Add to that some relationship drama, which makes Road Rules (MTV ) look tame, and you’ve got a series that viewers can’t get enough of. We catch up with series star, David Giuntoli, after a season start in which Burkhardt’s girlfriend doesn’t remember him but can’t stop thinking about his boss, his crime fighting buddy is finally in on the Grimm secret, and Nick has turned badass, facing even more deadly confrontations with the evil-doers of Portland.
If you didn’t know Giuntoli was NBC’s breakout star of 2012, he’d blend in as just another unusually handsome Pearl District hipster. Giuntoli shows up for his Sunday interview alone, backpack slung over his shoulder, with no Hollywood handlers or paparazzi in tow. He explains his tardiness with a laugh, “A woman double parked me in. When she recognized me she asked for an autograph for her daughter.” He chuckles, “I signed it and asked, ‘Will you move now?’”
These types of fan encounters are quite unusual in this town. Most Portlanders offer a nonchalant greeting, “You’re that guy on Grimm,” or a knowing nod when they see Giuntoli—a gesture he appreciates as small town cool. The rest of the world is not always so subtle. Giuntoli’s young following on Twitter expresses an adoration that borders on Bieber-like obsession. “Marry me” is the most commonly tweeted response to Giuntoli’s musings on life, travel, or the show’s developments. Giuntoli handles the attention with a strong dose of humor. “If I wanted to get married tomorrow I could—to any number of thirteen year olds.”
Giuntoli glides through our interview like an old pro. Maybe it’s his Midwest upbringing or a grounded sense of self, but nothing flusters him—that is, until we talk Road Rules and the now infamous scene in which David wears nothing but a skimpy thong over his, ahem, man parts. You should see this, really. Because as often as we see Giuntoli brooding and serious as Burkhardt, Road Rules allows a peek at two things: his ability to make fun of himself and… (What?! You thought I’d go there?!)
The MTV reality show didn’t hurt Giuntoli’s chances of becoming a leading man—it helped. Giuntoli moved to LA, spent some time as an apartment manager (a hilarious backstory follows below), and then landed appearances in Privileged (CW ) and Eli Stone (ABC) in ’08. Three years later he landed the lead in Grimm.
In Giuntoli’s climb to the top, there’s no poverty, no sleeping on casting couches, and none of the behavior that can doom a star’s ascent. Giuntoli also appears to be the type who can weather impossibly long shooting days, numerous requests for personal appearances, and a long-distance relationship—without looking like a Blutbad.
Perhaps Giuntoli’s biggest challenge will be avoiding the kind of typecasting that can happen to handsome guys who head up popular fantasy series. Adam West as Batman never really rallied beyond his crime fighting ways. The same thing happened to George Reeves after Superman. David Duchovny traded X-file alien obsession for loose Hollywood women, but was that a success? So how long will Grimm’s crime-fighting boy wonder be around? “It’ll be like Lassie,” he jokes. “David Giuntoli will be long gone, but they’ll just keep bringing in new dogs. And Grimm will go on forever.”
Welcome back to Portland. I had heard that a lot of the cast went to Europe this winter. Does that mean that we’re going to see you go face-to-face with the royals on their home turf?
Quite possibly. It could happen. But yeah, a lot of us traveled over—it was our first kind of big break in a year and a half or so. It’s rare as an actor to know you’re having a big break and then you actually have work at the end of that. So we took advantage of that as much as we could.
A lot of changes this season. Hank is in the loop, and Juliette has it bad for your boss. Have these dynamics upped the acting game for you?
Yeah well anything with a little more of an emotional undercurrent does up the acting game. When there’s a lot of difficulty, you can reach deep for things. Having your girlfriend sleep with your boss on TV—there’s a lot to work with there.
Did you draw on any personal relationships for that?
(laughter) I mean thank God as far as I know that’s never happened to me. But sure of course, you know, you can. Deceit, anger, jealousy—that’s all boiling.
I’m loving the fact that this time around you get to be a little ticked off at Juliette. You’re not always the nice boyfriend. It’s such a relief to see you be human.
It’s nice to get to be kind of angry and all those normal things that even happen in good relationships.
Sasha seems to have stolen the truly mad sexy make-out scenes with Bitsie. I imagine that doesn’t make you feel really good.
In real life? Um… Sasha Roiz is tall, dark and handsome. I’m medium, dark and like, medium.
Oh, you hold your own buddy.
Well thank you. But uh… yeah, he certainly gets the steamy, who is this mysterious man?
You do have your own followers. Is it a little like Edward and that beefy wolf guy, Jacob?
(laughter) No, I could marry any 13-year-old girl that I wanted to right now. I’m on Twitter and I swear to you I could tweet anything and it would be provocative. You know, it could be me commenting on a very serious matter in the United States, or the world, and I just get a bunch of tweets: “Marry me.”, ”Will you marry me?”, “Say hi to Brazil.”
What’s the funniest encounter that you’ve ever had here in Portland?
