This post is part of an ongoing series, OMG—It’s CELEBRITIES!, presenting well-known actors to play parts in (a fantasy) movie version of the novel Our Orbit. Click here to see other items in the series.
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As mentioned last week, yours truly has fallen “book,” line & sinker (ha-ha), for the People Magazine approach to literary fiction. Indeed, my collection of celebrity photos of talent I’d like to see portray characters from Our Orbit has become a local obsession. Local at my house, that is. I especially enjoy the alternative candidates that readers have suggested and whole-heartedly encourage everyone to share those in the Comments section below.
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Today we turn to the vital supporting role of Pete Deluca, beloved teacher at North Milton High School. In my novel, Pete is a dedicated, mid-career instructor of biology & health as well as assistant basketball coach. As our story begins, Pete is divorced and single, but a new romance lies in his future!
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Who better to portray Pete in the movie version of Our Orbit than the dashing Chris Messina? He’s the star of popular TV comedy The Mindy Project, the foodie movie Julie and Julia (a big fave of mine), and Oscar-winner Argo. For the cultural snobs among us )))) he is also active nationwide in live theater, including Broadway and Tribeca.
Chris is especially noted as a terrific ensemble actor, as attested by numerous awards and nominations. Thus it comes as no surprise that his acting style conveys an appealing amiability and easy-going manner. What more could I ask from the man to bring Pete Deluca to life on the screen? After all, Our Orbit has a large cast with no dead wood whatsoever. I call that an ensemble!
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Check out my imagined interview with the character Pete Deluca to see what other important qualities Mr. Messina can bring to the role—
Character Interview with Pete Deluca
AM: Hi, Pete! Thanks for being with us on the blog today. I have to tell you, since my work falls mainly in the realist tradition, I feel strange about what we’re doing here. That’s why I chose you for my first-ever imaginary interview—you’re such a likable guy (if I do say so myself as your creator).
Pete: Glad to help out!
AM: Our Orbit takes place in what I call “the Appalachian corner” of southern Ohio, where you were born and raised. Your heritage is especially interesting. Could you tell us about that?
Pete: Sure. I’m from Youngstown, Ohio. It’s a place with quite a checkered reputation. Way back when, tons of Italian immigrants came to Youngstown for jobs in the steel mills. Not so many years later, the mills started shutting down. That depressed the economy, which has a lot to do with how we got associated with the Mafia and organized crime. Bad stuff does happen when your local employer goes down the tubes.
AM: Are you Italian-American yourself?
Pete: Oh, yeah! We get a bad rap, but that’s not fair for most of us. When my grandparents came over from Genoa, they did farm labor in eastern Ohio and struggled to buy their own land. They got here at a young enough age to make that happen—older folks mostly sacrificed for their children, did manual labor their whole lives.
AM: But don’t you also identify with your Appalachian heritage?
Pete: Definitely. I grew up in the foothills of the mountains, went hunting with my grandpa—all that backwoods stuff. He was never a moonshiner, by the way, but like a true Italian, he always made his own wine. That was part of the gig! And legal, too, even back in Prohibition days. So long as you made it strictly for home consumption, you were within the law. That was important to Grandpa.
AM: Speaking of alcohol and Prohibition, I know that one of the issues you’re involved in as a teacher is substance abuse among your highschool students. Could you tell us a little about that?
Pete: Well, as basketball coach, I see kids on an extracurricular basis at practice, night games, and parties I chaperone—all that. So I’m on the front line with stuff that goes on. Underage consumption is rampant out there. Unfortunately, a lot of parents and even school officials fool themselves about what a serious a problem it is.
For information on this serious problem, visit the Harvard Help Guide at http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/the-dangers-of-teenage-drinking.htm
AM: In the book, Our Orbit, you’re able to help a young couple deal with the discovery that one of their foster daughters has developed a drinking problem. I’d like to share a brief clip from that scene—
The new calendar year was barely two months old, but the planning season was already in full swing for end-of-term festivities at the high school: the all-choir concert, prom, after-prom, and various awards ceremonies. That Thursday evening, Deanne was about to get ready for bed, when she heard a pair of bantering voices approach the front door. Rick and Pete came in, blowing off steam after the Sports Recognition Committee meeting.
“Bo-ring!” Pete declared. “Thank God there are no more faculty meetings for at least two weeks.”
“This calls for a drink,” Rick said.
“Rum and Coke,” Pete ordered.
Rick found beers in the back of the fridge for himself and Deanne and a can of Coke in the pantry. He pulled the bottle of rum from the bottom cabinet by Deanne’s desk.
“What’s this I hear about a romance in your future?” Deanne asked. “Who’s the lucky lady?”
Pete laughed… [Spoiler alert! More on this another time.]
… Just then Rick turned away from the counter, his face perplexed. He handed Pete a shot glass half-full of amber liquid. “Smell this,” he said.
“What’s wrong with it?” Pete sniffed the glass. He took a tiny sip and smacked his lips. “Apple juice. None too fresh.”
“What?” Deanne said.
Rick shrugged. “The rum bottle’s full of juice.”
Deanne’s mouth dropped open.
“Oldest trick in the book,” Pete said. “I remember one year before you came on board—” He nodded at Rick. “We caught the whole team with vodka in their water bottles. In the locker room—school premises!” He laughed. “Kids get brazen.”
“Which kids?” Deanne said. She shot Rick an anxious look.
“Half the school has done this kind of thing,” Pete assured her. “Athletes, honors students, debate stars…”
“School premises are one thing. This is our house. My kitchen.” Deanne gave a visible shudder.
Rick returned to the cupboard and pulled out the vodka bottle, still three-quarters full. He opened it and sniffed, handed it to his wife.
Deanne tipped the bottle for a sip. “Water!” she said.
“It’s a phase for most kids,” Pete said. “They have to try it because adults make it seem so special. They usually wind up okay in the end.”
“You figure this is Rachelle’s doing?” Rick asked Deanne.
They thought back over the previous months and recalled a couple of weekends when they’d found less beer in the fridge than there should have been. Times when Rachelle had lumbered off to bed early or they discovered her drifting around the kitchen for no apparent reason.
“Rachelle has more issues than we thought.” Deanne’s voice rang with dismay.
“We need a plan here,” Rick said.
He and Deanne both looked to Pete.
Pete raised a finger. “Intervention. And I know a very smart lady who can tell you how to do it.”
AM: That was a scene from Part Three of Our Orbit featuring today’s character, Pete Deluca. Thanks again, Pete, for lending us your voice and for helping us understand some of the problems parents and teachers face these days.
Pete: It’s my pleasure. See you at the movies!
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