Actor-filmmaker Ken Marino is everywhere, as if Hollywood had passed the Ken Marino Guest Star Inclusion Act. The Long Island native is a “Fresh Off the Boat” semiregular, playing morning-show anchor Gus, and was recurring as interim captain Jason Stentley on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and murderous mobster Joseph Manfredi on “Agent Carter,” amid countless other roles. In movies, he wrote and starred in “Diggers” (2007), a semiautobiographical comedy-drama about his clam-digger father in the 1970s, and directed “How to Be a Latin Lover” (2017) and the romantic comedy “Dog Days,” opening Wednesday, Aug. 8.
A founder of the sketch-comedy troupe The State, Marino, 49, attracted attention as English professor David Wilder on “Dawson’s Creek” and catering drone Ron Donald on the cult classic “Party Down.” He starred with Casey Wilson on NBC’s “Marry Me” (2014-2015) and has earned three Emmy nominations as a producer of the web series “Burning Love” and of Comedy Central’s “Childrens Hospital,” on which he also starred.
Born in West Islip and raised there and in Moriches, Marino attended West Islip Senior High School and NYU before launching his career. His wife and frequent collaborator, Erica Oyama, co-wrote “Dog Days,” in which Marino has a cameo. The ensemble film stars Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Adam Pally, Eva Longoria, Finn Wolfhard and others.
“Dog Days” crisscrosses stories of L.A. people and the dogs in their lives. It struck me as an American “Love Actually,” though I actually liked it better.
And I actually appreciate that. I really love “Love Actually.” I’m not saying it’s a perfect movie, but it’s one of those movies where if it’s on TV I always watch a little bit of it. I love the actors in it and it makes you feel good . . . So when I had the opportunity to be part of this multi-narrative story with all these people and the way their lives interconnect, I thought this would be a fun movie to make — something light that has a little bit of romance in it, filtered through my brain to make it funny, hopefully.
They say don’t work with dogs or children, and here you are doing both.
I misunderstood. I thought they said, “Work with lots of dogs and children.” [He laughs.] What’s nice about this movie is it’s not only family entertainment, but I got to work with my own family. My wife, Erica Oyama, did a rewrite [of co-writer Elissa Matsueda’s script] and our kids [Riley, 11, and Ruby, 8] are in the movie. My son plays the turtle [-owning] boy and my daughter does some flossing in the end-credits sequence.
Did you have a dog growing up on Long Island?
As far back as I can remember we’ve always had animals that we rescued and brought into our house. We’ve had dogs and cats, we had a horse, we had a goat, we had rabbits, we had a seagull . . .
Hold on. You had a horse and a goat?
At one point somebody had, like, a Shetland pony named Coco and they needed somebody to take it. My parents had enough property in our backyard to build a little area for the horse to live. And my mother worked at Long Island Game Farm and there was a sick goat or something that she wound up taking back to our house. We kept the goat for about a year and then brought it back to the game farm.
Are you still in touch with any of old friends from here?
I have friends that I met around sixth grade that I’m still friends with, and then there are a couple of guys from high school. In fact, one of the guys, Frank Barrera, was the cinematographer of “Dog Days,” and he shot a lot of “Burning Love.” We used to shoot things in high school, and even back then we said, “We’re going to shoot a movie together. I’ll direct it and you’ll shoot it.” And it was really exciting, really magical, to have a buddy, a fellow Long Island guy, a fellow West Islip guy, right there by my side.
You have a cameo in the movie as a morning-show host named Carven Wagi. What the heck is a Carven Wagi?
That’s just a name I always like saying — you know, how when you’re with friends you make up names? That seems to be my go to. Has been for years. My character didn’t have a name so because I was the director and controlling a lot of the decisions they asked me what my character name was and I said Carven Wagi.
I get it — it’s like George Costanza’s Art Vandelay!
That’s right, that’s correct. That’s exactly it.