I recently stood in the parking lot of a well-known café in Studio City waiting for actor Gilles Marini to arrive. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Gilles for four years, following his glorious season eight runner up finish on “Dancing with the Stars,” right at the start of his breakout role as dashing Luc Laurent on ABC’s smash hit series “Brothers and Sisters.”
It has been a long time since we’ve physically seen each other. I live in the Midwest and never travel to the West Coast. The L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival brought me to L.A. and Gilles graciously agreed to meet for lunch to share some food, some laughs and have more of a casual conversation than a formal interview.
I had just gotten out of the car when Gilles pulled in looking equal parts rugged and fantastically French on his Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Fat Boy. I didn't know he was bringing his bike and yes, ladies, he made a rather remarkable entrance to say the least.
Gilles wore comfortable jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers and my first thought was that he looked exactly the same, maybe a little thinner. I also thought about the incredible year he’s had with “Switched at Birth,” “2 Broke Girls” and even making the coveted 2013 People Sexiest Man Alive issue. He definitely hasn’t aged a bit and his radiant smile still lights his chiseled features from the inside out. As he strolled toward me in Greek/Italian/French glory, he teased me and my photographer, Valerie McCarty, saying, “You guys look like tourists!”
We probably did. We had been in L.A. a little over 24 hours and just happened to arrive on the cusp of the 100 plus degree heat wave. We shared a laugh and a hug and then slid into a booth in the café which boasted small town charm smack in the middle of the bustling city. The place was lunch-time busy and the staff was upbeat and friendly.
We shared small talk about my flight out, my son and his kids and he noted how tired he’s been, working 16 hour days on set. He’s currently busy dividing his time between shooting “Switched at Birth,” which makes its summer return in June, and spending any off time he can with his wife Carole and their children Georges and Juliana. He’s also been tapped to appear in the “Devious Maids” season finale in July.
First and foremost, Gilles Marini is a consummate gentleman. He greeted our waitress with his trademark twinkling brown eyes and warm smile. He ordered, asked the waitress what I might like (she suggested a wonderful chicken pesto ciabatta sandwich) and we chatted a little more. After the food arrived Gilles decided we should share some sweet potato fries and chips and guacamole too. These platters were huge (and yummy) and we laughed about the sheer amount of food sitting on the table for three people.
Yes, it’s admittedly hard to concentrate on eating when you’re sitting next to Gilles Marini. But, he’s so down-to-earth, which is one of his most endearing qualities and can really put just about anyone at ease in a matter of minutes. He may be an actor and sex symbol to millions, but, he’s also just a nice guy with a genuine heart of gold, who is also a husband, father, brother and friend.
Gilles is not only charismatic, but compassionate and we talked a little about a previous interview we had done when he decided to join the search for a local man who went missing in dangerous mountain terrain while he was vacationing with his family and close friends in Bora Bora. He described the treacherous climb in all kinds of tangling brush and we mutually agreed he was lucky to come out unscathed. Along the way, he gave a rescue worker the shoes off of his feet and walked back (painfully) to his resort barefoot.
This kind of act is one in a series of things Gilles has done to help someone in need or less fortunate and it’s one of the things I love most about him. He proudly carries his late father’s legacy of kindness forward. Gilles talked about how his father’s actions influence the way he lives his life and treats others. He spoke about him lovingly, noting the church was overflowing at his funeral because he was loved by so many.
As the town baker the late Mr. Marini took in troubled youth, giving them food and a place to stay if they needed it. Gilles' eyes were affectionately reflective in recalling his father’s lifelong spirit of generosity. Above all, he wants to emulate his father’s compassion and pass these values on to his children. He is very proud of his son Georges, 15, who is already showing the same caring spirit.
We settled in to talk via recorder in the following exclusive interview, which is in the attached audio file. (Click play on the video to listen). During our casual and candid conversation, Gilles discusses his wilderness cabin retreat, his kids, the Marini family pets (Mila and Penelope) as well as teasing some impending “Switched at Birth” shockers as well as an emotional episode that brought him and his wife to tears upon reading. We conclude talking about some upcoming projects.
In all, we had a wonderful time reconnecting and when we parted ways, I made him promise the next time we see each other, he’ll take me for a ride on his motorcycle. Safe travels until then, Mon Ami.