Actor and Chicago native Colin Egglesfield will be back in Chicago this weekend to participate in the ITU World Triathlon, taking place along the lakefront. The “Rizzoli & Isles” star called to chat about how he got into marathons and triathlons, his popular TV show and how he uses a T-shirt company to support the charity causes he loves.
Q: You’re coming to town to participate in the ITU World Triathlon this weekend. How many triathlons have you done?
A: This is number three for me, but it’s my first Olympic distance triathlon.
Q: The fifth season of “Rizzoli & Isles” has just begun. What do you love best about being on the show?
A: It’s so amazing how well the show has been doing. It amazes me that people recognize me from that particular show. I love my character because he’s a lovable screw-up. He’s unlike any other character I’ve played before. There’s not many times in this business where you get to run over a priest while you were drunk-driving — then you get out of jail, and you get your father’s fiancée pregnant! Then there’s the issue of not really knowing who the baby’s father is. Plus I’m able to work with two of the most beautiful women in Hollywood [Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander] is not hard to take. Plus when your mom is Lorraine Bracco, it’s kind of a dream role.
Q: Any anecdotes about Lorraine Bracco?
A: Toward the end of last season, Joe Torre, the ex-Yankees manager visited the set, because he and Lorraine, apparently, are very good friends. I don’t really get star-struck about actors, but when it comes to athletes I’m like a little kid. So, when Joe came to the set, Lorraine went to introduce me, and I said, ‘You don’t need to tell me who this is! I know who he is!’
So, I got to meet him. After he left, I went back to my dressing room and she was able to get an autographed baseball for me from him. That’s the kind of thoughtful person Lorraine is.
Q: Talk about how you use your participation in triathlons and marathons to raise funds for charities you care about.
A: Let me tell you, when you’re on mile 15 on the bike in a triathlon and your leg starts cramping up, and you think about the kids who are in St. Jude’s Hospital or L.A. Children’s Hospital or you think about all the kids dealing with all these diseases, it gives you the inspiration to keep going. There’s not one of us who has not bee affected by some sort of cancer challenge. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, my dad just had prostate cancer surgery. … To be able to contribute or help out in some way, is a wonderful thing.
Q: You’re from Chicago — do you still have family here?
A: Yes, my brother lives up near Wrigley Field with his wife and two kids. He’s doing the triathlon with me. He’s the reason why I got into triathlons. He’s my younger brother, Sean, and he’s always trying to one-up me. In high school, we went to Marion Catholic High School in Chicago Heights. My football team was pretty good, and I set a bunch of personal football records. Then he came along four years later and broke all of them except one, and they won the state championship. So, we’re always trying to outdo each other.
Once he told me he was doing all these triathlons, I had to do it. I had been doing marathons, but had never thought about doing triathlons, because they kind of scared me to be honest with you. I’m not a good swimmer and I had never biked that much, but once I got into it a little bit, I realized it was fun. Plus any opportunity to beat my little brother, I’m game.
Q; You mentioned you’re not a great swimmer. Is that the hardest part of doing a triathlon for you?
A: Yes. You got the wetsuit on and the goggles and you feel claustrophobic — and the people are all around you, kicking and punching. I got punched in the jaw during my last triathlon. Things get kind of hectic and crazy in the beginning, but once you get out of the water and on the bike, you feel like a rocket ship on a launch.
Q: Have you ever run the Chicago Marathon? How many marathons have you run?
A: I’ve run the Chicago Marathon three times. I’ve done six altogether. Along with Chicago, I’ve done New York’s once, San Diego’s once, and I did Los Angeles’ last year.
My sister Kerry is the one who got me running marathons. She had been watching Oprah Winfrey’s show, and she saw this special where Oprah had run one. That inspired her to want to do it, and she said, “Want to do it, with me?” Now, the most athletic thing my sister had ever done was be a cheerleader. Not that doing cheerleading is not athletic, but I had never pictured her running 26 miles! So, once she said she was going to do it with her husband, I told her I had to try.
Q: What else do you have coming up, besides “Rizzoli & Isles”?
A: I just finished an independent film, called “The Night Before.” I play a guy whose best friend is getting married, so I throw him a bachelor party to reconsider. I worked with Fred Willard, who’s a comedic genius. You could listen to him read the dictionary and it would be funny!
I’m also have an episode of “Unforgettable” that’s going to be airing on July 17th on CBS, and then I’m working on producing a World War II love story right now. That I’ve been working on with the producer of [my film] “Something Borrowed.”
Q: I know you have a T-shirt company. What’s that all about?
A: Yeah, it’s called Shout Out! The whole concept is the shirts come with Velcro letters so you can create your own message — and shout out, whatever it is you want to say. Whether it’s like birthdays or charity events or sporting events, it all works. [My brother] Sean and I have worn Shout Out! shirts to Cubs games and put the score of the game on the shirt as it was going on! You can buy them online at shoutoutclothing.com. Right now, we’re just doing shirts for kids, but we hope to be doing the adult ones again soon.
They also have provided a platform for me to be an advocate for various causes I really believe in, like education, and empowering kids to achieve what they are capable of achieving.
We have a link on our Shout Out! website where people can donate to various good causes. It allows me to feel like I’m making a difference.
This weekend we’re going to donate proceeds to Ryan Dempster’s Foundation. Through July 15, 10 percent of the proceeds of the sales of the T-shirts will go to Ryan’s family’s foundation’s programs to fight the illness his daughter has, a disease known as 22q.