Darren Lipari has been seen on so many shows you know and love, including “Mr Robot”, “Girls”, “The Blacklist” and “Law and Order” – to name but a few. The actor, director and writer has plenty of credits, and his next project is a feature film directed by Brian Kirk, and produced by Anthony and Joe Russo – “21 Bridges”.
The film follows a NYPD detective who shuts down the city in order to find two suspects, and Lipari stars as Lt Kelly in the exciting action thriller.
We spoke to Lipari ahead of the release of “21 Bridges” about the film, and working with the mammoth cast behind it!
Congratulations on the upcoming “21 Bridges”! How would you describe your character, Lt Kelly?
Thank you, Katie! It’s very exciting. Lt. Kelly is a loyal, skilled, proactive man of action. Doing my research on the chain of command within the NYPD, a lieutenant is a valued position that requires years of field experience and multiple degrees to obtain. I wanted to honor that. When Kelly’s brothers in blue are murdered in a drug bust gone wrong, Kelly does everything he can under the orders of Capt. Mckenna (JK Simmons) to make sure justice is served and that his family, fellow officers, and the city he protects is safe.
The cast is quite substantial, with some big names in there. What was your experience working with them?
When the cast was coming together, and when I realized who I would be working with, there was definitely a “pinch me” moment. I’ve had so much respect and joy watching these actors work over the years. At the end of the day, you shut the “star struck” part of your brain off and look at those big names only as your scene partners. Everyone from Chadwick to JK to Sienna to the supporting cast was extremely professional, collaborative, and a pleasure to work with. We all wanted to tell the best story we could.
How was working with director Brian Kirk, and the Russo brothers producing?
Brian has directed some classic episodes of “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire,” to name a few, so I knew I’d be working with a great storyteller. I was so impressed with his ease, tenacity, and passion for getting the best work out of all of us. I always felt that when we had got the scene in the can, Brian would do another take to strive for something more in-depth or more interesting. I’m invigorated by that mindset! When I heard that the Russo Bros were involved, I knew that this was going to be something special and exciting. There is so much love and detail and movie references they bring to their work. As a fellow cinephile, I always appreciate having producers with a vast range of film history in their heads so that they can pay homage but also push a genre further. They elevated the MCU with films like “The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War.” It is what they are going to do with this film and beyond.
Do you have any interesting or funny stories from set?
I do! Somehow JK Simmons and I got to talking about playing dead onscreen (probably because we both have played various agents of law enforcement) He shared a story from early on in his film career where he was shot in the Bruce Willis movie called “The Jackal” JK decided to lunge himself up against the wall in a very uncomfortable position where he stayed lifeless and stagnant. Little did he know that for the next few very long shooting days, he would have to remain in that excruciating position. JK’s advice: fall on the ground either on your back or stomach! haha
How long did you have to be on set each day, and how many days?
Since the majority of 21 Bridges takes place at night, our shooting schedule was usually from 6 pm – 6 am. It is something you get used to, and it does create a euphoric, familial feeling on set with the cast and crew. We are all running around the city of Philly and NY, making a movie together into the wee hours of the morning. I was on set for a month or two, and we spent about two weeks in Philly. I was called in to shoot an extra day in NYC at Grand Central station, and then again for a pivotal scene towards the end of the film. It was conveniently shot in my neighbourhood of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn!
Many of your credits are TV-based, what differences did you find between filming a TV show versus a full-length film?
Good question. Shooting a feature, I felt I had more time with the character and the world of the film due to the size of my role and its longer shooting schedule. Some of my prior television work required me to be on-set sometimes two days or sometimes half days for smaller roles. The great thing about working in the “Modern Golden-Age of TV” is that the budget and production value has been equatable if not bigger to certain full-length films. (EX: The “Mr. Robot” episode I did) That being said, there was an epic feel to shooting “21 Bridges” due to its locations, camera setups, and action set pieces. I feel on a studio film, there is slightly more leeway involving production and time constraints. With some of the network television I’ve done, each episode has a finite weekly release date that they have to meet. At the end of the day, I approach each project with the mindset of serving the character and story to the best of my ability, regardless of its scope.
What would you say are your career highlights/favourite roles that you’ve played?
“21 Bridges” right off the bat is a career highlight for sure. It has given me an opportunity to work with such a talented cast and crew as well as doing this interview with you lol. “Mr. Robot” is a close second because I was such a fan of the show and Sam Esmail even before being cast. The only negative to that was some storylines got spoiled for me since I was invited into that world, but it was so unbelievably surreal and a small price to pay. Off the top of my head, playing the starring role in a short mockumentary, I wrote and directed called “Pouring Glory.” It follows the rise and fall of Tyler Reggiano, the world’s most famous bartender. It was fun to play a narcissistic, attention-hungry celebrity. It was also my resurgence as a filmmaker since I originally went to film school before I decided to become an actor. I thrive on playing characters that are “in the throes of a crisis, whether it be identity, existential, or literal. All of these roles are varied examples of my acting niche.
Do you have any major career goals you feel you haven’t reached yet?
Many! But I look forward to striving towards them. I’d love to be a series regular on a wild show like “Lost,” “Fringe,” or “The Righteous Gemstones.” Doing a great character guest spot on a show like “Mindhunter” as a deranged sociopath would also be a fascinating psychological exploration. Working with David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, Danny McBride, Scorcese, Denis Villeneuve, the list goes on and on. Personally, I try not to think about a certain career trajectory. I’m grateful for every opportunity, project, and audition I get, and my primary goal as an actor is to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. I try to stay focused on that but also be aware of certain projects or parts that might give me access to reaching a broader audience/demographic. Whatever happens, from there is the icing on the cake.
What’s next on your agenda?
I will be starting to spend more time in LA, working with my team, keeping an eye on certain projects. Such as the Slyvester Stallone produced series “The Tenderloin” about corrupt cops in 1920’s NYC, as well as the Die Hard prequel/reboot “McClane.” Besides that, I’m steadily auditioning for tv, film, and commercials, maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit and continuing to grow and learn as an artist.
Thank you for your time!
Thank you for the opportunity, Katie! This was really fun to do with some
great, thoughtful, interesting questions to answer. Have a good one!
“21 Bridges” hits cinemas in November, and alongside Darren Lipari stars Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch, Chadwick Boseman, J.K. Simmons and so many more. Check out the trailer here.