Michael Lombardi

When it comes to "Rescue Me," he's no proby.

 

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Are there qualities you and Silletti have in common?

I think I definitely bring aspects or who I am to my character, because you always pull from your own life and experiences. But would I ever find myself in any of the situations he does? Absolutely not. Would I act the way he does? No. But I do tap into certain aspects of myself to play the guy.

 How do you feel about playing a character whose sexual orientation is uncertain? Are you comfortable with it?

Here's the thing: I'm not gay, so it's always like . . . it's a character, you have to separate yourself from the character. What makes it difficult is if viewers think you are your character. People will see me and shout "Proby!" because they've watched the show every week; you've come into their living rooms as that character you play. But my job is "actor," I'm telling a story, a story that I believe in.

My character is not a flaming gay guy. He's confused. It's an interesting story line. And it's one that I thought people could relate to, one that was worth telling.

So you're pleased with the sensitivity with which it's been told.

I am. And it did take me awhile to embrace it, to find the approach I needed to find to play it.

What has been your favorite story line for your character?

I have a few, actually. When you ask that, I think of a lot of different scenes that were just such fun to shoot. What's so great about "Rescue Me" and playing this guy is you're constantly jumping off the cliff as an actor. You never know what's coming down the pipeline, what [show scripters] Denis, Peter [Tolan] and Evan [T. Reilly] are writing for you, where it's gonna go. It's always scary; you're always wondering "What am I getting into?" But you trust them because the writing is so good. So these things that you're hesitant about and scared to wrap your arms around and dive in to fully—which of course you have to do to make it work—you ultimately can embrace.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my whole relationship with "the fat chick," played by Ashley Atkinson, an awesome actor. My character was really hesitant and his mother made him go out on a date with her. He didn't want to, but he ended up falling in love with her and she broke his heart. I thought that was really a lot of fun and a crazy story line. Steven Pasquale, who plays Garrity, and I have had such a blast together. We're referred to as the two dumb guys in the house. We've gotten ourselves into a lot of sticky situations.

Another story line that was awesome for me was that they wrote my real-life band, Apache Stone, into the show. We played in the bar that the guys run. A lot of people think that was a fake TV band, but it was really us, and we're still enjoying the publicity that we got from the show. We played Mohegan Sun a few months back.

Tell me more about Apache Stone.

We've been together a few years now. I grew up playing drums. When I originally went to New York City, I enrolled at the Drummers Collective. I come from a musical family rooted in New Haven, which is a very musical city. My mother's two brothers were always in bands—one was a guitar player, the other a drummer who gave me a drum set when I was 12 or 13 years old.

I had bands growing up; music was something I always wanted to do. It got to the point where I thought I might aim for a career as a studio drummer. But I also had poetry that I had turned into lyrics that I wanted to work on, and I found the right group of guys to do that with.

"Rescue Me" is not like most TV shows; a lot of shows are filming 15 to 16 hours a day. Denis likes to do one or two takes, keep it clean. So our days are 10 to 12 hours tops. Sometimes I work five days a week, sometimes two, depending on the storyline. Being based in New York City, I was able to get a rehearsal space, and I had the foundation of always being here. So I put a band together, we wrote songs and rehearsed for about a year, and then we released an album [Apache Stone] and started touring around. It's been a blast.

How would you describe the band?

It's definitely rock 'n' roll. It's organic, too, we jam a lot. It sort of has the beat of Audioslave and Pearl Jam mixed with the feel of the Stone Temple Pilots. It has a modern quality to it as well.

Any further recording plans?

I'm continuing to write. Here's how I feel about it: I'm doing my thing; it is what it is. If I can reach a certain level of success with it, it'll be amazing. But I'm really doing what I love to do, and I'm learning a ton as we go along. That's what life's about. Right now, I have a bunch of songs written, and I definitely want to get into the studio and record another album.

What outside  acting projects have you taken on?

I shot a movie in the Caymans during our last hiatus. Obviously, "Rescue Me" has taken off; it's been on the air for six years now. We're finishing up the last 19 episodes right now. It's been fantastic; I'm so blessed to be working. In between, I've been able to do . . . I did a film in Canada a while back. Then I went to the Caymans—I was there about five weeks—and filmed a great little independent movie called Cayman Went. It's a really simple story, sort of Disneyish, basically a coming of age story. I play a guy who's the star of this "Baywatch"-style TV show, whose character is like a superhero; but the actor is petrified of the ocean and can't scuba dive or do any of the things his character can. Anyway, he's called to the Cayman Islands, where he meets this older fellow who forms a relationship with him like Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. And he's changed by this man and by the islands.

It was a very cool experience. I was on an island called the Cayman Brac, which is a short plane ride away from Grand Cayman. It's like 10 or 12 miles long by a mile wide, an amazing little place. I was trained to scuba dive there, and we had some really cool underwater sequences.

I participated in a teleconference interview with Denis recently, during which I had the chance to ask about you—he said that there are times when you are so "brilliantly dumb" as Silletti that they have to stop the take because everyone is laughing so hard.

That’s an awesome compliment. It’s not always easy playing this character, but what’s really interesting is, when I come into work I fall into being “that guy.” I actually feel like the “proby” or rookie in the group. And I see the other guys as their characters, too. Meaning no disrespect for what I’m doing now, I’m eager to see what I can bring to my next role. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me.

Michael Lombardi

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