Growing up in Williamsburg, actor Franky G. had his first taste of fame with a role in an MTV commercial and hasn’t looked back since. Franky has been seen in films like “The Italian Job” and two of the “Saw” sequels, and on Saturday, Feb. 2, “Manito,” his first feature film, will air at 11 pm on PBS, Channel 13 as part of its new “Reel 13” series.
“Manito” follows Junior Moreno (Franky G.), who tries to hold his family together despite the less-than-ideal circumstances in Washington Heights. When his younger brother Manny (Leo Minaya) graduates at the top of his class, things seem to be looking up for the Morenos, but on the night of the graduation, things fall out of Junior’s control and the family is changed forever.
GO Brooklyn caught up with Franky to find out what he’s up to next.
GO Brooklyn: “Manito” is playing this Saturday night. What was it like taking on such heavy subject matter in your first starring role?
Franky G.: It was nervewracking. After a while, I got comfortable though … In the beginning, I didn’t know how to do it, but the director [Eric Eason] had a lot of faith in me, so I gave it my best shot.
GO: The movie has a lot to do with the consequences of kids in a rough neighborhood making tough choices. Was Williamsburg a rough neighborhood when you were growing up?
FG: It wasn’t like that! You had gangs and everything in the neighborhood, but it wasn’t like in the movie. It was great growing up there; you went to school, hung out with friends. I used to love McCarren Park; we went to the pool and played baseball and basketball.
GO: Do you get back often?
FG: Once in a blue moon I’ll drive through and tell my wife that it’s where I grew up. Now I live in Queens.
GO: Did starring in “Manito” make you feel like a movie star?
FG: At the time, I was going to school for certification in computer tech, because I was going to all of these auditions and nothing was happening. I thought I had to move on. But I did “Manito,” and I forgot about everything. People were telling me we were going to Sundance, but I didn’t know what that was. [The film won a Special Jury Prize for a Dramatic Ensemble at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.]
GO: What are you working on next?
FG: I just finished a movie in December called “Ice 44,” and it was with Cuba Gooding, Jr. It’s about elite soldiers on a mission to rescue a scientist from an underground lab. It’s a science-fiction movie, and I play one of the elite soldiers. Right now, I’m just reading scripts and waiting out the writer’s strike.