When Greg Finley acts on impulse, good things happen.
The Scarborough native was bedridden for several months in his late teens, watched movies to ease his mind and decided to become an actor. Once he was well, he headed to Los Angeles. He was 19, with no acting experience and no contacts. He ended up living in a hostel.
Ten years later, his acting resume is substantial. He spent five years playing a hunky high school quarterback on the ABC Family channel drama “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and one season playing an angry teenage alien on the CW’s recently canceled series “Star-Crossed.” He’s had guest-star roles a on NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU,” CBS’s “Cold Case” and Fox’s “House.”
Now he’s hoping to use his contacts in Hollywood to make a film called “Danny Boy” in Maine, based on a story he came up with about a young boxer. Observers of Maine’s film business say it would be something of a long shot to have a film with the budget Finley is proposing – $5 million – made here, given the state’s remoteness and the fact that many other states offer film tax incentives more valuable than Maine’s.
But, based on his career so far, Finley has proven that he can succeed even when odds say he can’t.
“He’s always been able to charm people,” said Will McCandless, a boyhood friend of Finley’s who is helping with his film project. “He’s a very competitive, charming guy who finds a way to make things happen.”
ACTING WAS NOT THE DREAM
Finley, 29, was a very serious athlete growing up in Scarborough. Basketball was his favorite. His career goals as a teenager were to play college basketball and then run a restaurant. His dad, Jim Finley, is part-owner of the Dry Dock pub and restaurant on Portland’s waterfront.
After high school, he enrolled in a restaurant management program at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. He wasn’t doing very well in his first year when he came down with a large abscess in his throat. He required emergency treatment and lost about 60 pounds.
When he got well, he headed to Los Angeles.
“It was kind of a shock, because he had never talked about acting before and didn’t know anybody,” said his father. “But he’s always been a very social kid who could take care of himself. I knew he would make connections. I was just a little leery of him making the right connections. But I think he has.”
Finley not only went to lots of auditions, but he made connections through his love of basketball. He plays basketball in a league of Hollywood creative types, where he has made business connections with producers, actors and musicians.
His first big role came in 2007 with a guest appearance on CBS’s “Cold Case.” In flashbacks to 1984, he played a teenage wrestler who kills his dancer brother. Soon after he got the role of Jack Pappas, a teenage football hero on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” The show ran five years and had pretty big audiences for a cable channel, about 5 million viewers.
When the show’s run ended, Finley quickly got a role on another teen drama, “Star-Crossed” on CW. The futuristic series was about teen aliens and teen humans. Finley played Drake, an alien who is sort of a tough guy and a hothead but with a soft spot, too. The series premiered this past February on Monday nights and was canceled in May.
“Man, that was crushing. As an actor, I could have played that role for a long time,” said Finley. “I got to beat people up one minute, cry to my mother the next, and then have a love scene with my girlfriend.”
Finley’s most challenging role might have come this past March when he appeared as a gay football player who was raped as part of a team hazing.
“When I first heard about the role, I didn’t want to do it. It was just something I didn’t feel I could do,” he said. “But my agent said, ‘It’s Law & Order. Read the script.’ It was such a great role. Some of my buddies gave me a hard time about it, but when they saw it they said, ‘Damn, you can do this.’”
Finley has lately been auditioning for other roles, including in films. Last week he said he auditioned for a film project he described as “in the Marvel family.”
CREATING A ROLE FOR HIMSELF
While looking for new roles, Finley is working on his own film project. He says he has interested financial backers, but needs to sign a notable director. He hopes to do that soon. His friend McCandless, who has worked in wealth management for several banks in Los Angeles, is helping him check out the credentials of potential investors.
“Danny Boy” would focus on a young boxer played by Finley. Danny’s mother and brother are killed on their way to one of Danny’s boxing matches. He blames himself, falls into despair and gets caught up in his uncle’s small-time drug business. In a climactic scene, Danny has to fight in an underground boxing match to pay off his uncle’s gambling debt.
Finley’s hope is to film in the Old Port and around Greater Portland. He has one chase scene in mind where characters would jump onto boats docked in Portland Harbor. Until he gets a director and backing in place, he’s not sure when the film would be made.
“Portland, the way it looks, is a cinematographer’s dream,” said Finley. “I’m hoping that making this film will attract other” filmmakers.
Finley wishes there were bigger tax incentives for film production in Maine, something filmmakers have talked about for years. Lawmakers have proposed legislation to make Maine more competitive in attracting filmmakers wihtout successs.
Incentives offered now, according to the Maine Film Office website, include tax rebates equal to 12 percent of wages paid to Maine residents and 10 percent of non-resident wages, plus tax credits equal to 5 percent of non-wage expense. Massachusetts, by comparison, offers tax incentives that include a 25 percent production credit and a 25 percent payroll credit.
“Anybody who brings a $5 million film to Maine really has to want to make it here,” said Andy Arey, a long-time Rockland-based film location manager, whose credits have included “The Man Without a Face,” starring Mel Gibson, and who is a member of the Maine State Film Commission. “Movies are a strange business, because one part is artistic and one part is financial. You have to make sure your expenses are such that you can guarantee your investors a return.”
The idea for the film came to Finley during his first years in Hollywood, auditioning for some “bad” roles. “I was going to all these auditions and just thinking about what sort of a role I’d really like to play, and I just thought it would be cool to play a boxer,” he said. “I’ve been working on it ever since.”
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: