, which is based on the 1996 action-horror film written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez, who launched El Rey.

“The film was the short story, this series is the novel,” Rodriguez says on the El Rey website of the 10-episode series— El Rey Network's first scripted original—that is aired on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. and will wrap up this May. (A second season is in the works.)

“From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” is centered around Cotrona’s Seth Gecko character and his violent, unpredictable brother, Richard “Richie” Gecko (Zane Holtz), who are wanted by the FBI and Texas Rangers Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia) after a bank heist leaves several people dead, El Rey explains.

“When we meet Seth,” a release explains, “his brother Richie has just broken him out of prison and they've pulled off a bank heist. Smooth-talking Seth can always charm his way out of trouble, but when he notices his brother is losing his grip on reality, he has to figure out a plan to bring him back. Richie saved Seth so many times now it's time for Seth to pay him back, even if that means making a deal with a shady cartel boss, Carlos Madrigal.”

While on the run to Mexico, Seth and Richie encounter former a pastor, Jacob Fuller (Robert Patrick), and his family, whom they take hostage, explains El Rey, adding, “Using the family RV to cross the border, chaos ensues when the group detours to a strip club that is populated by vampires (below left.) They are forced to fight until dawn in order to get out alive. The series deepens the tone and expands the storyline of the film, adds new characters and backstories and explores the Mesoamerican mythology behind the creatures inside the club.”

“The movie is [nearly] 20 years old at this point. It’s Robert and Quentin stepping in to revisit a place they’ve always been,” says Cotrona, who will be 34 in May and has dark, chiseled good looks that evoke his Italian heritage and a body so chiseled that when you start to type the actor’s name in a Google search the term “D.J. Cotrona shirtless” instantly pops up.

Don’t be fooled by those looks, which were shown to full advantage (below) in his role in Paramount Pictures' 2013 feature, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” in which he starred opposite Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Ray Parker, Adrianne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce and Ray Stevenson.

Just like his sculpted form is more classical mode than gym porn, Cotrona is anything but mere action-hero eye candy.  His mother, Sheree, is a school teacher, and the actor—who was born at Yale-New Haven Hospital and graduated from Sheehan High School in Wallingford—studied criminal justice and political science on a pre-law track at Northeastern University in Boston.

But the bar just wasn’t for him. Asked how he got into the business, Cotrona first recalls the long, convoluted answers he got when he asked actors about their starts. “They never had a straight answer and I could never understand why,” he says—that is, until his narrative came to include one of those circuitous routes to stardom.

“I had always been playing with acting since I was a kid,” Cotrona says. He picked it up again while in Boston, scored some auditions in New York City “and slowly started to pick up some work there.” Through that, he forged relationships with casting directors and got work that took him to Los Angeles.

Before “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” Cotrona appeared with Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in the Screen Gems drama “Dear John,” an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel about a fast-forming love affair interrupted by education on one side and war service on the other.

On television, Cotrona has starred opposite Michael Imperioli as Detective John Stone on the ABC crime drama “Detroit 1-8-7” and has also been a regular on the NBC series “Windfall.” (Cotrona in a "From Dusk Till Dawn" still photo, above, from the El Rey website.)

Cotrona’s other film credits include roles in the features “Venom” and the independent film “Love is the Drug,” starring Lizzy Caplan and Jenny Wade—but more significant, perhaps, is one of his near-miss credits. He was cast to play Superman in a “Justice League” movie being directed by George Miller (“Mad Max”) that began shooting in Sydney, Australia, but was ultimately consigned to the shelf by a combination of the writers' strike around 2008 and other factors. It was 18 months of on-and-off  work that went nowhere.

If that remains a lingering wound for Cotrona, “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” is the balm. It’s a project that has him “very proud.”

“Robert (left) is a guy that’s always two steps ahead,” Cotrona says of Rodriguez. “We kind of feel like we’re pioneering. There’s a lot of firsts with El Rey and what we’re doing with Robert.”

With studios making fewer and fewer films, and only financing work that will have instant audience recognition and significant returns, “The really interesting and creative work is moving to television these days,” says Cotrona, and there cable TV and other digital age ventures and means of presenting programming are revolutionizing the landscape.

“He can curate the content,” Cotrona says of Rodriguez and El Rey, which is taking the results of that curation worldwide on Netflix. “I think that’s going to happen more and more. Quentin [Tarantino] keeps the channel on [all the time in his house … .”

To get in on the “radically different , disruptive … fascinating ride (Frazier Moore, Associated Press) of "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" before the May 20 finale of season one, and to connect with a Connecticut-bred actor and cinefile with a bright future and local ties (“Both sides of my family are from in and around the [New Haven] area.”), head to El Rey Network’s website, elreynetwork.com.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Cotrona. “Working with Robert so closely all this time, it’s really inspired me to want to direct,” he says. Look for that to possibly include Sci-Fi done like rarely before—very well.

As a way of ending, back to the beginning and to Cotrona’s chiseled good looks and physique:

Asked if he’s married, the actor says, “I get to go to work every day and do this.” Translation: he’s married to his work at the moment but single otherwise.

‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ Series Stars Connecticut’s D.J. Cotrona; Tarantino Film Update

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