Kevin Connolly is no longer just a pizza boy.
The former “Entourage” actor has come a long way since spending his days managing Vincent Chase and producing flops like “Medellin.”
Connolly, 42, has been acting since he was 6 years old and appears in quite the range of movies, including “Rocky V,” “The Beverly Hillbillies," “The Notebook” and “He's Just Not That Into You."
He is best known for his role as bromantic-manager-in-training Eric “E” Murphy on HBO's “Entourage,” which began in 2004 and graced our TV screens for over 12 years.
E's boy-next-door demeanor made him a fan favorite and esteemed character. Connolly's brilliant acting (and directing of two episodes) is certainly a factor in the show's undeniable and legendary success.
In May 2015, the “Entourage” movie hit theaters and fans were able to re-enter the Hollywood world written by Doug Ellin for one final ride.
These days, although the screen has faded to black on the “Entourage” gang, Connolly has seemingly never been busier.
Most recently, he's jumped behind the camera as the director of “Dear Eleanor,” a coming-of-age story about two teenage girls in the 1960s. The movie stars Isabelle Fuhrman, Liana Liberato, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Jessica Alba and Luke Wilson.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin about his experience directing "Dear Eleanor," life after “Entourage” and what we can expect to see from him next.
How did you come to direct “Dear Eleanor”?
Being on 'Entourage' for so long, which is such a testosterone, male-driven show, I have nieces and younger people in my life who have really never gotten to watch anything I've been involved in... So, when the opportunity came along, I was interested in this different kind of a subject matter, and I thought it would be cool to work with some super talented young actresses in sort of a female empowerment movie. And the '60s is my favorite time period, so diving into that world was fun.
The movie is based on two pretty wholesome 15-year-old girls. What was it like to direct something so different from everything you've done in the past?
Growing up, one of my favorite movies was 'Stand by Me,' which is a male coming-of-age movie. When 'Dear Eleanor' came across my desk I felt it had a similar vibe. And even though the leads were two young girls, I still felt the nostalgia of bonding with your friends at that age and doing something a little crazy... I just really liked the material. Isabelle Fuhrman and Liana Liberate were already attached... They had done a reading together where they read a few scenes together, and I saw the chemistry they had and thought this was going to be a blast… We had a great time.
At this point in your career, if you were to label yourself as a director, actor or producer, which would it be?
Well I've been acting since I was 6 years old, and I'm 42 now, so I've been acting for 36 years. I really like film making, just the whole process. I like to be involved in as many aspects as I can. I love producing, the only thing I haven't really cracked yet is the writing aspect… But I'd consider myself to be an actor/director.
You worked with Jessica Alba and Luke Wilson in "Dear Eleanor," both of whom actually had brief cameos in “Entourage." What was it like being on set with them again?
You know, it's funny. It didn't even dawn on me until you just said that. Luke Wilson was in season one of 'Entourage.' I've known Luke socially over the years and Jessica is a friend of mine... Ironically, Jessica and Wilson were a couple of the first people to do cameos on 'Entourage' before it was cool. They really gave their time and we were always grateful to them... They are such pros, they just set such a good example [on set of 'Dear Eleanor'] for all the younger actors. Luke Wilson is tremendous, and I really love Jessica. I think she did a wonderful job, this was like nothing she's ever done… This was really a sweet, vulnerable side to Jessica that I hadn't seen.
It seems like between working on "Entourage" and your producing and directing career you've really worked with a huge chunk of Hollywood. Do you have a favorite actor you've worked with?
Well, right now, I'm here in Cincinnati in pre-production on the John Gotti movie I'm directing, and John Travolta is playing John Gotti. He's one of my childhood favorites as an actor. So to be able to get behind the camera and direct John Travolta as John Gotti is amazing. We start shooting in a few weeks and I just can't wait to start.
Do you feel like “Entourage" shaped your career behind and in front of the camera?
I'd be lying if I said there aren't moments during my day that really feel like a scene out of 'Entourage.' So maybe in the 12 years involved in 'Entourage' I learned a trick or two.
What's your relationship with the "Entourage" gang now?
We're forever bonded, we're brothers forever. Jerry Ferrara and I are very close, Emmanuelle Chriqui and I are really good friends. The problem is we're all very spread out. Jeremy is in London doing 'Mr. Selfridge,' Adrian [Grenier] is in New York, Kevin Dillon is in Malibu with his kids... But the minute we get back together it's like on big happy family.
I follow you on Twitter and saw you're a fan of "Game of Thrones." Is there one character you like the most?
Oh yeah, I love 'Game of Thrones,' and, I mean, who doesn't love Jon Snow? He's my favorite on the show. But they all certainly have their moments. I'll tell you what, I miss King Joffrey. Never thought I'd hear myself say that, but he wouldn't let some of that stuff go on. Now that he's gone you kind of wish he was back.
I also saw you're pretty into "The Bachelorette"...
I'm sure lots of guys will say this, but usually it's your girlfriend that gets you hooked and then you become more interested than your girlfriend. I never thought I would be excited about it, but I'm hooked. Reality TV is kind of murder for actors because two hours of a reality TV show on a Monday night is four TV shows that would've been on the air 10 years ago… but it's hard not to get drawn in, and it's just easy to watch.
Who do you think might win this season?
It looks like this guy Jordan has pretty much got it locked in.
So, what can we expect from you next? Any chance of another "Entourage" movie?
I think we're done with 'Entourage.' We did eight years, eight seasons and a movie over the course of 12 years. And while it's the best job I've ever had, there comes a point where it's just time to move on. I'll be working on the 'Gotti' movie for pretty much the next year, and then we'll see what happens.
So, while we may never see E hugging it out on our screens again, the possibilities are endless for Kevin Connolly.
See "Dear Eleanor" today, and re-watch "Entourage" to tide you over until the release of "Gotti."