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Interview

6 Tips for Having a Rewarding Career From Jerry Ferrara

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6 Tips for Having a Rewarding Career From Jerry Ferrara
Photo Source: Miranda Penn Turin

For eight seasons, Jerry Ferrara played the lovable and relatable Turtle on HBO’s “Entourage.” We watched him pick up girls, set bets with Drama, and live the Hollywood life for 96 episodes. But that was a long time ago, and while fans have been waiting patiently for the soon-to-be “Entourage” movie, Ferrara has been busy acting and starring in films like “Lone Survivor,” “Last Vegas,” and “Think Like A Man.”

Of his latest film, the Mark Wahlberg-starring “Lone Survivor,” a military drama inspired by real events— a project that he very much wanted to be part of—Ferrara says, “Make sure you don’t have anything light and fun to do afterwards, because you’re going to be a little dark after you watch that movie.”

“Lone Survivor” shows a side of Ferrara we’ve never really seen—the serious side he’ll bring out again in the upcoming Arturo Gatti biopic, produced by Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson.

The native New Yorker offers some tips on how to keep your acting career moving forward while enjoying every second of it.

Embrace the role you’re most known for.
If you ask Ferrara how he feels about having played Turtle for nearly a decade, you’ll get a response that every die-hard “Entourage” fan would be thrilled to hear. Ferrara says that initially, when the show was coming to an end he was concerned about always being known as Turtle, but he’s since embraced it. “That show has brought me so many amazing opportunities. Really, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now if not for that show,” he says.

“If you look at the state of the business now you have guys and girls starring on TV shows, doing movies, and they have a podcast and a web series. It used to be that if you were a TV actor you didn't really do movies, but there are so many avenues to kind of break out of something, so I don’t even think it’s really that much of a worry anymore,” he says. “We had the luxury of knowing when the show was going to end, so I kind of started my quote unquote breakaway transformation as the show was ending.”

Push for passion projects.
When Ferrara heard about “Lone Survivor,” the 2013 film based on Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the 2005 mission “Operation Red Wings,” he knew immediately that he wanted to be a part of it. Having known director Peter Berg on a friendly basis for years, Ferrara asked to read for him early, put himself on tape and sent it over. “He said I did a good job but you’re too old,” says Ferrara—this was the first time he’d ever been “too old” for anything in his career. But Ferrara made it clear that he loved the project, and Berg eventually took a few small roles, welded them into one, and offered it to Ferrara.

“It’s such a good, important, special story that I would have really done anything in there that he asked me to do,” Ferrara says. “I read it and was blown away that these events really happened. I just wanted to be a part of it. It’s not a career thing or an acting thing—this is telling a story about real life superheroes.”

Keep it professional.
At the same time he was filming “Lone Survivor,” Ferrara was also filming “Last Vegas,” the comedy starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline. These being two drastically different projects, Ferrara knew he had to act accordingly. “I would go from ‘Vegas’ which is this light, funny comedy to New Mexico where no one had shaved in three months, and I would have to remind myself to not even try to be funny. Then I would go back to ‘Vegas’ and be kind of quiet and dark and everyone’s like ‘Jerry, what’s wrong? Lighten up.’ ” he says.

“It was just more of a professional thing, and showing up to New Mexico where there are real Navy SEALs, real marines all over supporting the movie and you just want to get it right. You want to do them justice,” he says. “That was more of a show up, do your job, and don’t mess it up—just being a professional adult.”

Don’t be afraid of your nerves.
“I think a lot of times actors can get in their own way just cause of their own nerves. Whether you’re doing a play, or a student film, or an episode of ‘Entourage,’ if you’re a little nervous just feel that, enjoy it and just know that’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel,” he says.

Ferrara insists that if something makes him nervous, then he knows it’s going to be great. “I look at opportunities now, like this Arturo Gatti biopic makes me terrified, and that’s how I know it’s going to be great.”

Work hard and kill it every time.
From working with various stars and friends like Mark Wahlberg, Ferrara has learned many invaluable lessons. Ferrara says, “It doesn’t matter what level you’re at—you still gotta work hard. Mark could be on cruise control if he so chose right now for the rest of his career, but that guy works harder than anybody I know, and that’s probably because there’s a vision there—he sees what he wants himself to be at the end.”

Another tip Ferrara got is from his and Wahlberg’s manager, Stephen Levinson. “You just gotta kill it—even the smallest, tiniest, what you think is not important scene—find something and just kill it, and bring it Level 10 every single time.” 

Read Backstage.
Okay, Ferrara really did offer this tip. “Read Backstage. Believe me, I used to tear through that paper, boy. Oh my God—tear through it. I couldn’t wait for that new issue,” he says. “That’s the other thing I’ll say—get Backstage the second it comes out and tear through it. I used to wait for it. It’s a true story! Ask my mom; she used to yell at me for having Backstage papers all over the place!”

Rebecca Strassberg is the digital editor of Backstage. Follow her on Twitter @strassbooger.

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