Those whose mental image of Peter Facinelli springs from the much-publicized but short-lived Fox series "Fastlane" -- a Teflon-smooth, Michael Bay-inflected mash-up of "Miami Vice" and "The Fast and the Furious" -- would not recognize the guy showing up at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank in trucker chic with cap, plaid shirt and brown corduroys.
"After 'Fastlane' I got typecast as the 'slick, cool dude.' I don't consider myself slick at all," Facinelli says, fiddling with his root beer float. "Sometimes I'm like, 'How the hell did I run around in those leather pants?' "
The 34-year-old father of three girls (with spouse Jennie Garth of "Beverly Hills 90210") survived "Fastlane's" 2003 wipeout, shifting to the likes of "The Lather Effect" before taking a turn on "Damages" last year. Now he's in a scene-stealing appearance as possibly the worst boyfriend in the world in writer-director Peter Tolan's "Finding Amanda." Matthew Broderick stars as a troubled television director dispatched to pick up his fallen niece (Brittany Snow) in Las Vegas. Facinelli plays some of the detritus keeping her down.
But don't call it a comeback. Facinelli never really went away. "I was getting offered a lot of stuff that was like 'Fastlane.' So I said, 'Wait a minute, slow down,' " he says. "I took this little arc on 'Six Feet Under,' and that guy was miles away from Van Ray on 'Fastlane.' So I've tried to pick interesting projects that were different."
The actor relishes lampooning his slick, cool guy image in "Finding Amanda." His expensively garbed, petulant kept man Greg veers from threats to pouting like a baby at the drop of a diaper. But he didn't start out that way.
"What I did in the audition was completely different from what I did in the film," he says. "I had a beard and I went in with a trucker hat like I have on now; I played him like a hick. I got the role and thought, 'I don't know if that's the right way to go with this guy.' "
He discussed changing direction with Tolan, who gave the actor his blessing as long he stayed true to the character's childlike core.
"So I called the wardrobe department and asked what they were thinking, and they said, 'We don't really know; we were hoping you had some ideas,' " he says, laughing. "I said, 'Why don't you take me to Fred Segal and we'll pick out stuff like you were my woman?' And that gave me more information of who he is.
"He has all these tools in his bag to get what he wants, and when he doesn't get what he wants, he throws a tantrum. Having kids, I know that."
Family often comes up with Facinelli. He says he "recently became Italian," securing dual citizenship to get back to his roots. He grew up in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens with Italian parents and three sisters.
"My three best friends were Cuban, and the other side of the fence was all Italian American," he says. "It was like 'West Side Story.' But I was able to be friends with both. I'd have arroz con pollo at my friend's house, and then I'd go have lasagna at my other friend's house."
This winter he'll be easy to spot in the much-ballyhooed "Twilight," a vampire-themed "Romeo and Juliet" story based on the best-selling novels.
Facinelli is proud of the work he has done, in whatever disguise was handy. "I get that a lot . . . 'I know you. You're an actor, right?' And then I've got to name, like, my resume. I just do it alphabetically now. Sometimes I'll list all the [obvious ones], and it turns out to be some obscure movie that no one has seen [but them]. 'You're the one that rented that?' "
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Where you've seen him
Peter Facinelli's first big splash was as the BMOC in the teen romance "Can't Hardly Wait" (1998) opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt. He graduated from that to his personal favorite, "The Big Kahuna" (1999), a three-hander with him, Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito as salesmen in limbo. He put the fresh-faced, naive businessman of "Kahuna" behind him by putting on 20 pounds of muscle and shaving his head to play the seething personification of addiction in 2000's metaphorical science-fiction extravaganza "Supernova" alongside James Spader and Angela Bassett. Later, he was the bearded traitor dude in "The Scorpion King."