Interview: Pat Asanti

Between filming, actor Pat Asanti is something of a Fire Island regular. He is also a personal friend of this writer’s family. A Lindenhurst native, Asanti has worked steadily since the 1980s as a veteran character actor. He has been in approximately 75 national television commercials, three of the major commercials being for Meow Mix, Coca Cola and Geico.

Asanti has also worked alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Eddie Murphy, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Matt Damon and the late Debbie Reynolds among them. You may have seen him in some of his more popular shows including “CSI,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “NCIS” and “Behind the Candelabra.”

He was kind enough to speak with us briefly while filming on location in Upstate New York.

Fire Island News (FIN): So you grew up on Long

Island. Are you married?

Asanti: I grew up in Lindenhurst and married a North Babylon girl, Debra Dragotto, who I met in LA. She was actually my acting teacher. She’s a very talented writer/director. She wrote and directed a show I was in called “Patsy’s Place.” We have collaborated on several projects together.

FIN: Growing up on Long Island, did you summer on Fire Island?

Asanti: Well as a kid, my parents would take us to Field 5 at Robert Moses and we would walk over there, I just never realized that was where we were walking to. I had a friend who always had boats when we were growing up and we would go over and it started out there. We did a share house in Fair Harbor one summer. My wife wants to buy a summer home there now, but I kind of enjoy staying at one of the finer hotels when I visit these days. All your needs are attended to.

FIN: So what are your favorite memories on Fire Island?

Asanti: Can I say that? Seriously, I love the water. Just having a great time going swimming. I’ve been living in LA about 30 years. The last time I went in the Pacific Ocean had to be 20 years ago. It’s too cold, too much of a hassle. Here on Long Island you get the warmer water. Two summers ago we stayed at Ocean Beach and I just didn’t want to leave.

FIN: I understand that you are working on several movie projects right now. Can you tell me more about them?

Asanti: I just came back from Rome not too long ago shooting a film called “Bent” co-staring Andy Garcia, Sofia Vergara, and Karl Urban. It was written by Bobby Moresco; his screenplay for “Crash” won an Academy Award in 2004. I’ve been to Rome several times, but filming there made it all new to me again. I also recently guest starred in Tyler Perry’s television series “The Have and Have Nots” on OWN. Tyler has a very interesting directing style – a very unorthodox way of doing things. Right now I’m in Upstate New York working on a film called “Cold Brook,” which was written and directed by my very good friend William Fichtner, who is also starring in it as well. It will star Robin Weigert and Brad William Henke. We have filmed on location in Buffalo and Syracuse and should be wrapping up soon.

FIN: That all sounds very exciting! When are these films scheduled for release?

Asanti: There are no firm release dates on any of them yet. All of them are still in production and I don’t expect them out for another year at least. But you know, life is good!

FIN: You were also in “CSI?”

Asanti: Yes, two episodes. The last one was “Deep Fried and Minty Fresh.” I played the manager of a fast food store who was sexually molesting a female employee, gets caught in the act by a homeless man and winds up killing him by pushing his head into the deep fryer. But as I try to get away I slip on the oil that spilled, fall, crack my head open and die.

FIN: Poetic justice. How do they do a scene like that with the deep fryer?

Asanti: They have a camera in the fryer with yellow tinted water made to look like it’s boiling.

FIN: Pat you are a successful actor both on television and on the big screen. Do you enjoy one more than the other?

Asanti: The television process is a faster result, but no, it’s all the same when it comes down to it. It’s all internalized. I also love doing commercials. I don’t know if you know this, but your dad, Chris Mercogliano Senior, was a great influence on me. He did some acting and told me about commercials. It was his influence that started me in acting classes for commercials. I feel indebted to two big commercials I was in, Meow Mix and Geico. They were what helped me buy my home.

FIN: What future goals do you still feel the need to reach for if any?

Asanti: A series regular. Where I am in every episode. We have quite a few things in the works. That’s the big goal. My wife would like to spend the month of August in Fire Island. I’m the kind of person who can get strung out. I’m just high strung as it is. A month in Fire Island can help anyone relax! I have to tell you last summer I had those Rocket Fuels from CJ’s. Wow! Amazing!!