Ken Marino Interview for Diggers

January 28, 2008
Interview by: Dan Deevy

Written by: Rocco Passafuime

Ken Marino

Spotlight by: Andrea Tuccillo

Ken Marino has been hanging around Hollywood for quite some time, but really he’s still a Long Island boy at heart. The versatile actor may be most notable to some for his slew of guest-starring television roles including spots on Will and Grace, Veronica Mars and Grey’s Anatomy. But in his new movie Diggers, Marino steps into the forefront having penned the movie’s shining script. He combines crackling, humorous dialogue with heartfelt situations to portray the lives of working-class clam diggers in 1970′s Long Island. Marino’s own father was clam digger, a fact which he draws upon to create a realistic picture of the characters’ lives.

Diggers delicately explores the struggles of four friends (played by Marino, Paul Rudd, Josh Hamilton, and Ron Eldard) trying to make a living in a dying business. Marino plays Frank Lozo, a hotheaded father of an ever-growing family who can’t seem to make ends meet. Frank is a stubborn guy with a short fuse, and his constant bickering with his beleaguered wife makes for some great comedic moments in the film. Frank may be a loudmouth, but it doesn’t disguise his genuine love for his wife and kids.

“He was collection of a lot of different people,” Marino says when asked what his inspiration was for the character. “I’m from an Italian family; we’re loud to begin with.”

Although the movie is set in the ’70′s, Marino wanted to make sure the period details were subtle and not used for over-the-top comic effect—especially when it came to the wardrobe. “We went back and tried to be very specific with the way these guys look,” says Marino. “Ron [Eldard] had short hair and not everybody had facial hair. That’s a broader comic take on it but not everybody had that look. So we tried to kind of embrace what it really was back then and try to make it as real as possible.”

In addition to the realistic costuming, the movie’s setting also feels genuine. Diggers was not filmed on Long Island where the movie actually takes place, but instead was filmed mostly on location on another island—Staten Island. Their time shooting in the borough was brief (a mere 21 days!) and the tight schedule didn’t leave much downtime, but nevertheless Marino was grateful for the setting’s feeling of authenticity.

“I think Staten Island’s fascinating,” he says. “I think it’s such an interesting place. You hit this one section and it’s very specific in its architecture and style and then you turn the corner and it’s like you’re stuck in the ’70s all of sudden. Then the next place it’s like everybody refinanced, every house has columns. It’s a really interesting, fun part of the city.”

Was there a downside to the Staten Island shoot? Like having to swim in that murky Staten Island water? “No, I mean my foot hit a limb, like somebody’s arm, but other than that it was fine,” jokes Marino. “We didn’t think about it that much. We weren’t in that long, we seem fine right? I mean my rib did snap for no reason…”

All kidding aside, Marino does admit that the filming environment was very helpful in getting into character. “You stand on the boat and you smell the bay and you’re sucking on a clam and you’re wearing those clothes and you’re in that environment—I would certainly say it helps me enormously,” he says.

However, the condensed shooting time did have its drawbacks. “I feel like I was always stressed out,” Marino says. “We wanted to get the movie shot and that’s a short amount of time to shoot a period piece with a lot of scenes and a lot of locations. You lose a lot of time when you’re shooting boat to boat, tides moving and the winds. It’s a period piece so you don’t want new cars in the background or new buildings.”

The movie’s subject matter may be a thing of the past, but its distribution strategy is certainly something new. A week after the movie is released in theaters, it will be made available on DVD—a strategy which is aimed at giving smaller movies a better chance of being seen by the public.

“I think the plus of a movie this size—the plus of it coming out a week later will help it because there’s press and publicity on it but it’s only coming out in 16 or 20 theaters across the country,” Marino says. “I have a lot of family members and friends on Long Island who ask, ‘where can we see it?’ And I have to tell them that you have to come into the city and see it.”

He adds, “I think ultimately that will help it because there are a lot of places that this movie’s not going to show,” he says. “Now if it was Spiderman 3 and it was coming out a week later I don’t know how good that would be for Spiderman 3. But I think it can only help an underdog movie like this.”

No matter what the box office or the critics say, Marino knows he’s made at least one special person happy. “My Dad loves the script; he cried,” says Marino. And that is perhaps all it takes to make this film worthwhile.



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