The actor discusses playing Edgar Stiles, the "small" role he had in Spider-Man 2 and the problems he's had with his Mac

Louis Lombardi is the kind of person you want to know. I first met him on the streets of Park City, Utah in 1999 when I was telling anyone who would listen about a documentary I had made that was screening at the No Dance Film Festival. As part of one of the many satellite festivals that descends on the city every year, it was up to me to promote my movie and get an audience for the screening. Louis (his friends call him "Louie") was hanging around a bunch of people that I had recently seen on an episode of indy guru John Pierson's Split Screen. I also remembered Louis from a film I had seen called Amongst Friends.

Somehow, I started hanging out with Louie and his friends and while I was admittedly the butt of many jokes, I think Louis appreciated that I was out in the snow hustling for my little film. We started talking, I explained that I was really a writer (and basically made films out of necessity) and from there we started writing together. During that time Louie would have to stop for a week or so here and there, because an acting job would come up. Then he left town for awhile because he had landed the role of Skip Lipari on The Sopranos. Other roles in high profile movies followed with Louie now playing computer whiz Edgar Stiles, on Fox's hugely popular TV show 24.

Over the course of my friendship with Louie, I have been taught many things. The most important being that you've got to be very strong willed to make your dreams come true.

How did you get cast in 24?

Louis Lombardi: Joel (Surnow) saw me from a season of DVDs he rented from The Sopranos. He saw me in the role and he was like, "Hey man, I love you in Sopranos. Do you wanna be on my show? I'm gonna write a little role for you." I was like, "Sure." And he wrote Edgar, from Skip Lipari, which are the two most opposite roles, right or wrong? You look at both roles and they're not remotely close in any which way. It's like the total opposite character and he was creative like that.

So Edgar is based on the Skip Lipari character?

Louis Lombardi: It's not based on it. He loved my work on The Sopranos he said.

How is 24 shot because you and Jack Bauer are always in different places? We were wondering if you two have ever met?

Louis Lombardi: We always work together because he'll come into CTU, especially last year, and I'm always pulling stuff up for him or getting numbers or tracking people for him, you know? He'll always be in front of me going, "I need to find where so and so is." And I'll pull it up on the computer. I'll get on the phone for him... make phone calls for him... find codes of other computers. There's a lot of scenes where me and him were together last year.

But if not... if he's on a phone or I'm on the phone he actually, a lot of times, comes in and reads them with the actors.

Oh really?

Louis Lombardi: Ninety percent of the time.

What type of training did you have to go through once you were cast in the role of Edgar Stiles?

Louis Lombardi: I really didn't have any training. I just got down there and you know... act.

So it wasn't like you had to go through a computer course or you had to do anything of that nature?

Louis Lombardi: No, not at all.

How did you get started acting? Your story is a great one.

Louis Lombardi: When I was a kid, like 13, 14, I'd do NYU Films. I did them for like 6 years. I did all these NYU Films as an actor and then I ended up getting a big break by doing this independent film called Amongst Friends that Mira Sorvino cast me in. I went to Sundance that year in '93 and the film was a huge hit. Since then I've been working on every great movie, great TV show in the last 13 years.

One thing about you is you have no structured training. You just made headshots and went for it?

Louis Lombardi: Yeah, that's exactly how it happened. I just did it. No training whatsoever. I went out there and started just doing it. Most people go to school, I did NYU Films... over and over. That was almost like an acting school, film school, writing school, editing school, I'd just do those films and watch how they made them. I would be on the set as an actor getting hands on acting school, I guess that was my acting class if you look at it that way.

And you didn't have to pay for it.

Louis Lombardi: Right! And I learned how to make films and act for free.

What has been the most important thing you have learned as an actor so far in your career?

Louis Lombardi: Just take any job you get. Don't worry about how big or small it is. If you have confidence in yourself, you can go out and make it as big or good a part as possible with one line or with fifty lines. Some people think right away that the part has to be huge to be a good part, which is nonsense. Most of the roles I get are small roles that turn into huge parts, because I go there with energy and enthusiasm and excitement for whatever I'm doing; it doesn't matter what role I'm playing. If I like the role and I accept it, I don't care if it's one day or a TV show for two years. That's irrelevant. It's the part.

