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He’s arrested Sonny Corinthos on “General Hospital,” served Vincent Chase, Ari Gold and the rest of the posse as a waiter on “Entourage,” and has been in a number of national commercials.
Unlike the posers who say they’re not attorneys but play them on TV, Michael Fucci actually earned a law degree and frequently puts it to use in Southern California courtrooms.
But the role that Fucci, a 1994 Harbert College of Business graduate in Finance, enjoys most is far more important than anything that could land him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It’s mission work — overseas and in the U.S – including five trips to Egypt.
“From my trips to Haiti and Egypt, I’ve learned that, oftentimes, each culture has a preconceived notion as to what another culture is like. It’s amazing to see the effect of traveling to these places, talking with the people face-to-face, hearing their stories and learning about them. For many people that I meet, it is their first time to speak to an American and in the case of Egypt, the first time to speak to a Christian. It’s miraculous to see how simple one-on-one interaction can help melt the mountains that separate us and bring forth the commonalities. I see tangible examples of this every time I travel.”
One encounter in with a cancer patient in Egypt will remain with him forever.
“On one of my first trips to Egypt, I was talking to a young Muslim girl at a cancer hospital in Cairo,” said Fucci, who calls Sherman Oaks, Calif., home. “In addition to Arabic, she spoke surprisingly good English. I asked her where she learned to speak English so well. She pointed to a little 13-inch black-and-white TV in the corner of the room and said, ‘Tom Hanks taught me.’
“It was in that moment that I realized the widespread reach of media – movies, television, internet – and its effect. There are people in third-world countries in Africa that don’t know where their next meal is coming from, but there is a TV in the village and they know who Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson are.
“Television is the only exposure that many of these people have of America or of Christians and with many of the shows on today, sometimes that view is not as positive as we might hope. To find a way to use this powerful medium for good—in a way that benefits people, teaches people, inspires people—that is my goal.”
“In many parts of the world, Western content is so prevalent. If you’re trying to reach people through media, what you create has to be able to compete in terms of production value and story. By creating quality entertainment with a Westernized feel, it will help to make our outreach more relevant and more entertaining, while still encompassing a positive message.
“From Bollywood to Nollywood, you see pockets of cinema springing up throughout the world. Egypt is no different. They are incredibly talented and equipped. To be able to walk alongside them, teaching them what we know from our experiences in Hollywood, we can more effectively produce content for the Egyptian people, the Middle East and the world.
“More practically in the mission field, we are looking to send two teams of people to Egypt each year to work with our partner’s Healing Grace Child Sponsorship program in the rural areas of Upper Egypt. In addition to the actual sponsorship aspect of the program, we are helping to produce content for them that will help to increase awareness of the program in the U.S. As well, we are in development on a documentary that will follow the stories of specific children and their families, telling the story of how investing in others and sharing God’s love can tangibly transform a village and change lives.”
Fucci’s travels don’t always carry him across oceans. The multi-tasker from La Cañada, Calif., has traveled for the past nine years to a variety of locations in the Southeast with the youth group from Central United Methodist Church in Decatur, Ala. Under the direction of Auburn alum David Kross and his wife, Rosie, team members help families reconstruct homes from disasters – including Hurricane Katrina.
So why does an aspiring actor who lives near Los Angeles spend so much time away from the studios and potential roles? Simple. He puts others first – particularly those who need help the most.
“I am so fortunate that my line of work allows me the opportunity and time to travel,” he said. “We go with the hope of helping others, but truthfully, we get so much more in return. You don’t always get to see the results of your work. You simply have to trust that whatever work you are doing, if you do it to the best of your ability, God can use that. We’re all part of the puzzle. I just hope that we touch lives and make them just a little bit better, a little bit brighter. That’s what I strive for.”
But when Fucci was at Auburn in the 1990s, he and his classmates were simply striving to pass Jim Barth’s finance class.
“He (Barth) had a very challenging class and the way he taught it made me love to learn,” said Fucci, who noted that Barth – a Lowder Eminent Scholar in Finance – helped him land a job right out of college as an analyst at Compass Lexecon in Chicago, where he spent a year. “When I was in college, he (Barth) was teaching about the savings and loan debacle.”
Fucci noted that even though he is a native Californian, he has deep Auburn roots. His late father (Jim) and sister (Barbara) are both Auburn graduates. Mother (Claudette) has been adopted into the Auburn family, and his aunt and uncle, Linda and Bob Fucci, call Opelika home. Jim Fucci, who received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in 1960, worked on the Gemini and Apollo space missions, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom as part of the Mission Operations Team for Apollo 13.
“Auburn was one of those things that I was raised into,” he said. “It’s definitely a family affair.”
But Fucci wasn’t satisfied with just being a business analyst. Acting was calling him not long after receiving his undergraduate diploma from then-Auburn president William V. Muse.
“When I was SGA Treasurer, I remember sitting in the SGA office in Foy Union and applying to law schools in California because I wanted to give acting a shot,” he said. “I ended up coming out here (Los Angeles) for two weeks one summer, met a well-connected talent manager at the proverbial corner newsstand. He immediately sent me out on my first TV show audition. I got a callback and got to read for producers. Although I didn’t ultimately get the part, there was part of me that thought I could make it in the business. But those two weeks were short and I faced the decision of whether to stay in California or go to law school. In my mind, acting was always something that other people did. It was never something that I did, so I ended up going the more conservative route and enrolled in law school.”
With that, Fucci continued his education at the University of Georgia School of Law, though he couldn’t give up on acting.
“Bertis Downs, who managed R.E.M. and was my Entertainment Law professor (at Georgia), knew that, although I loved the legal aspect of entertainment, I wanted to be an actor and that I had great appreciation for the creative side of the entertainment business as well.”
In addition to an independent study under Downs, which led to Fucci being published in the UCLA Entertainment Law Review, Downs was supportive in other regards. “We talked to the dean about allowing me to go down to the drama school each day to take acting classes for ‘litigation reasons,’” Fucci said. “I fell in love with acting and decided to make the move to L.A. after I graduated. I took the California Bar and still practice law today. I think my legal background has definitely helped in terms of production and learning the business.”
Fucci is the founder and principal of AttorneyAppear.com, an agency that uses attorneys for fill-in roles, drafting law and motion documents or making court appearances when other attorneys are not available.
Though he’s done his share of Lexus, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota, Vonage and Supercuts commercials, among others, Fucci remembers his first day on the set at “General Hospital.”
“I left the set with my stage gun,” said Fucci, who played the recurring role as a police officer on the long-running daytime drama. “They started paging me to get back to the set. I didn’t hear the pages. Someone had to come to my dressing room to let me know I was being paged because, as you can imagine, having a gun leave the set, especially with the new guy, is never a good thing.”
Fucci said a business education can be very useful in Hollywood.
“In entertainment, you can get so focused on your craft that you forget it’s called the entertainment business for reason,” he said. “You can be the most talented actor in the world and never get seen if you forget about the business side of the industry. In Hollywood, to have a business background is invaluable. It gives you the tools to market yourself better, build your career and make smart business decisions. It also helps teach how to make good financial choices with the money you earn.”
Fucci is currently in development with his own food-oriented show, but could not divulge details.
While he takes his job in Hollywood seriously, he stays focused on others, not on personal achievements.
“While it would undoubtedly be an honor to receive an Oscar or an Emmy and be distinguished for excellence within my profession, I don’t think there’s anything more meaningful, impactful or lasting than simply spending time with someone—investing in them, laughing with them, sharing God’s love with them—and seeing a glimmer of hope in their eyes that wasn’t there before.
“Now that’s something to put on the mantel!”