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Focus, Tenacity Make Dreams Come True, says S.W.A.T. Star

Lou Ferrigno Jr., on landing new roles, helping the marginalized, and nepotism in Hollywood

Emerging star Lou Ferrigno Jr., is following in his father’s footsteps with roles that would challenge him and his craft as a performer. Now 36 years old, the actor is set to star in the forthcoming projects Dreamcatcher and Nightshade. He has also landed a supporting role in Blackout alongside Nick Nolte and Josh Dunhamel.

Lou currently stars in the action-drama series S.W.A.T. as Donovan Rocker. Get to know him in an exclusive one-on-one with Haider Rifaat of The Truth International Magazine.

TTI: Lou, what made you want to become an actor?

LFJ: Ever since I was a child, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do for my career. Acting was the world I knew. Travelling with my parents to film and TV sets across the globe allowed me to immerse myself in acting, its craft and its atmosphere.

When I was 10 years old, I realized that as an actor I could play many characters with many different professions – never needing to choose just one. My teenage dream was to play football in the National Football League, which obviously never materialized. Yet as an actor, I have been hired to play characters ranging from former professional athletes, detectives, lawyers, superheroes and a S.W.A.T. officer. I am grateful that I am now paid to pretend I am successful in many different professions without actually having to dedicate my life to them. 

TTI: As an emerging talent, what has a core challenge for you in terms of acting and landing constructive roles?

LFJ: A major challenge has been not allowing myself to get caught up in the fantasies of portraying characters whom I have auditioned to play, but not yet booked. I constantly remind myself that my job as an actor is not to book roles but rather audition tirelessly until I book the right role.

The career of a professional actor is wrought with heartache and disappointment, which can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging at times.  I am able to progress each day while keeping a proper attitude and focusing on improving as an actor.

TTI: Do you feel that you have an edge over other newbie actors given that your father, Lou Ferrigno Sr., is an actor himself?

LFJ: Having a famous name, or a famous father, could allow an actor to stand out on a list of thousands of other performers but the name itself hasn’t helped me much to book big acting roles or be brought back for a recurring role on TV.

Nepotism in Hollywood happens more often if an actor’s parent retains a powerful position as a producer or a director. Nepotism doesn’t necessarily apply for on-camera talent, which for the actor necessitates audience approval. Merely bearing a famous name won’t help any person become a skillfully effective actor or maintain a professional attitude while working long hours on-set.

I have been very lucky in booking many different roles, on different networks, which have been independent of my father’s involvement. Life as an actor is very rewarding but difficult, and every poor audition or missed opportunity makes an actor a stronger performer and person.

TTI: Talk to us about your film Guest House and the upcoming feature Dream- catcher.

LFJ: Guest House is what I would like to call a wacky comedy, which was a blast to film and even more fun to watch. I play Kip Werner, the ex-boyfriend to Sarah – played by Aimee Teegarden – who poses a threat to interlope her marriage to Blake (Mike Castle). The film turned out really funny, filled with hilarious actors and a rabid opossum that crashes Sarah and Blake’s wedding party.

Dreamcatcher is a very different suspense thriller set in the exciting, mysterious world of Electronic Dance Music. In the vein of the classic 90’s thrillers – Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer – this film is a wild ride, full of suspense and terror. It maintains a strong plotline and fascinating characters.

While attending a music festival, a group of friends are killed one by one with no clue of who is the culprit. I play Colton, a seedy talent manager with very ill intentions. I don’t want to give anything away but Dreamcatcher will be really intense and you wouldn’t want to miss it!

TTI: What is your character development process?

LFJ: Once I receive a character breakdown of a role, I take a lot of time filling in the details of the character’s life as if he was a real person. I think of real people I know or have met who remind me of the character to gain a firmer grasp of a fictional person.

I spend time researching as much about this fictional character’s life as I can. I write what this character does for work, for fun, his perspective, his thoughts on random topics, his idiosyncrasies, the types of friends he would have, as well as his daily routine. I put myself in the character’s state of mind early on before shooting, actively living and responding as this person right up until the film wraps. The entire character development process changes slightly every time but that is why I find it so fascinating!

TTI: How important is the role of physical fitness in a profession like yours?

LFJ: I was an athlete all my life through college, so physical fitness has always been a big part of my life. Having a strong, athletic physique plays a large part in enhancing my brand as an actor as well as keeping me safe. I have been blessed with muscle-building genetics, so being muscular helps me maintain a strong physical presence on-screen.

Also, I feel it is my personal duty as a Ferrigno to continue my father’s prestigious fitness legacy and take it to the next level. Staying fit and healthy allows me to endure the rigors of action-oriented roles that I frequently portray, as well as keep my mind at peace when times get tough, which is often.

TTI: How do you hope to champion change for youngsters who would proba- bly look up to you in the years to come?

LFJ: I hope that younger generations will view me as someone who achieved great success as an actor on his own merits while captivating audiences across the globe and keeping a great reputation as a person and a professional. It is very common that children of celebrities fall way short of their famous parents’ achievements – never finding a place of their own in Hollywood, or even in life. I have dedicated my life serving as an inspiration to the less fortunate who believe that life aspirations cannot actually be achieved. I aim to prove that having a focused vision and a tenacious drive in any profession can make dreams become a reality no matter how ridiculous they may sound to the naysayers.

TTI: What social cause do you feel strongly about and why?

LFJ: The environment, animals and disenfranchised children hold a special place in my heart. For 8 years, I worked as an exercise therapist with at-risk youth at a teen rehabilitation centre in Malibu, California. I was given the opportunity to share my passion for fitness with children and young adults whose lives were marred with tragedy, addiction and self-harm.

In teaching troubled teenagers about the innumerable benefits of exercise, I learned so much from them about life, gratitude and the importance of helping others who are less fortunate. I am also a huge animal lover, fascinated by the vast range of diversity among species across the planet and the incredible connections that humans and animals share. I educate myself about the threats of environmental harm and extinction. I do my best to help the world be a cleaner, healthier, happier place for future generations.

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