Enviously suave Gilles Marini, famous for his sex scenes in Sex and the City, is becoming a respected character actor with his role in critically acclaimed TV show Brothers and Sisters.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Gilles Marini, known for his racy role as Dante and now the love interest of Rachel Griffiths’ character on TV, the European-born heartthrob is much more than eye candy. Marini is quite involved with charitable groups and very passionate about helping others. In addition, he’s true epicurean, who loves food and that has translated to his being co-owner of one of L.A.’s hottest new restaurants.
DA MAN: There’s a lot of talk about your role in the TV show Brothers and Sisters, what can you tell us about this, your biggest role?
Gilles Marini: It is my biggest. Not because of the role that I have, but because of the stuff that show is known for—the high level of acting with a lot of acting royalty like Sally Field, Rob Lowe, Calista Flockhart … So it’s kind of good for someone like me.
DA MAN: How is it working with all the prestigious actors?
GILLES MARINI: You might be impressed at first, and very worried if you really do your job well and make sure that you’re not making sound too much and just doing your job. Really, they’re phenomenal people. I’m having the best time. You know how this title Brothers and Sisters talks about family. Let me tell you, it is a family, very close people, very sweet. Being a part of that, for me it’s a huge bonus.
DA MAN: So that makes you feel comfortable—you fit in?
GILLES MARINI: Right off the bat. I met with Sally the first day, then Rob Lowe and Matthew Rhys, and everyone. I was like, ‘oh, my God,’ but now I realize, it’s just like regular people going to work. They’re very supportive and it’s really like they have an amazing life for sure.
DA MAN: Can you tell us a little bit about your character in the show?
GILLES MARINI: I’m playing a painter, Luc Laurent. Actually it’s really based on beautiful and rare love story. There is almost always drama, he’s European, an artist and Sarah Walker, played by Rachel Griffiths, a working woman living in America. So their backgrounds are very different. There’s a lot of drama because they’re so different, but also that’s the reason why those two love each other so much. It’s really a good character for me to play, because it’s a chance for me to perform with those amazing actors.
DA MAN: Will you have a bigger role in the show?
GILLES MARINI: We all discussed that with the crew at the set while I was doing a show called Dancing with the Stars and they were offering me if I want to be on more. Then I showed up on set one day, and had a really good time doing the scenes with Rachel Griffiths. I must have done something right, because it became five episodes, then five more. If everything goes well, next season could see a bigger role, they could put me in as a regular. I’m taking it day by day and I’m enjoying the moment. We had a great season, people enjoyed it … the way Sally Field acts and Rachel Griffiths, it’s so stunning. I really hope for them this year to be nominated for the Emmy. Being on set with someone like Rachel Griffiths is amazing. You learn every second, and sparks and fireworks fly. It’s beautiful the way it is written.
DA MAN: Is it inspirational being around such people?
GILLES MARINI: Rachel Griffiths is a very powerful woman, on and off camera. Rachel is very different from me. It’s that ‘you don’t see that everyday’ stuff. I’m listening. I found myself listening and learning.
DA MAN: I have to ask, what about the powerful women in Sex and the City? How was it working with them?
GILLES MARINI: I worked directly with Kim Cattrall. I would say it’s a very different experience, because the time we spent was not comedic, but it was very serious. She made it very simple because she’s used to that. It went well. I worked with her and she was very supportive. I’m kind of a shy guy when it comes to nudity and I was ‘oh, gosh’ when I’m into it, but looks like I needed that too for getting into leading roles and stuff like that, so I just have to believe I made the right choice.
DA MAN: How did you prepare for those nude scenes if you’re shy?
GILLES MARINI: There are about 50 people around—the staff and this and that—a lot of people. I felt like everything was blurry and I was concentrating. We had to show that it was a very natural thing for that character, Dante, to be like that. It became easier down the line, but the first couple of times it was like ‘oh, God.’
DA MAN: How many times did you have to do those scenes?
