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Interview – Brendan Fehr of Zarra’s Law

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Is family the most important thing in your life, or is getting ahead? When it comes to Italian culture you sometimes have to cut the red tape to serve justice to the people that have hurt you the must. Juha Wuolijoki’s newest film, Zarra’s Law, answers that question in lethal mafia fashion. This isn’t a film that just rides the wings of a Martin Scorsese flick. It has a deeper concept that hits closer to home, i.e. when someone you love is taken away from you without any warning. What would you do if one of your parents chose a life of crime and in the end paid for that decision? Today I spoke with a star from the film, Brendan Fehr (Roswell, The Night Shift), who plays Gaetano, the young New York lawyer who returns to his family after finding out about his father’s death. Tony Sirico (The Sopranos) plays Tony Zarra, a retired cop and brother to the deceased gangster, Robert Zarra. There is more to the story than a mobster getting “whacked” and a family who is pissed off about it. It is, instead, the story of Roberto’s killer, Bobby Stax (Wass Stevens), who is out of prison and enforcing calamity on the local streets, which directly affects one of Gaetano’s legal cases. Things really start to pick up between former mobster business partners on the streets when territory and money is taken without proper consent, or a formal “sit down”. Gaetano and Uncle Tony are forced into some absurd circumstances that lead them on the trail of the wise guy perpetrators and put an end to their brutality once and for all.There are many faces in this film that you may recognize if you are a huge mobster fan like myself, including people from The Sopranos, Rocky, and various Martin Scorsese films.

While watching the movie and putting the pieces together some clues became apparent that jumped out at me about twenty minutes before the ending credits rolled, but I will let that one slide. With that being said, there was some good backstory to the film, and the duo of Mr. Sirico and Brendan Fehr worked well and they played off of one another like they were actual family members in real life. I do wish the film was a little longer than the actual run time, but overall I thought this was movie was well cast, had a substantial premise, and solid performances by the two main actors. Mobster films are difficult to perfect without knowing the style, attitude, mannerisms, and culture to back up the story line. With a cast of many film legends in this specific genre, Brendan Fehr stepped up his “A” game to become acclimated to this environment and really pull off the New York accent and look.

I have been a big fan of Brendan Fehr’s work over the past fifteen years in such films and TV Shows as Roswell, Final Destination, Bones, and the new hit NBC show “The Night Shift”. It was my pleasure to sit down and speak with him about Zarra’s Law, working with film icons like Burt Young and Tony Sirico, and his future plans in the television and film industry. This is only the beginning of what he has to show the world through his profound acting abilities, and ability to take on various disparate roles.

Nerdlocker (NL): How did you get involved with this project?

Brendan Fehr (BF): It came around through my agent. They sent me the script and offered me the role. I read it and knew I always wanted to shoot in New York, so that was a big thing for me. When Tony Sirico was on board and acting opposite to him, thinking about the relationship of our characters would be really fun. I obviously loved his work in other projects and on The Sopranos. It was an opportunity to play an Italian and it’s not a role as an actor that is going to be thrown my way everyday. The challenge of that and the research involved by seeing what I could do, it scared me enough to tackle the role.

NL: How was it working with such iconic actors such as Tony Sirico and Burt Young in this film?

BF: Tony and I got along great; he’s a guy that you have to be very confident in what you bring to the table. He’s New York, Italian, and is what he is. Are you going to be able to stand up for yourself and work with him, ya know? I gauged that from the beginning and loved working with him; I even called him “Uncle Tony.” We bonded over some very interesting things and our hair specifically. We both have an obsession with our hair and once we had that discussion, there was no separating us. All of the guys in the movie were great, Wass Stevens and Brian Tarantina were great and don’t get the credit that they deserve. I would sit and watch them and was like “wow, they are way more talented than me.” You sit, observe, and absorb all of it to make you a better actor. You take all of these little things that you learn from these other actors, and put them in your toolbox to use later down the road. They are all lifetime New Yorkers and helped me out with the authenticity of the film, and getting ready for this role as a life-time West Coast boy.

NL: This is a film based on the mobster and organized crime world, how did you get into the mindset of the Gaetano character? Did you watch any Scorsese films or The Sopranos for influence?

BF: You go and watch all of the classics like The Godfather, The Sopranos, and take bits and pieces to mesh into the character. What makes sense for the character and not for me personally. The attitude was really hard to replicate and I didn’t want to fake it, it’s almost like you can see it and feel it, but it’s also intangible. That was a tough thing to figure out, so I walked around New York and observed people to absorb the surrounds for this character. It was definitely a challenge, but I had a lot of fun doing it. All those guys were great and on set were natives, these guys were there to help me out and let me know what was working or not working. It was good to have these actors around as a check and balance for what I was trying to accomplish.

NL: How long did it take you to prepare for this role? 

BF: It wasn’t that long after the offer came through and was out of there in two weeks. With independent films, you don’t have that much time to prepare, research, work out, perfect an accent; you are just thrown in to these smaller films. It’s exciting and sometimes frustrating, but this is one you have to enjoy and throw yourself in and see what you are made of. I was generally happy with what I came up with in a short amount of time.

NL: When the audience gets a chance to check out Zarra’s Law, is there an overall message that you wanted to get across with your character?

BF: The basic human struggle of wanting to be a positive human being, of adding to the world and not taking something away. At the same time we have these feelings and emotions and after his father passes away, he wanted to avenge that. That anger and what it can do to a person by twisting those emotions. As human beings we fight on different levels, battling those things that take us away from the people that we really want to be, and overcoming those obstacles. That’s what I was trying to accomplish with Gaetano’s character. Gaetano was following in his uncle’s footsteps by staying on the positive side of the law by being a lawyer and his father being in the mafia. And somehow trying to reconcile that and to convince himself that he is different than his father. But also have that Italian loyalty, and wanting to stay true to his family and the murder of his father.

 NL: What is on the agenda for you in 2015? Any other projects in the works?

BF: Currently I am filming season two of “The Night Shift” in Albuquerque, New Mexico and am on episode four as we speak. It premieres February 23rd after “The Voice” on NBC. I was really glad season two got picked up and very proud of this character and show. I am very thankful and looking forward for the world to see it!

Zarra’s Law will be released on DVD and VOD on January 13th.

Out of 5 Nerd Skulls

Story: 3/ Acting: 3.5 / Directing: 3/ Visuals: 3.5

OVERALL: 3.5 out of 5 Nerd Skulls

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