The weirdest thing—it was so well done in such a Portland, weird way. I was having drinks I think with—I don’t know who, with someone from the cast maybe, Silas or Russell. And we’re inside near a window and somebody just walks to the window with a wolf face on, as if that was their little inside joke. I don’t even know if it was a guy or a girl. I think it was a guy. Just their weird little, obtuse, bizarre way of nodding to us.
A perfect Portland moment, I love that. Have you been spared from the media or people bugging you?
People in Portland are incredibly civil, awesome people. I mean, that’s what I’ve found. There’s just this level of respect here that we’ve all experienced, and we always appreciate the excitement and talking to fans.
Most of your shooting is at night? It’s gotta mess up your biorhythms.
Yeah, a lot of our shooting is at night. I feel like I’m constantly traveling internationally. I feel like I’m—I just have no idea what is happening to me half the time when I’m shooting.
Has that interfered with your ability to date anyone?
I date a girl in LA. I’ve been dating her for a while. But yeah, living here has precluded me from successfully dating—anyone else. (laughter)
I want you to listen closely to the sounds of millions of teenage hearts breaking, David.
There’s still time, there’s still time. Find someone your own age, come on.
So legend has it that you were in a bar when you heard about the casting for Road Rules.
What would you be doing now if you hadn’t had that first break?
Being on Road Rules, which was this strange, fun little lark in college—it introduced me to the fact that there are businesses that support this. There was this total disconnect that this could be a way of life. I feel like I was really interested in the behind the scenes. Like the camera guy we spent every second with. They would kind of tell me how it all works, so that exposed me to the business side. There was five years between that and moving to LA. I moved to Chicago for a little while and did some theatery-type stuff there, and then I drove to LA in 2005 and started studying there some more.
And from what I can gather your LA experience wasn’t one of abject poverty and living on the street. It was like things fell into place very quickly for you.
They did, but I started out smart about it. I studied, primarily. That’s all I did for a while. I didn’t sweat having to get an agent—because that’s a big thing in LA, how to get an agent. There’s no formula. It happens but you can’t freak out about it. And I managed an apartment complex in this part of town called Little Armenia. So I was pretty much the only non-Armenian I knew.
Did you pick up any Armenian while you were there?
Only the names… There’s this Baghdasar Katzourin, and then his downstairs neighbor is Ebrahim, and Aida Ebrahimian.
At some point in your life this is all going to come in very handy. There will be a role and you will be able to say, “I know how to pronounce Armenian names.”
It was great. I didn’t have to pay rent and that kind of helped me through. And then I started working in 2007.
I heard a story where you actually redeemed an 8 buck coupon for an oil change. Are you really that thrifty?
Well it’s funny. I don’t do that anymore, but at that point when that happened I was on Grimm and shooting. They don’t pay you for a little while, you know, it probably takes a month for that to kick in. And actors blow through their seasonal money so quickly. And yes, I was recognized by the guy who was changing my oil and I’m like, “Yeah it’s me, I’m the lead of the series. Also I have this 8 dollar coupon from the back of this receipt, can you please honor it?”
It’s hard to believe a lead actor in a successful NBC series would ever have to scrimp again.
Well don’t get me wrong it’s a good gig, I will say that, and if it lasts everything’s good. But yeah, you know, you make a good amount of money for X amount of years… I mean, that could be it for a very, very long time, so you kind of have to average that out.
I have heard some research that suggests that people love fantasies and fables during recessions. Have you heard that before?
I get it completely. I mean it’s the first form of story that we’re all probably familiar with, these fairy tales. And ultimately, all stories have the same themes—it’s just, what does your hero look like, is he in the fantasy world or is he a cop in the real world or is he a doctor here or is he the everyday man who’s trying to… You know, these stories are all the same thing, they just have different faces right? It’s a great way to escape real life. We all remember getting scared as kids. Those are big imprints in your life and I think people like going back to that.
I watched you descend so many dark stairwells and go into so many dark forests and go into so many impossibly scary places in the Grimm series. Is there anything that you’re doing in your real life where you get that creep up your back, where you think, oh… this is scary?
I try to be fancying myself a brave man, but I’m not. I’m a coward. I just have that thing that everybody has. The, you know, oh God who’s walking behind me? When are they going to shoot me?
It’s real stuff that scares you?
Yeah. I don’t believe in any ghosts or anything like that.
DAVID’S PORTLAND LIFE
Breakfast: Mother’s Bistro
Lunch: Lovejoy Bakers
Dinner: Irving Street Kitchen, and
Threads Count, Leanna NYC, Lizard
Lounge, Frances May
Catching a flick
Living Room Theaters
Best Portland bands
The Shins, and Elliott Smith (1969 – 2003), former Portlander/singer-
songwriter. In LA, David lived on the
same street as Elliott.
Favorite location for Grimm
A forest near Sandy, OR
Last thing read
A Prayer for Owen Meany, The
New Yorker, and The Economist
After a long day
David likes to walk home from the
set… even if he’d driven earlier.
He will just leave his car at
Dealing with the rain
David just ordered
a sun lamp on
Amazon, and he
is increasing his vitamin D