GILLES MARINI: When the character, Dante, comes out to the shower, I would say a couple of times—very quick. Whereas, the most difficult I would say were the scenes where I was having sex with all the different women. You have to fake it, and I never faked it … another day at the office.
DA MAN: Why no role for Dante in Sex and the City 2?
GILLES MARINI: It was a very specific character in a very specific time and I would say that they took a different turn and Dante has nothing to do in the new one.
DA MAN: Where do you see your career going … more movies in the future?
GILLES MARINI: My goal is maybe to shoot two movies a year and have Brothers and Sisters blast off in a few more months. So that would be a great productive way to spend my year. Hopefully, I shoot at least one movie this summer, and then go back to Brothers and Sisters and whenever I can I would definitely shoot movies.
DA MAN: What do you prefer, the movies or TV?
GILLES MARINI: Completely different. I would say that when you shoot a movie, you have time to be yourself. You have time to give love to the character the way you want. Every word can be very well done. When you shoot a TV show, you’d be surprised, sometimes you just hear, ‘okay, we just changed the entire scene’, and you’re on set already. It happens a lot. So the time to be prepared is very much shorter. I do like movies more than TV just because your work can only be better. With TV, it can be really rushed. We have to shoot and deliver an hour-long TV show within two weeks, so it’s crazy. But, TV really helps you with acting skills. It makes you faster and makes you better. I love both. I always say that I would never rest until I get an Oscar, so I have a lot of work to do.
DA MAN: So, is there a let-down wrapping, after you’ve developed a character so much in your movie, and then when it’s all over do you feel sort of a sadness?
GILLES MARINI: It really depends … You know there are method actors, and there are others that go on and off character without it affecting them. I’m one of the guys that are not really affected. I have my part in my mind, and I’m a very good pretender. That’s what I do best. I can pretend and familiarize myself in so many different spins, it’s what I’ve done since I was a child. I really love that. But some others can spend three months on a movie set, I can’t say names, but very famous people really become the character, asking people around them to call them the name of the character. You’d be surprised. Big actors, big, big names and they’re all extraordinary actors. As soon as I hear ‘cut,’ it’s a couple of seconds and I’m out of it, and that’s it. The only thing that can really happen to an actor is, we’ve been so pampered and I would say guided, and they look cool, so sometimes it can be a shock when you get home, get back to reality. That’s what I’m saying. On the set we have food, and they bring you clothes, it’s just like a little heaven. You go back to regular life and it’s back to reality, we have to bring our own things, and actors I think they kind of have difficulties with that more than anything.
DA MAN: But do you like getting back to reality?
GILLES MARINI: I have two wonderful kids and a wife that’s really are here for me all the time, make me feel like … this is why its so worth it. I’m happy to go back to reality.
DA MAN: What does your wife think about when she sees you in scenes particularly like the ones in Sex and the City?
GILLES MARINI: Well, I didn’t tell her anything before the movie. It would be a funny joke to make a surprise to say, ‘look, look!’ She was like ‘oh, my God,’ more like surprised and shocked, because she thought it was funny, because she knows how shy I am, to have done something like that … It was really fun. I did not get anything negative from her and she is always very supportive. Like this morning … she took pictures of me kissing Rachel Griffiths—our characters, obviously. I was looking at her and she was ‘oh, this is really cool. You have great chemistry there.’ She’s understanding, and I was like, I’m loving it. My character is always someone else.
DA MAN: Your first job was as a fireman, is that correct?
GILLES MARINI: I really began when I was seven years old, as a pastry chef, until the age of 21. But in between I think I became a fireman, and I was in Paris. It was a very good time in my life because I learned how to help people. It was really good, in my mind. You’re required to be pretty much an actor. Every event that you go to, and whenever you help people out there, you have to really get them right away and there’s no time for mistakes. It’s really close for me to acting, in a way.
DA MAN: From there you were a model in Paris. Is that correct?
