“Without sounding strange, I think I’m one of the most curious people on the planet,” Theo Rossi says. Rossi, who’s perhaps best known for his role as Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz on the FX Series Sons of Anarchy, is referring to his latest project, the film Bad Hurt. “I’m so interested in what goes on behind the door. When I see someone at the supermarket or store with their son or daughter, I’m more interested in their day-to-day life. What’s it like when they go home? For me, this was a time I was able to investigate behind the door.”
Set in 1999, the film—Rossi’s first as a producer—was initially co-written and directed by Mark Kemble as a play, and chronicles a Staten Island family struggling with grief as they care for a daughter with special needs and a son with post-war PTSD. “The world was a very different place in 1999. A lot of our innocence was taken away after 1999,” says Rossi, who stars alongside Michael Harney, Ashley Williams, Karen Allen and John Whitworth.
But it doesn’t come as a surprise that Rossi was drawn to heavy content of this nature. The actor moonlights as an ambassador for the Boot Campaign, working with organizations to raise awareness and money for wounded soldiers. “Because of my work with the military, I wanted to make something that showed the effects of PTSD, not just on the soldiers, but also on the families,” he says. “The whole family is walking out and putting a smile on their face, even though there is pain underneath. The biggest lesson I learned was that even your eyes don’t show you the whole story, unless you can go on the inside depths of what people are dealing with.”
The impetus for this film came after Rossi launched his production company as a way to make the types of movies he wanted to see. “I read through probably 100 scripts looking for the right one,” says Rossi. “I was so taken by the script. What really put me over the edge was the funeral scene with Elaine, the mother.”
And although Rossi never intended on acting in the film, he’s glad he did. “It changed the entire dynamic of my first film. I was able to create a character that I really fell in love with,” says Rossi. To start with, he was able to film in Staten Island, where he was born and raised. “I told my producing partner to do this film in under 20 days and get the quality of work we want, I’m going to need to get all the help I can get, and I’m not going to get that anywhere else in the world except the place I grew up. I had the support of everyone—deli owners, restaurants, bus drivers, and every hotel. It was the perfect homecoming for me.”
Main image by Nina Duncan