Kevin Connolly at the Beginning of the End
Can a ginger win in Hollywood? Kevin Connolly, sporting a copper top and stubble that grows in a beta-carotene hue, is having a little trouble naming success stories. After some thought, he rustles up actors Eric Stoltz and David Caruso. “Oh, the star of The Killing — she’s a girl, but she’s awesome,” Connolly says, calling from his home in Los Angeles. Still, it’s slim pickings. “I know I’m forgetting someone big,” he says.
With apologies to Ron Howard, Danny Bonaduce and Christina Hendricks, few redhead kingpins have had a recent run like Connolly. For eight seasons of the HBO series Entourage, he’s inhabited the role of Eric Murphy, an ambitious Sbarro’s manager from Queens, New York, who migrated to Los Angeles to manage his childhood friend and rising actor Vincent Chase.
A breezy male fantasy that shared Sunday nights with critically lavished fare such as The Wire and The Sopranos, Entourage doesn’t seem that venerable until you do the math. “Doug Ellin started writing the show 10 years ago,” Connolly says. “That’s a major chunk of our lives. It’s weird the whole thing is coming to an end. I don’t know what I was expecting — we lived, nobody had a breakdown.” But like a divorcé coming out of a decade-long marriage, he’ll have to figure out where he fits in, now that the current season will be the last.
Born into a working-class family in Patchogue, New York, a town on the Long Island shore, Connolly began acting in commercials at the age of 6. By 1990, he had landed his first film role, in Rocky V as neighborhood bully Chickie. Following high school, when friends were packing family cars with lava lamps and Bob Marley posters for college life, Connolly headed to Los Angeles. “In hindsight, that could have been a disaster,” he says. Since then, he has acted in films like John Q, Antwone Fisher and He’s Just Not That Into You. His directorial credits include 2007 film Gardener of Eden and several episodes of Unhappily Ever After.
For all of Connolly’s success, his association with Entourage is, at present, ironclad. Once, he went on a date with a woman who insisted she had never seen the show—and proceeded to call him E several times during dinner. Among the quartet of quipping buffoons and mooning artistes, Eric was usually the responsible straight man. And in much the same way HBO’s Sex and the City calcified archetypes for single women, Entourage did the same for dudes. “I can’t tell you how many times guys have come up to me and said, ‘This is our Turtle. This is our Vince,’” Connolly says. “My response is always, ‘What makes you Vince?’”
The obvious answer: Vince is the one who gets the girls. On Entourage, Connolly’s character was not exactly virginal — but he yearned for meaningful, mature relationships more than the rest of his convoy of man whores. After being romantically tied to actress Nikki Cox and socialite Nicky Hilton in real life, Connolly says he’s looking for something more than a weekend fling. “I want to have kids and the whole thing, but the next time it will be for real,” he says. “I’m in no rush to get divorced.” It’s a new angle for a raconteur who regularly haunted the high-end club scene with longtime pals Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Lukas Haas.
Even as Entourage comes to an end, Connolly is discovering that plans for working on the other side of the camera inevitably lead toward real versions of the Hollywood negotiations the show fictionalized. “My life is never more like the show than when I’m directing,” he says. “You’re meeting this guy, you’re moving and shaking. Any time a movie happens, it’s a small miracle.”
And for mournful Entourage fans dying to find out how many more pounds the newly svelte Turtle can shed, Connolly is optimistic the Queens foursome will again race luxury cars, chase models and hug it out with Ari Gold — just on the big screen. “We’re gonna do a movie,” he says. “I feel like it will happen. But a lot of pieces have to fall into place.”
(This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of ANTENNA.)