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James Molinari in Nowhere

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James Molinari in Nowhere.jpg
James Molinari in Nowhere
The first time I noticed James was in a film called Palmetto Haunting directed by Anil Dhokai where he played a paranormal investigator. The next time I saw his name come up was in Nowhere a story about an out of the way bed and breakfast inn where directed by Ryen W. Thomas where James (as Drake, a con man looking for fast money) found more that he bargained for.  In both of these roles hew was very serious and clean cut.

Later when I attended the premiere of Nowhere I noticed the absence of two of it's stars.  One being Alexandra Faith, who I think was in New York at the time and James Molinari.  There was young man there though that I thought I recognized but couldn't put my finger on from where.  He had long curly hair and a big smile the whole night.  He turned out to be James.  I didn't recognize him because I had never seen him smile in a movie. (laughs)


James, I'm told, is known for throwing himself into a part.  He arrives ready to work and and does whatever it takes to play the part convincingly.

"James and I first met on the set of a film directed by Anil Dhokai and after seeing how he took his role quite seriously, I knew I wanted to work with him. One thing I haven't shared much is that he was cast as Drake only three days before Nowhere's production yet he prepared for that role as if he had a year to break it down. Favorite moment on the set was seeing him furiously jump in place before doing a scene where he practically runs for his life. James is intense and I enjoyed tackling the character's arch with him, almost like constructing or sculpting a piece of art."  -  Ryen W. Thomas Director of Nowhere

James Molinari and Ryen W. Thomas

How did you learn about the production of Nowhere and was Drake the part you were hoping to get?

How I found out about Nowhere is actually a bit unique.  I received a phone call from Kent Allen around midnight on a Monday/Tuesday.  They had everything in place to begin filming on Thursday of that week in Aiken, SC.  The lead had a conflict come up, and [he] was not going to be available.  They had two choices at that point: Delay the entire production, or recast the lead on short notice.  I had worked with most of the people involved in the film previously (Ryen, Kent, and Richard on Home, and Ryen also on Palmetto Haunting back in 2009).  For me I guess it was a combination of good luck (the fact that this opportunity came up), and also hard work on my previous films with this group, which allowed them to trust me enough to offer me this role without an audition.

What a stroke of luck for you, and them, considering the situation.  You did an excellent job.  This sort of role seems effortless for you but I suspect you are always well prepared for the task when you begin. Do you prefer serious roles like this one and how were you able to jump into it so quick?

I don't really have a preference to a type of role.  I want to be good, and to be good I think you have to be versatile.  Therefore, I don't want to fall into a comfort zone where the only roles I gravitate towards are of a specific type.  If I do have a preference, or a bias when picking a role it would be towards the overall story, and the message, or purpose for it.

As for being able to jump into the role so quickly, I think it was a combination of being a psycho preparer (which I am), with also having a lot of personal parallels to "Drake."  I literally spent every hour I was awake in those couple days before we began filming going over the story, and finding that character.  I've always felt that the hardest, and most important work of an actor is prior to showing up on set.  Once you show up it's simply allow your "life" to play out according to what you've prepared, and who you now are.

What got you interested in acting?

A number of years ago my agent asked me if I'd be interested in attending a new acting class that was going to be taught by Burgess Jenkins (he had the same agent in the Carolinas).  I enrolled initially thinking it was going to be geared towards helping me with commercial auditions, which I was doing sporadically at that time.  It turned out that it was all about film acting, and I really took to it.  It was surprising to me how much work went into something that, in the end, comes across as so natural for those who do it well.  Anyway, it was an undiscovered passion, and if I hadn't walked into that class that one day I would never have known it was something that I wanted to pursue.

I first noticed you in Palmetto Haunting as a paranormal investigator. As you mentioned you worked with Ryen W. ThomasKent Allen, and Richard Clark, Jr.  Another common element between it and Nowhere was Anil Dhokai along with Bonnie and Ted Johnson.   Was this your first lead role in a feature film?

Yes, Palmetto Haunting was Anil's story, and I believe his directorial debut (I could be wrong about that).  Ted, and/or Bonnie have had some role in just about everything New Daydream Films has put out, and it's always been a pleasure working with both of them.

Palmetto Haunting was my 2nd lead role in a feature, with my first being a few years before that with a small production in Charlotte that has never actually been made - I believe it may have run into some funding, and technical issues that shut post-production down, but I don't know for sure.  That would make Nowhere my 3rd lead in a feature length production, with it being the 2nd that has actually made it through post.

The relationship between your character and Maynard played by Jordon Alexander was a very important part of Nowhere.  Did the two of you rehearse much together before those scenes?

Neither of us wanted to rehearse, and director Ryen Thomas was okay with that.  We did have to block scenes for camera, but when we did the dialogue was very matter of fact.  For me that comes from a desire to be real, and not perfect.  I've fallen into that trap before (trying to achieve some mythical "perfect scene)," and that always leads to my character having an agenda in a scene, instead of being able to relax and see where a scene goes naturally.   My goal is for very honest moments that are very reactive in real time, and then allow post production to figure out how to piece it together.   If I ever find myself trying to achieve something in a scene - to "nail it" so-to-speak, then I can just about guarantee the finished product won't be very good!

Were you taught that or is this something you learned through trial and error?

I was mostly taught that.  Allowing yourself to let go of your preparation and be open to the possibilities of a scene - truly connecting, or being impacted by the other person/people in a scene is a cornerstone of our training.  At the same time, learning from your successes and failures certainly helps too!  In reality it's probably some combination of both:  You find reliable resources to guide you in the craft, and then allow your own life experiences to mesh with those ideas to find what works for you.  It's always evolving, which I think makes the craft even more fun - you can never master something that has no specific formula for what works.

Hobbies,, leisure time activities?  What do you do for fun?

That really depends on the time of year - different things capture my interest at different times.  Over the past 7 months I've been remodeling my house (new floors, open concept layout, new kitchen).  My girlfriend and I have done all of it ourselves, so it's been a ton of work, but also very rewarding when we see the finished product.  That's something I have taken too as well, and think that I'll be building, or remodeling  something somewhere for the rest of my life!  

I'm also a huge Oakland A's, and Denver Broncos fan.  During baseball season I either watch, or listen to almost every Oakland A's game, and try to travel at least once per year to watch both of them play (I just got back from Baltimore to catch an A's game there, and this past January made it out to Denver for the AFC championship game against the Patriots).  I realize that doesn't seem like much to most people, but I'm pretty simple.  You give me a radio, an A's game, and a beer, and I'm a happy guy!

Are you currently reading any scripts or working on a production?

No. The acting part of my life has taken a backseat to the home remodel since last fall.  I am excited to put more time into it this coming year, now that our place is nearing completion.  It's been disappointing that I have had to take a break to finish this home, but at the same time necessary - my family comes before my career.

I must say I'm more impressed now, having talked to you, than I was when I saw you on the screen.  Thanks for taking the time and good luck with the future.

Thank you.

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