GILLES MARINI: Yes. I started modeling at the same time I was in the army and a firefighter. From there, I started in Paris, then I went to Miami, Milan and they let me do some commercial work in Miami that led me to go to Los Angeles to do more modeling and commercial work. Little by little, I shifted to acting. It was my plan all along, and it worked out.
DA MAN: What did you think of the modeling? Did you get to work with some good designers?
GILLES MARINI: Well, one was Giorgio Armani. Brilliant mind, very sweet. He makes his brand very beautiful. Every single piece is like working with a giant of couture, I worked two years with him, and that was the best experience I had as a model.
DA MAN: Do you still walk runways or do ad campaigns?
GILLES MARINI: No, I’m really concentrating on acting. It’s just the fact that it’s so competitive, you have to really be selective on what you do, otherwise the next thing you know, no one wants to work with you.
DA MAN: You also have a side project with La Vida restaurant, is that right?
GILLES MARINI: Yes. La Vida is a new restaurant. I’m one of the co-owners. It’s a very beautiful place. It feels like vacation in the Mediterranean Sea when you go there … really a step out of Los Angeles’s traffic craziness, a world of happiness in the Mediterranean Sea, but on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s very refreshing for a lot of people. They really love the place.
DA MAN: Are you actively involved in developing the menu or stuff like that?
GILLES MARINI: Yes and no. I give my opinions, they change a couple of things, but I’m not a chef. For me, everybody has their job and purpose. It would be insulting for an actor to come into the restaurant and say, ‘oh, this is how it’s supposed to be done.’ The chef that we have is phenomenal … and it’s like I can taste it in my mind right now.
DA MAN: Do you consider yourself a foodie?
GILLES MARINI: Absolutely. Everything tends to be about food all the time. Food is very important. I’m kind of a nutcase when it comes down to health. I don’t like to eat bad things. I’m very conscious of what I eat, and I try to eat good things all the time.
DA MAN: Do you have a regular fitness routine?
GILLES MARINI: I have a very easy one … I go to the gym sometimes and I do some other sports like soccer or mixed martial arts. I love those. I don’t have to go out of my way to try to sweat and work hard because I don’t eat a lot of carbs.
DA MAN: Talking about soccer, you’re involved in Hollywood United Football Club. You’re working with Anthony LaPaglia is the chairman of that, that’s right isn’t it?
GILLES MARINI: Anthony is the boss. He’s so patient with all of us, it’s amazing. He came out and has so much power in hand of whatever he does, and he made that soccer team bigger than ever and now we’re professional. That was just massive. Just an hour ago, the General Manager of the team called me and asked me if I wanted to play up against professionals this year. Great. Not that I’m gonna shine, because professionals are professionals, but I’m gonna try my hardest. We do a lot of charity around the world.
DA MAN: And you do quite a bit of other charity work as well, correct?
GILLES MARINI: I think it’s all about that in the end. When you get this power, it’s completely normal. I would feel so empty not doing more charity … I’m involved with UNICEF, been doing a charity for Haiti for four years now.
DA MAN: In acting, do you have a muse?
GILLES MARINI: There are many … actors like Paul Newman … really amazing actors that I really look up to.
DA MAN: So far in Brothers and Sisters and also Sex and the City you really do have developed this sort of a sex symbol label. You don’t feel that you’ve been typecast?
GILLES MARINI: No, because I believe in Brothers and Sisters, as time goes by, there are less and less sex scenes. It becomes more like a true love story between a man and a woman.
DA MAN: Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects for the rest of 2010 and into next year?
GILLES MARINI: Well, I want to go back to Brothers and Sisters this summer, if everything goes well. That would take up a lot of time obviously, because it’s a year-round show.
DA MAN: How long have you been living in California now?
GILLES MARINI: I came here in 2002.
DA MAN: Do you consider it your home now?
GILLES MARINI: Absolutely. Hollywood is my place.
This exclusive first appeared in DA MAN’s August/September 2010 issue, to order the back issue and see the full feature, click here.
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