When it comes to "Rescue Me," he's no proby.
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Waterbury native MICHAEL LOMBARDI, 36, has been pretty stressed out lately—furiously shooting episodes for the final two seasons of the fX series “Rescue Me,” in which he plays the hapless Mike Silletti. The show’s 10-episode Season 6 premiered June 29, and nine shows will be held over for the final Season 7, airing in 2011 (the 10th anniversary of 9/11). In his down time, he resides in Roxbury with his girlfriend of three years.
How'd you get into show business?
I didn't live in the best neighborhood growing up—our house got broken into a few times. My mother made the decision to pack up one day and said, "We're moving; we can't live here any more." We ended up moving to Litchfield County. I had no idea what it was about. My parents were both hardworking, blue-collar people, who found a lot of work in the area and just kept renting homes.
So I started attending school here in the 7th or 8th grade. A lot of my friends in this area had parents who were actors and directors, who exposed me to the show business world for the first time. I'd go to see plays that my friends' fathers directed in Manhattan.
What was your first acting job?
I did Li'l Abner when I was in, I think, the 8th grade at Shepaug Middle School. I played Sen. Phogbound. I still remember my first line, "Mayor Dawgmeat and my lovin' constituents of Dogpatch, I could stand here and bask in the sunshine of your warm greetings forevah." I had this long speech at a podium, and I remember I had to learn the Southern accent and was really nervous. Even though it wasn't the biggest part, I had to speak solo, so all the attention was on my character.
Your first professional role?
Well, I moved into Manhattan and studied at the William Esper Studio, which is one of the best acting studios in Manhattan, in my opinion. I studied there for awhile, did a lot of off- off- Broadway plays and actually produced a play, called Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, right out of acting school. It's a two-person play, really raw and gritty with awesome writing. I produced it at a small, off- off-Broadway theater.
How did you land the role as Silletti?
I'd done a couple of other small TV jobs, including a shot on "Saturday Night Live" in which I played a bartender. Kate Hudson was the host. I hadn't previously done any "extra" work, but I had heard that that was a really good gig because you get to see the band live, and on that occasion the band was Radiohead. So it was a really small part but a great experience. So that was probably my first professional gig, about 13 years ago.
Then I guest starred on "The Job," a Denis Leary show on ABC. I played the cabana boy. It was a really funny episode where Denis goes on vacation with his girlfriend and gets a sunburn. He has to stay in his hotel room and I hang out with his girlfriend by the pool. He starts watching us through binoculars from his window.
And I'm this big-time ice-hockey player from Connecticut, and Denis has a huge passion for that. So he and I became pals, playing ice hockey together and hanging out. About a year after that, I did a show on Comedy Central with him ["Contest Searchlight"], and a year after that, he asked me to audition for the role of Silletti.
So he was a good buddy for you to have.
Absolutely, he's a very loyal guy. A few of the people who are series regulars on "Rescue Me" have worked with him in the past. John Scurti, who plays Kenny Shea, was in The Ref years ago. And a lot of the guest stars are people Denis has previously worked with.
Tell me your take on Silletti. He seems to be a real sweet guy who's basically a screwup and often made fun of.
I feel he wears his heart on his sleeve, plain and simple. I think he always sees the good in people; his intentions are always good. People obviously view him as being dumb or stupid, but that's not how I think of the guy. I think of him as naive. There are some things he should know that he doesn't. I think all the situations that he's gotten himself into come out of being naive, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's always looking for the respect, admiration and even love from the guys he respects most.
I think the guys really do love him. They say that in the real firehouses, if the guys don't rag on you they don't love you.
How has he matured?
All in all, the guy hasn't changed much. He is who he is. He's a wholesome, sensitive guy who still sees the good in people, and because of that, still gets himself into these situations where he's taken advantage of. However, he's much more grounded now because of what he's learned from the job and learned from his peers. So when he's in a fire or when he's hanging with the guys, he has earned himself a spot in 62 Truck.