Gilles Marini returns to “Brothers & Sisters” Feb. 21 as Luc Laurent, the — be-still-our-beating-hearts — French lover of Rachel Griffiths’ Sarah Walker character on the show. To say he’s happy about that is an understatement.
“To think, when I came here, I did not speak English,” says the 34-year-old Frenchman, who hails from Cannes. “And now, I’m living the perfect American dream, with my wife and our little American kids we had here.”
In fact, Gilles’ and wife Carole’s young son and daughter are two of the reasons he says “Brothers & Sisters” is just right for him, offering a schedule that “makes it possible for me to see my kids off to school in the morning, or tuck them into bed every night.”
He admits, “You always worry. I thought, ‘I’m going to be playing the boyfriend. Where can the story take me?’” However, “I come in with a twist in my character’s background,” he reveals. “It’s the jackpot for me.”
If you saw the “Sex in the City” movie, you saw Gilles — all of him, in the shower — as Kim Cattrall’s neighbor and lust object. And, if you saw him on “Dancing With the Stars,” no doubt you recall he came close to victory in the season ultimately won by Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson.
Now, working alongside Rachel, Sally Field and the rest of the “Brothers & Sisters” troupe, he says he’s overwhelmed to be in the presence of “that many actors with that much talent all at the same time.
“(Co-Executive Producer) Michael Morris told me, ‘You’re working so hard, Gilles. You always come in prepared every day, every second.’ But, it’s not work to me. I think this is the chance of a lifetime to be on this show, and to hopefully show American audiences that I deserve to be here.”
THE VIDEOLAND VIEW: NBC’s freshman “Trauma” series was considered such a sure-shot for early extinction that members of the crew gave up their apartments on San Francisco location. But not Cliff Curtis, the New Zealand star who plays a cocky helicopter pilot in the drama about daring, first-response paramedics.
“Trauma” got off to such a rough start that, a month after its debut in September, NBC announced it wouldn’t renew it. Then, in November, the network called for three more episodes. And then last month, as the cancellation of “The Jay Leno Show” left NBC with mucho hours of prime time to fill, they added four more episodes of “Trauma.”
Still, “I never had any doubts,” says Curtis. “From the beginning, I had confidence that if we did the best work we could, if we kept trying to raise the bar, the audience would grow to appreciate the show. And, it has.”
With a pedigree including Executive Producer/director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “Hancock”), the show did take some time to find its footing creatively. Curtis concedes, “The characters weren’t developed properly at first. We took a lot of creative license, but learned from it. We listened to the audience and to critics, and were able to satisfy a lot of complaints about the characters. We improved the humor and the action on the front line.
“When things were their worst, I watched with a wry smile and was quietly confident,” he says. “And now, I wouldn’t be surprised that after we return to the lineup following the Winter Olympics, we’ll do so well that we’ll be renewed for another season.”
In fact, the “Whale Rider” big-screen star is so confident that he’s involved with a long-range hit, he’s saying, after 15 years of commuting from New Zealand to the U.S. for film work, that he’d be ready to move his wife and their two children to these shores, “To settle down for at least a few years in San Francisco. I love it there.”
THE BIG-SCREEN SCENE:
It’s a b-i-i-g difference, going from the Disney Channel to a David Fincher film with Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield, but that’s what beautiful 21-year-old Brenda Song has done.
She’s now back at work in her best-known role — as kooky heiress London Tipton on “The Suite Life on Deck” — after wrapping the big-screen “Social Network.” It’s the story of the founders of Facebook — Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker and Eduardo Saverin.
Shooting the film, Brenda says, “has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It’s such an honor to work with David. ‘Fight Club’ is one of my favorite movies. He’s absolutely brilliant.”
She adds, “Mix that with Aaron Sorkin’s writing and I’m lost for words. It’s like watching geniuses at work. The cast has been soooo amazing. I’m in love with Andrew and Jesse. We had so much fun.”
Her character, Christy “kind of set her sights on Eduardo (Garfield) and will do everything in her power to be with him. It was quite a change from London — ha ha,” she adds in an online interview.
Fear not, London fans. Brenda is not forsaking the ditzy character she’s been playing since 2005. “Suite Life on Deck” has new episodes coming up, including the March 5-debuting installment that has London, Zack and Cody (Dylan and Cole Sprouse) in fairytale fantasies. Hers is “Snow White” — as the evil queen.
WITCHY WOMAN: Katerina Graham, who plays witch Bonnie on the CW’s “Vampire Diaries,” tells us “I hope she stays a good witch. I think she’s such a great role model for a lot of girls.”
Yes, and it’s very hard to find good teen role models in today’s TV landscape. For instance, Bonnie sure beats Grace (Megan Park), the Christian girl in Brenda Hampton’s “Secret Life of the American Teenager,” who believes that her having had sex with her boyfriend caused her father’s death in a plane crash — divine retribution? — and has gone on to advocate masturbation.
And then of course there’s Quinn Fabray (Donna Agron) of “Glee,” the Christian former head of the Celibacy Club, pregnant by one guy and girlfriend of another.
The fact is, as framed by the majority of Hollywood creative types, you’re bound to do better, role model-wise, with witches and vampires than religious types.
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster