Peter Facinelli probably caught your eye this summer as the hot-but-socially awkward doctor, Fitch Cooper, opposite Edie Falco’s nurse on the new Showtime series Nurse Jackie. If not, you know him from his vampire movies: Facinelli is thirty-five and doesn’t look a day older, yet he’s beloved by millions for playing Carlisle Cullen, dad of teenager Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), in the films Twilight and New Moon (out this fall). Facinelli is also a young dad in real life. He and his wife Jennie Garth plan their acting schedules around daughters Luca Bella, twelve; Lola Ray, six; and Fiona, two. Babble talked to Facinelli recently from his home in L.A., where he handled a phone interview like a champ, even though he had painters and a DirecTV guy to contend with. The Facinelli-Garths are remodeling. – Tammy La Gorce
Peter, thanks for taking the time to talk to Babble. You have a lot of fans! In checking out the guestbook on your website, I noticed a Swedish fan’s comments. She said her favorite characters are Carlisle Cullen and “the guy who squeezes boobs in Nurse Jackie.”
Really? That’s on my guestbook? I check there every now and then but I’m going to have to go back and look again. That’s cool.
You are thirty-five – does that feel young to have three kids, including a twelve-year-old? You started early!
I feel old, actually. But you’ve got to keep a young spirit every day when you have three kids, because having kids makes you go through youth again, in a way. You experience it again through them – like my daughter (Luca Bella) is playing soccer, and to be her coach I had to learn soccer. I read books on it, did clinics.
How is it being the sole guy in a heavily female household?
I grew up with three sisters – I was destined to be surrounded by women, I think. I’m used to it now and it’s great. I’m really completely happy with a family of five, the Facinelli five. My wife wants a boy, but it doesn’t really matter to me. Who knows? We’re both young enough to have more.
As an Italian-American, do any of the stereotypes apply in your household? Loud arguing? Lots of emotion?
I think what I took from my youth, from our household, is an appreciation for really good food. And I’ve definitely instilled that in my family. Dinnertime is a really important time for our family. And we do have loud conversations – we’re always talking over each other. So now I started this new thing: I got this little wooden star, and I call it “the talking star.” We all take turns holding the talking star so everybody’s not talking at once. It’s funny, if you talk out of order now my two-year-old gets mad, like, “You don’t have the talking star!”
You’re from Queens and now live in L.A. Are L.A. parents different from New York parents?
I think the differences are more generational than it having anything to do with where you live. I mean, I have friends who, if they weren’t home at a certain time, their dads were out looking for them with a belt. You don’t get the belt in L.A. Or anywhere else now, either, I don’t think. Now we have time out – you go in the room, you sit and you think. Which I think is a little healthier. For the record, my dad never came at me with a belt. But that’s what the neighborhood was like.
Your twelve-year-old is Twilight age, a tween. And you’re reprising your role as Dr. Carlisle Cullen in 2009’s sequel, New Moon. Did you let her watch the first movie?
She’s read the first two books and has seen the movie. She definitely was a fan, which is why I let her. My daughter is an avid reader. And I’ve had wonderful experiences bonding over reading – my sister and her daughter bonded over Twilight. The book and the movie actually made my family closer. When you think about a vampire movie closing the generation gap, that’s pretty incredible. I’m pretty strict with what the kids watch overall, though.
How so? Where do you draw the line?
There’s a lot of things they can watch, like Disney Channel. But I won’t let my twelve-year-old watch MTV, because there are some things on there that I think are not appropriate for her. If there’s a movie they want to watch and it’s PG-13, I go online to this parental website where you can see why it’s rated PG-13. Like it’ll say, “Fifteen minutes in, a guy looks inappropriately at a woman’s butt,” blah blah blah. That way I don’t have to sit there and watch the whole movie first.
What’s your favorite kids’ show?
It’s different for each age – I watch Dora and Blue’s Clues with my two-year-old, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody with my six-year-old old, and my twelve-year-old is still on Hannah Montana. I was actually really enjoying Zack & Cody yesterday – it was a Halloween episode. I think the janitor guy was dressed up like Frankenstein. I thought that actor, the janitor guy, was really funny.
Are you the kind of dad who would be into doing guest spots on kids’ shows, like Sesame Street?
I would totally do Sesame Street. My wife just did it. It shoots on the same lot as Nurse Jackie. And I was so fascinated to go down and see the shoot.
Edie Falco recently adopted kids. Do you talk about child-rearing on the set?
“I think parenting no matter what you do as an occupation is hard.”No, not really. Her kids come down to the set and they’re adorable, but we don’t really have discussions about parenting. I just know the kids are really well-behaved.
Is it harder to be a good parent when you’re famous than when you’re not famous?
No. I think parenting no matter what you do as an occupation is hard. What matters is if you make the occupation more important than the family. If I were a stockbroker or a plumber, I’d try to keep it in balance so I spend the right amount of time with my family. Acting’s the same. Being a celebrity parent I definitely shelter my kids more than other parents do, though. It’s hard sometimes – you go to events and sometimes there are kids there and they’re surrounded with glamour. But my kids aren’t starstruck. And there are perks to being an actor parent, like my daughter getting to be around Twilight, which was something she had read and loved.
Do you look up to any other actors for their outstanding parenting skills?
No, I kind of look to my own parents for inspiration. They’ve been together their whole marriage, and they raised a great family; my sisters and I are very close. So it would be hard for me to look at a celebrity as a role model for parenting when I have them in my own back yard.
Last question: Is there any dancing going on in your household? Can you dance like your wife’s partner, Derek Hough, on Dancing With the Stars?
My daughters love to dance, yeah. Sometimes we put the radio on and we all dance together in the living room. Can I dance like her partner on Dancing With the Stars? Maybe. I probably wouldn’t look as good in the tight pants, though.