You go there and you experiment and you have fun with it. It's like cooking. You throw a little of this one time, a little of that one time, some times are more fun than others, but it's still fun, the overall process of it. When people tell me, "Oh, it's a small show" or "It's a small role," I go, "Wait a second, that's the worst attitude to have."

I'll give you an example. I did this movie called Suicide Kings. I was supposed to get a big role in the movie but I didn't get the role. So the producer's my friend and he says, "Hey man, I got a little, tiny role for you." There's no lines really, you're just sitting with Denis Leary in the car. The one line that I had was, "Yeah, boss", when he talks in between his monologues. I said, "No problem. I'll do it. One night on the movie sure, I got no problem with that." I was supposed to have this huge part in it. I didn't get the role. Instead of being discouraged or not doing the movie in general, I said, "The hell with it."

I did the movie. I did the one day on it. Denis Leary felt like improvising. Me and him improvised the whole entire night. Eight hours in a car together. Wound up... I had no lines, went there with the lowest expectations, nothing... I came out of that movie with eight scenes. And not only did I leave with eight scenes in the movie, I kinda stole the movie. It was all improvised! Everything we did... and that movie led me to The Sopranos, to Fantasy Island, I did it in Hawaii for Barry Sonnenfeld with Malcolm McDowell.

I did this movie with no lines and it turned into two or three TV shows. So I didn't look at it and go, "No, I'm not doing it there's no lines." I just said, "Hey, I'll do it, no problem." And it turned into making my whole career! Basically, the later part of my career that's been a major part of it. One night doing a favor for a friend, with no lines, look what it turned out to? I got to live in Hawaii and do a TV show for a year. I got to live in New York and do a TV show for a year. And every other thing in between, a lot of it basically came from Suicide Kings.

A lot of times I pick roles, like if someone says, "Hey, do you wanna do this movie?" I'll go, "Well, who's in it? Who's directing it? What am I doing?" Before I even read the script, I'll make a decision because scripts are just blueprints. Nothing really stays in the script when you're working. Unless you're working with a writer/director. Still then... when you're on a set the true creativity comes from natural action. People doing natural stuff. You can't write someone's natural actions in. If somebody has some funny thing they do, you can't teach them that.

Deuces Wild same thing. I had like three scenes in the movie, I ended up stealing the movie. That was Martin Scorsese's words! When he saw the movie... he was involved in the movie and then he backed out... his comments on the movie were "Louis Lombardi and Fairuza Balk are the best parts of the movie."

I remember when you got those comments. Your manager or agent had called you.

Louis Lombardi: Remember that? And again, in that movie there was Johnny Knoxville, James Franco, Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, like all these young Hollywood actors and me and Fairuza Balk stole the movie. I just think you don't look at how big or how many lines. You look at who's in it? Who are you gonna have fun with? What's the scenario? What am I doing in there? Am I gonna get to beat someone up? Or, am I gonna be cowering under a desk getting yelled at by Chloe?

Are there any secrets about 24 that you can reveal? Or, do you only know what you know per season?

Louis Lombardi: Not per season! Per episode! Yeah, you don't even go that far with these shows. When I did The Sopranos it was the same thing. You know episode to episode. You can think you're the most solid person on a show and then the next week be out. I learned that with The Sopranos. With these shows you never know, you just take it week by week. Your contract could be for 20 years, don't believe that hype.

Is that due to the nature of the show or is that due to the TV business in general?

Louis Lombardi: It's a little bit of both. I would say more for the show because in today's TV, people are always trying to shock more than they did last week. Always trying to stun, always trying to keep people talking about their shows, am I right or am I wrong? Everyone... no matter what it is.

So with Edgar Stiles you don't know the fate of your character? Right now you're on the show, but there's nothing you can really tell people because you don't know.

Louis Lombardi: Nothing! I don't know. Everyone thinks it's such a secret, this and that, people just don't know. It ain't even that it's so secretive. You hardly know what's going on episode to episode and that's not even a lie. People don't even know and that's the best thing about it, I guess. Or, it could be the worst... but the best thing about it is that something new is always gonna happen. Always something fresh, always something exciting, especially on this show. You just take what you get and you be happy with it. Basically, it's a week to week job. The Sopranos was too.

What are you currently working on? What's coming up in the future for you?

Louis Lombardi: Just 24 right now.

What about personal projects? I know you always have stuff that you're doing.

Louis Lombardi: I'm trying to put together this film about two brothers, a pizzeria movie that actually we did together. Still trying to put that movie together, create a little franchise with these two characters.

That's gonna happen because you're too strong willed not to let it happen.

Louis Lombardi: Thank you.

That's one of the biggest things I have taken away from knowing you. No matter how many doors get slammed in your face, you've gotta pick yourself up and knock on that next door.

Louis Lombardi: Exactly, never quit. I tell every actor, every writer, everyone, even people that have been in the business for ten years even thirty years. People look at me and think it's easy. I'm going, "Don't get discouraged." People just don't get it. That's the hardest part of the business. Acting is only 10%. The other 90% is getting the job. There's so many things to it, you know? Once you get the job you're in, but you've got to get the meeting, you gotta find out about the job first, then you gotta get somebody that'll see you, then you gotta beat out 300 people, then you gotta narrow it down to 5 people and have 30 people make a decision on one role. There's so many factors that it's not gonna happen, one by one. It's gonna happen in hundreds. You do a hundred auditions you might get one role. Then you gotta do another hundred.

Let me give you one more quick example of what I mean by that... a perfect example was Spider-Man 2. I auditioned for a role for a part in the movie... it didn't happen. I think they might have cut it out. It was like a cop or something, right? I didn't hear anything for 8 months, so I get a phone call from my agent and she's like, "Sam Raimi really loves your work and he would love for you to be in the movie somewhere." And I'm like, "Wow, that's really nice." But she's like, "There's no part for you or nothing but he'd love for you to be in the movie somewhere. Would you work one day on the movie?" I was like, "Sure, it's Spider-Man, it's Sam Raimi, it's a whole good project. It's a cartoon-type, different kind of movie, just big, huge... sure, I'll do it."

And when I went to the set he's like, "Hey Louie, great to meet you." Sam Raimi was unbelievably nice. He was like, "Listen, there really isn't anything written for you but if you want to say something in the card game, say it." And I was like, "You know what? I don't even want to say anything." He said, "Really?" I'm like, "Yeah, don't worry about it, I'll just sit here." So I took a role in Spider-Man 2 and I have no lines, and basically that was done for a favor, not even a favor, just because he liked my work. It was accepting a compliment in a different way. You do stuff like that for fun. It isn't about the money or whatever.

Okay, it's time for you talk to the readers about the problems that you, Louis Lombardi aka Edgar Stiles, the computer genius from 24, are having with your Macintosh computer? (As we at the site are devout Mac users we found Louie's problems very surprising. - EJ)

Louis Lombardi: I bought a Macintosh to do all my work on. Editing stuff and writing, you know? A brand new one, it's supposed to be the best one they have. It turns out I've had it in the shop three different times. For all different problems, three different problems with the same Mac ; within the last year. And every time I try and call someone at Apple or Mac or wherever... no one responds. No one even cares!

And the funniest thing is it's almost an insult to their computers because when I bring them into the Mac store, everyone's like, "Edgar! You play the computer genius what's wrong with your computer?" And it's almost like a running joke about how sh*tty Mac is now. It's like this guy is supposed to be the computer genius... and his Mac is breaking every other week. No one will even call to fix it or take care of it. That's the worst part about it is dealing with Apple, I think. Not only is their product horrible but... no one responds to you when something happens.

It's just like, "We'll fix it again, we'll fix it again. We can fix it every week until your warranty runs out." And then what do you do? If I woulda known this beforehand? I'd just bought a new Powerbook, the G5, 17", widescreen one, that I wouldn't have bought if I would have known the problems I was gonna have with this one. It's insane. It's the worst experience I've ever had with a computer, and I'm playing the computer genius on 24, that's the funniest thing. Every time I walk in there everybody's like, "Edgar! What's wrong with your computer?" Right away they look at the Mac and they're like, "Oh God, if Edgar can't get it going no one can."

CLICK HERE to visit Louis Lombardi's personal website!

24: Season 4 is currently available everywhere from Fox Home Entertainment.