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Peter Facinelli on the sensuality of vampires, on-set romances and Twitter

Facinelli plays Dr Carlisle Cullen, the patriarch of a family of vampires in the film adaptations of Stephanie Meyer's The Twilight Saga. Interview by Matilda Battersby

Peter Facinelli isn’t your typical teen heartthrob. That's not to say that he doesn't have the looks or the charm. But at 37 he's slightly more mature than the usual suspects. He’s also happily married (to fellow actress Jennie Garth) and has three young children.

Facinelli plays the Cullen family patriarch in the film adaptations of Stephanie Meyer’s The Twilight Saga alongside teenage and twenty-something actors Robert Pattinson, Kirsten Stewart and Taylor Lautner. But despite the coterie of young blood to contend with, Facinelli has developed a cultish fan base of his own. He has more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter and legions of Facebook fans. Not mention a 15-year film and television career that includes Six Feet Under, The Big Kahuna and, most recently, Nurse Jackie.

Here he tells The Independent about the sensuality of vampires, on-set romances and Twitter:

At the moment you’re best known for playing doctors: Dr Fitz Cooper in Nurse Jackie and of course Dr Carlisle Cullen in the Twilight franchise. Do you ever worry about being typecast?

No. It’s just an occupation. I don’t play the occupation I play the person and they are vastly different. The fact that they have the same job is just happenstance. Besides, Carlisle is a vampire.

Nurse Jackie, a dark comedy series about Jackie Peyton, a New York-based nurse, has only recently hit screens over here. Can you describe your character in the show and what attracted you to the role?

The show is a look at hospital life from the view of the nurses. My character is sort of the nemesis of Jackie, played by Edie Falco. He has a tumultuous relationship with her. There are times when he has great admiration and respect for her and times when he can’t stand her. It’s a love/hate relationship. It kind of reminds me of the kid in third grade who likes a girl so much he ends up tugging her pigtails. He’s egocentric and self obsessed, although strangely likeable. He also has sexual tourettes, which means that occasionally he’ll just reach out and grab at her breast. It makes for good comedy.

You’re an active Tweeter and I understand that this inspired the makers of Nurse Jackie to do something a bit different with Twitter on the show. Can you explain this?

Well the writers were talking about doing a Twitter account for my character. They then realised that I have a very active Twitter with lots of followers so they thought it might be fun to have art imitate life, so to speak. They wrote it into the script and set up an @DoctorCoop and now they’ve set it up so that when the show airs and you see my character Tweeting they’ll go out in real time to the Twitter fans. It’s a way of incorporating social media into television.

You’ve alternated between doing film and TV roles throughout your career. Which do you prefer?

I tend to go where ever the material is good and the writing is good. If it happens to be in television then I will go there. I like the immediacy of television because you shoot it and then people get to watch it. But then film is exciting too because it’s such an event. People get in their cars and buy popcorn and make a night out of it. If I had to choose between doing one or the other for the rest of my life it would be films.

You met your wife, actress Jennie Garth, on the set of ‘An Unfinished Affair’ in 1996 and you’ve been together ever since. Can you tell us a bit about how you got together?

We were shooting the movie and we met and hit it off. She was going through a tough time as she was in the midst of ending a relationship, so we became friends and I supported her. We continued to be friends and eventually got together. We met on the set of ‘An Unfinished Affair’ and I like to joke that the affair’s not over yet!

What do you think of the sometimes fraught on-set Hollywood romances that appear in the tabloids, from the perspective of someone who has made a successful marriage with a former co-star?

I don’t know too much about other people’s relationships. I just know about mine, and every day I love my wife a little bit more. The idea of doing anything to jeopardise it is unthinkable. But I do think it’s inevitable that if you throw people together a lot sometimes things will happen. Not just in film, in any working environment, but probably more so in film and television because people are taken far away from their normal lives. It’s like a reality TV show where people are left isolated on a desert island. They start relationships because they are out of their reality and as a result they’re sometimes not very real.

How have you coped with the attention from fans that Twilight must have brought you?

It doesn’t really affect me on a daily level. I don’t get mobbed like Robert Pattinson (who plays his step-son Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga). I really enjoy corresponding with fans. Any time you meet someone who is excited about your work it’s gratifying. It’s better than having people throw rotten tomatoes at you! The most attention I get is kids ringing the doorbell of my house.

Why do you think people are so interested in vampires and the supernatural?

I think there’s a sensuality about vampires. A monstrousness. They offer up eternal life in exchange for blood. There’s something intense about wanting someone so much that you have to devour them. The biting of the neck. It’s sexy.