Before he drove us crazy in Drive Me Crazy, or went by Vincent Chase with an Entourage at his side, Adrian Grenier was a kid from New York City who was raised by a single mom. In his directorial debut, actor-musician-filmmaker Adrian Grenier, embarks on a personal quest to find the biological father he only had here and there encounters with. A Shot in the Dark, now available on DVD, chronicles Grenier’s on-the-road journey, capturing a private, emotional side of the actor. Ultimately, Grenier finds his father in Ohio and after a series of sometimes, awkward phone calls, finally meets with him.
I was admittedly anxious to watch this film, because I knew how much it would hit home and I wasn’t sure if I was willing to go there emotionally—if I could, even. Seeing Adrian confront his feelings about growing up without his father, made me fast-forward to JD at 18. I connected so deeply with his curiosity and empathy, and never sensed a hint of regret or bitterness. Single parents, you need to watch this film -- and if your kids are old enough, encourage them to watch with you (I'll show JD one day). I talked to Adrian about growing up with his single mom, finding his birth father and making A Shot in the Dark.
CC: In the film you say your mom was your mother and father. Tell me about her…
AG: She’s a tough lady. She was a survivor from day one. She has a fighting spirit. Anybody who willingly moves to New York, has to have some tough skin, ya know? My mom is very business-minded and she passed this down to me. I really thank her for that, especially in my line of work—I feel like I can hold my own because of her.
CC: Your mom was raised by a single mom, as was her mom. In the film she says she hopes this sort of girl power is in you, too, but in a male version. What does that mean to you?
AG: [Joking] Hey, thanks mom, for thinking that the female lineage was going to make me a sissy, but on the other hand it says a lot about society and how limited the male role really is. For me it’s really a call to arms for men to be there and not be an absentee, to stick around and embrace the role of father.
CC: Your mom’s friend, Boris, seemed to play a big male role in your life and even asked if you wanted to call him dad when you were 3—what can you tell me about him and the importance of having male role models in your life?
AG: When you’re younger and starting to develop your identity you want to feel like you have that male figure taking care of you and I guess I was looking for that and ya know when you’re a kid, you don’t tiptoe around the subject. I’ve actually said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to have a dad!’ And this is what my film is about—exploring the array of male figures in my life and trying to piece together what was the cohesive male influence. There wasn’t just one. Some people have their biological dad and that’s the prominent male role model, but the ultimate goal of the film is to show there’s more than one way to have a successful upbringing and I have appreciation, respect and love for the people that did guide me positively in my life. Life is tough. You make it what you want. There’s not going to be any white picket fence in anyone’s life. That said, this film was also made to show empathy and forgiveness to my father who may have not been able to understand his absence.
CC: Your mom was very honest with you when she told you that she wanted to have you, but not be together with your father. When she told you this, did you have any resentment towards her in terms of maybe she was the reason, your dad wasn’t around?
AG: It’s no secret that my mom played a big role in his absence. She made very powerful decisions without John, but to me, as a filmmaker, really gathering all the pieces and trying to figure out what transpired between them and to be objective was what helped my journey. I didn’t have any judgment of her, especially because she was being honest.
CC: There was a scene in the film that really stuck with me. You’re talking to your mom after meeting John and you say he claimed heartbreak as his reason of staying away and you said people need to move on and realize there’s other people to love…Was there ever a time, honestly, where you resented John for not being in your life?
AG: I don’t have any resentment, because that would mean I was somehow wronged in some way, or I wasn’t given something I deserved. I am very satisfied with my life and how things turned out. And I’m very thankful for the way I was raised. I don’t feel like I’m lacking and so the reality that my dad wasn’t there doesn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth. But, I do feel like I’m a very logical person and his argument doesn’t really hold water. It’s not a very constructive way of thinking, to indulge in heartbreak. It was an unfortunate pattern of thinking that didn’t allow him to find the love that existed. This is what the film was about. Opening your eyes to the love that is present around you, instead of trying to project some ideal that is not realistic.
CC: You've said, your father makes you feel safe and complete. How did your perception of your mom and dad change as you made this film?
AG: As kids, our parents are these God-like figures that we look up to, to have all of the answers, but as you grow up and become your own adult you realize that they’re human beings—they’re flawed. I saw my dad’s flaws, the flaws of my upbringing and I was able to embrace it and forgive it. The world is complex. It’s easy to say it’s really good or really bad. My dad’s not a sinner or a saint, as am I. Bridge the gap between the two and have more empathy.
CC: Your dad said he couldn’t see you, because he didn’t want to see your mom. My son’s father has said this to me on the phone—and it really hurt. But, seeing your film made me realize he might not be able to deal with the reality of our relationship, connection and our son. What are your thoughts?
AG: I think because males don’t have that immediate biological connection to the child that women do, because they don’t actually carry the child, they’re inherently more selfish. When they start thinking about kids and raising a kid, it’s always from the point, well, how does this affect me? To me, it’s selfish. It’s uncomfortable for him to raise a kid—that’s unacceptable. Ya gotta get over it—it’s not about you anymore.
CC: In the film, your dad’s wife, Debbie admits she considered you a threat, because she wasn’t able to have children. You would call the house and she’d hang up on you. I sometimes feel like, despite my ex’s wife being able to give him a child, that she feels threatened by me, because I am, in fact, the mother of his first-born and we did have a connection we both acknowledged. I mean, I was the first pregnancy test, the, wow--let's have a baby--he even asked me if we should get married. What’s your take?
AG: I think fear is a healthy emotion and it protects us from the ills of the world, but sometimes it’s wrongly placed. I think we should just check our fears and make sure they’re not doing us a disservice or the people around us.
CC: It was so great talking with you! So, what are your plans for Father’s Day?
AG: Well...I’ll give my dad a call. I was recently in Florida visiting him and the family.
CC: I read once that you say Happy Father’s Day to your mom (so sweet!)—is that something you still do considering your dad is in your life now?
AG: Of course, of course. I have two dads.
CC: Aw, so sweet! What is one of the fondest memories of you and your mom growing up?
AG: I remember my mom waking me up very early and we’d go on trips. She’d just wrap me in a blanket and I’d sleep in the backseat while we drove somewhere. We’d end up on a little camping trip or something.
CC: What is your relationship like with your mom now?
AG: Well, she's my business manager and I actually came back to New York this time around, because I wanted to surprise her for her birthday, which was Saturday and we went and had lobster.
Happy Father's Day, all you dads out there and to my single mom readers -- all the best to you! It's your day, too!!