When Chris Messina was casting his feature film directorial debut Alex of Venice, he only had one person in mind to play the stoner grandfather—Don Johnson.
"I went up north where he lives and he took me to his son's basketball game," Messina tells me. "And I pretended I cared, I'd watch the game and I'd be like, 'He's really good. Now, do you want to the movie?'
It took some more convincing. "He kind of hemmed and hawed, understandably [with] a first time director," Messina said. "His agents were probably like, 'It's the guy from The Mindy Project' and he was probably like, 'What's The Mindy Project?'"
Fortunately, the Miami Vice icon eventually signed on. In the film he plays an aging actor whose daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds her life spiraling out of control when upside down when her husband (Messina) suddenly walks out on her and their young son.
Katie Nehra, who co-wrote the screenplay, plays Winstead's free spirited sister who comes to live with them to help out with the kid.
Messina says he's thought about trying to direct ever since performing in small black-box theater projects in NYC.
While Alex of Venice has inspired him to do more, he admits he doesn't think he'll be directing episodes of The Mindy Project anytime soon.
"I don't know if I'd be any good at it," Messina said. "I think I'd be really nervous to direct the show. Directors on television, unless you're doing the pilot, are kind of sticking to the format of the show. It's a very hard task. It requires a certain kind of talent to do that to keep the show on track.
"I don't know if I would have that talent," he said. "I'd keep wanting to be like, 'Let's try this long take and do this and do that.' I think everyone would be like, 'Chris Messina is completely f--king up our show."
Alex of Venice is in theaters on April 17.