“First time in my entire life in New York my cabbie gets lost,” Theo Rossi says, half-apologetic, half-dumbfounded as he sits down to talk to ETonline. The Staten Island-born actor -- famous for playing Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz on Sons of Anarchy -- is busy promoting the Tribeca Film Festival debut of Bad Hurt. Though, he seems more concerned with running late. “I still feel like it’s my fault though.”
Is this a symptom of being raised by a Catholic mother? “Yes. I have crazy Catholic guilt,” he explains. “It's dictated my entire life. I feel everything's my fault.”
Perhaps that’s one reason why Rossi was so convincing as the apologetic betrayer of the close-knit outlaw motorcycle club during the seven-season run of FX’s hit series, which ended in December of last year.
Late or not, Rossi has bigger issues to deal with than guilt. In addition to his production company’s first feature debut, he and his wife Meghan McDermott recently announced they were expecting their first child.
During a busy press day, Rossi talked to ETonline about leaving Sons of Anarchy behind and exploring life as a producer and a father.
ETonline: How has it been to leave Sons of Anarchy and “#SaveJuice” behind?
Theo Rossi: You've got to understand SoA fans are the greatest fans on the planet. I've always said this, and I'll say it 'til the day I die. I think I did like 865 guest stars before I did Sons, and it’s not set in a mythological world, not even in the past -- people thought we were real guys. Fans have such a relationship with the characters. Often when a fan sees me they ask if I’m OK. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I'm fine, I'm just coming in to grab something to eat.’ I feel like, without that show and what it did, I wouldn't be sitting on this couch. I would have never made Bad Hurt.
Speaking of relationships, do you keep up with your SoA brothers?
Of course. I just got a text this morning from Unser and Clay. I mean Dayton [Callie] and [Ron] Perlman. We still call each other by our character names -- it's very weird. Who do I not call by their character name? I don't call Boone [Mark Boone Junior who played Robert Munson] by his character name, just Boone. I guess I call Charlie [Hunnam], Jax. Tig [played by Kim Coates] I always call Tig. It’s just who he is.
What were you guys talking about?
My wife and I kept everything about the pregnancy and marriage on the down low until last week. People that I’m really close to -- family -- they all knew, of course. So Perlman wrote me something funny. He said, ‘I saw a picture of you and your wife and one of you looked very pregnant. I'm not going to say which one so I don't hurt anybody's feelings.’ Unser was texting to congratulate us on our premiere tomorrow and all that.
Why you did keep all of it a secret?
There are very few things in the way we live now that are left just for you. I just wanted this for me.
Now that you’re expecting your first child have you thought about if you’re going to let him or her ride motorcycles?
You know I have three sitting in my garage, and as long as I live in New York City, it's very hard. I mean this is the first week that we have nice weather. We'll see if I get itchy to jump on them. In L.A., I ride every day when I'm in L.A., but here it's a little tougher. They don't really care that you're on a motorcycle.
So you’re probably not going to put your baby on that?
Probably not, no. Definitely not, no. I'm pretty sure my wife wouldn't let me.
I'm sure. And he or she is due on your birthday?
Yeah, I don't know what it is. I'm excited! I know it's a baby -- I know that!
We know it's a baby, most likely.
Yeah, not a dragon.
But due on your birthday -- how do you feel about sharing that day?
I've been ready to get rid of my birthday for a long time. I'm not one of those people -- I like to lay low. I like to hide in the corner. I'd like to get rid of my birthday. No interest in it.
Your original intention with your production company, Dos Dudes Pictures, was to only produce, but director Mark Kemble convinced you to play Todd in Bad Hurt. Was that a welcome change from Juice?
Playing Juice prepared me for pretty much everything. He started off as the funny, loyal lap dog, “I'll do what I can do,” kind of guy. Then he became this depressive, self-sabotaging, “I want to take my own life,” guy and then he became this angry, “I'm going to massacre and take out anything in my way,” guy. Then he was the guy that just let it all go. So I was literally able to play every single emotion in one series. I got to play everything and that has prepared me for everything.
Should fans expect more indie films or blockbusters from you moving forward?
I just finished a great one for Sony/Screen Gems, called When the Bough Breaks. What a tremendous cast. It's kind of like a re-telling of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, a really great thriller. The character I play is just a super nasty dude. It's going to be fun for people to see that one.
Then right after this, I'm going to head out to L.A. and start Low Riders. With Dos Dudes, we're weighing the options. I'm really inspired by what I’m seeing at Tribeca, actually. I'm pretty sure most of our films are being set in Staten Island because I think that's the only way we'll be able to eat when we make films.
Because your mom will cook for you, right?
Hopefully she doesn’t make you feel too guilty about it.
That's why we had our [crew and cast] holding in a church every day.
Bad Hurt premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and has select screenings on April 25 and 26.