Dennis Franz talks about going from “NYPD Blue” to designing homes

Dennis Franz is best known for his role as Andy Sipowicz in the long-running series “NYPD Blue”. There is a whole different side that you woulnd’t expect from the former hard-boiled police detective. Joining forces with the Junior League of Santa Barbara, actor Dennis Franz with wife Joanie Franz are creating the first Design House of Santa Barbara set to open just after Labor Day in September. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Dennis about designing homes and how he got involved doing this.

Mike Gencarelli: Going from working on TV on “NYPD Blue”, how did you get involved in home design?
Dennis Franz: I am sure Martha Stewart is somehow responsible. I have oddly enough been a fan of hers for as long as I can remember. My wife is also the same way. We have always enjoyed on weekends going to open houses. We have motor scooters that we will jump on and go looking for open houses. We will spend an entire day just going from house to house. It is something we have always really enjoyed. I am sure this has been a big part of my interest in this project. When the cable channels started coming out with shows about house hunting and home improvement that furthered my interest. Towards the end of “NYPD Blue’s” run my wife and I started buying houses and flipping them. We enjoy the design and building process. Isn’t it the next logical step for an actor who plays a cop for 30 years to start building and designing homes?

MG: Why did you choose the area in Santa Barbara, California of Montecito?
DF: We live in Montecito and we just love the area. It is a very beautiful area both weather and scenery wise. It has a very French Riviera look. The town also has a real small town feel to it and there is a lot going on there. We have owned in this area for about 18 years now and after “NYPD Blue” ended we moved out here permanently.

MG: What do you enjoy most about working with your wife on these projects?
DF: My wife has always been very energetic. Before I met her she was a very successful business woman. I knew that she had this drive for whatever it is she is doing. I tend to be on the other side of that spectrum. I enjoy a good day of golf and taking a nap. What I most enjoy though is the artistic and creative collaboration that we have on these projects. We really do enjoy shopping for various design elements. I leave all the supervision and business decisions in my wife’s hands.

MG: Tell us about working with BRAVO! network’s Million Dollar Decorators and your HGTV Special?
DF: My wife has been very instrumental in getting the attention of “Million Dollar Decorators”. Mary McDonald who is on the show is also one of our designers. She has been out several times filming part of an episode. She has done a wonderful job and has been great to get along with. It was really nice to have her involved in this stage of the project. HGTV has also been out filming a bunch of times for a special. I don’t know one that will be airing though. It’s really been my wife who has thought that these shows would be a great source for getting people’s attention.

MG: What do you find to be the hardest challenge when working on a project?
DF: This project is called “The Santa Barbara Design House and Gardens”. When we purchased this property we wanted to get involved with the community on a more philanthropic level. My wife made the offer to the Junior League of Santa Barbara in that all the money from people purchasing tickets to see this property would be donated back to their organization. We also will be having a Grand Opening dinner which will feature celebrities and entertainment. The proceeds from that event will be given to an organization called “Angel Foster Care of Santa Barbara”. The organization finds homes for abandoned or abused infants 2 years of age or under. It is an extremely worthwhile organization. Helping these organizations was more of a priority than the actual building of the house. We wanted to make sure we did everything correctly so that we could help raise funds for both of these great organizations. The dinner is set for Sept. 8th and the house will be on display starting Sept. 13th.  As far as challenges go there are always last minute things that pop up that need to be taken care of. You also are always finding things to add or change as you reach the end of a project.

MG: What do you have planned for your next project?
DF: You should probably ask my wife that question. It’s always a fun ride though to wherever she takes us. More than likely it will be another house in this same area but probably a little smaller. As for another design house I don’t know what the plans are for that. This design house will be for sale after the showings and such.

If you are interested in tickets or details for the event, please check out:

Interview with Dennis Farina

Dennis Farina is known best for his roles of the tough guy in films like “Get Shorty” and “Snatch”. This year Dennis is starring in one of his notable role called “The Last Rights of Joe May”. He is also co-starring along side Dustin Hoffman in HBO’s upcoming show “Luck”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Dennis about this new film and about his fantastic performance.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you become attached to “The Last Rights of Joe May”?
Dennis Farina: The script was sent over to us by a friend of an employee who works at our film office. I read the script and liked it immediately. I started talking with our writer and director Joe Maggio about the script and I asked him if he would be willing to change the location in the story from New York to Chicago, which he did. We worked on the script a little bit more and it was really fun. It was great to be involved with something written so beautifully. Shooting in my home town was especially nice as well.

MG: What did you like most about playing the character of Joe May?
DF: He is a fish out of water whose time has come and gone. The thing is he doesn’t know it yet. Joe is just hanging on and he really believes he has one good score left in him. Of course everyone knows it’s not going to happen but he clings to that dream. That’s what I like most about the character. Joe May is very truthful and what you see is what you get.

MG: Did you do anything special to prepare for the role?
DF: [laughs] No. I didn’t do anything in particular training wise. It was really cold during shooting so running and climbing was fun. We made a lot of jokes about that.

MG: What do think makes this film worth checking out?
DF: I hope it does what films are supposed to do which is to provide entertainment. A film allows you to escape for a couple hours and be entertained. I don’t know that there is any great message in the film but it’s a character study of a world that most people don’t get to see.

MG: Was there anything interesting that happened during production?
DF: Nothing really out of the ordinary other than it was just so cold. A lot of the scenes there was no acting going on as it was cold! Joe Maggio said to me that the weather is a character in the movie. If the film was shot in spring or summer it’s an entirely different film. Shooting in the winter allowed us to add the weather as another obstacle Joe has to overcome.

MG: What do you normally look for in a character when you approach a project?
DF: Where a person comes from or what they make a living doing doesn’t really matter to me. I am more interested in how the person does specific things. The way a person does things is I think what makes a character interesting for me.

MG: What can you tell us about your upcoming role on “Luck”?
DF: “Luck” was created by co-executive producers Michael Mann and David Milch. We are very fortunate to be a part of such a great cast which includes Nick Nolte, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Gedrick and a bunch of other great people. It really is a great group to be around. The show revolves around the behind the scenes workings of a race track. Everything from managers to jockeys to how the horses are treated makes up the base of this series.

MG: What can you tell us about your character on the show?
DF: I play Dustin Hoffman’s right hand man. Our characters have known each other for a long time and whatever Dustin’s character needs done or found out I am the guy who does it.