Acting in the blood: Carbondale brothers making a name in Hollywood

Saturday, January 29, 2005

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- It's probably a case for both heredity and environment.

Brothers Ben and Christopher "Flynn" Falcone, who grew up in Carbondale, are knee-deep in the arts in California these days and receiving good reviews for their work.

Both are actors and Flynn, 34, has just published his second book, "Wake-Up Call."

Meanwhile, Ben, 31, is a recurring character on "Joey," having appeared in several episodes of the new series that is a spin-off for Matt LeBlanc's character from "Friends."

He plays Howard, Joey's neighbor, and loves the role.

"I like Howard. He's unfortunately a very sweaty, desperate version of me," Ben said with a laugh.

Ben and Flynn are the sons of Steve and Peggy Falcone of Carbondale and cut their professional teeth in community theater and plays at Carbondale Community High School. Both credit their experiences at CCHS for their career choices.

Steve, who teaches at John A. Logan College in Carterville, is a prolific author and playwright who also loves to perform and direct. Peggy is a staff member at Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, working with young people. Steve proudly agreed his sons have had "a little success."

In addition to "Joey," Ben had roles last year on Jim Belushi's series, "According to Jim," as well as "Yes Dear," "Gilmore Girls" and other series. Ben also has performed on stage for years.

Ben's biggest news, though, is getting engaged to Melissa McCarthy, who plays a role on "Gilmore Girls," just before Christmas. "We've had lots of opportunities to show off her ring," he added with a laugh. "My parents really like her, and I really like her family."

Melissa is from the Chicago area and attended Southern Illinois University-Carbondale for one semester. She and Ben met in Los Angeles when both were performing on "level 3" of Groundlings, a performing group whose alumni include Lisa Kudrow of "Friends" and Will Farrell.

"Frankly, she's a little bit funnier than me," Ben said with pride.

Groundlings is a school with four levels, he explained. "It took me five years -- almost six -- to get into the main company three years ago," he said, because "at each level you can be cut until you make it into the main company."

Ben is also teaching and directing and finds himself in the position of having to tell fellow actors they don't make the cut, he added.

Ben and Melissa even have made a short movie together. She created a character named "Marbles" and the movie, titled "Polk Valley," is based on "Marbles." Flynn has a supporting role in that film. They'll be making the rounds of film festivals with it this spring, Ben said.

Flynn dedicated his book "Wake-Up Call" to his father. The 124-page thriller is published online by iUniverse Inc. It's described as a "dark urban thriller" about a successful lawyer whose young daughter is kidnapped by a drug dealer.

Flynn has also been in a Bud Lite commercial, Steve said. "He plays a referee dealing with Leon the athlete."

In his nine-and-a-half years in Hollywood, Flynn has done some acting, directing, even producing. He even wrote, produced and starred in a short film, "The Knock," and played a lead role in "Criminals," another film. On TV, he's appeared in "The Great Train Robberies," on Discovery Channel, and episodes of "JAG" and "Dharma & Greg."

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