Harry Connick Jr. has come a long way since he worked on the soundtrack for “When Harry Met Sally” in 1989. The singer-turned-actor, who has appeared in blockbusters like “Independence Day,” and on hit TV shows like ‘‘Will & Grace,” is hitting the big screen yet again this month.
In “Dolphin Tale,” the 44-year old New Orleans native plays Dr. Clay Haskett, a veterinarian who helps look after a spunky dolphin who got her tail caught in a crab trap -- and it’s all based on a true story.
Connick spoke to HuffPost Celebrity about working with dolphins, rebuilding his hometown and his secret to having a happy Hollywood marriage.
HuffPost: So you play the kindly vet in “Dolphin Tale.”
Harry Connick Jr.: (Laughs) Yeah. We filmed with the actual dolphin that the story’s about. We were at the same facility where all of that stuff took place. It was pretty cool for us to be there.
HuffPost: You know dolphins are some of the most intelligent creatures.
Connick: I do know that!
HuffPost: Could you tell they were smart when you were filming?
Connick: Yeah, you got the sense that they’re incredibly smart.They have more of a connection with humans than some other animals. It was really neat to interact with [the dolphin.] It was fascinating because she’s not like most dolphins that spend their lives in the wild. She’s been so socialized that her behavior has probably been modified.
HuffPost: Don’t you think that’s a little bit sad?
Connick: No, because she was in an accident and wouldn’t have survived, so it’s either her being dead or modified. I don’t think she’s been modified in a bad way.
HuffPost: Does the movie put you off going to places like SeaWorld?
Connick: No, I think everything I’ve ever learned about those kinds of animals have been at places like SeaWorld. I know a lot of people are upset at those kinds of institutions and do their best to try to free the animals. I’m not as invested and I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion one way or the other.
HuffPost: How is the rebuilding of New Orleans going?
Connick: I think it has surpassed anything anybody thought. When you look at the cumulative efforts of everybody involved, it’s a miracle how much they’ve been able to get done, how much the city has rebounded. It’s been a great rebirth for that amazing city. I was there the day after the flood. It was terrible -- you can’t even imagine how that much devastation could not completely destroy a city -- but not only did we get through it, we prospered and that’s a testament to the spirit of those people.
HuffPost: You have three daughters. Are you going to be super strict when it comes to dating? Will they live in a convent until they’re 30?
Connick: No, that’s an old school way of doing it. I think [dating] is a natural part of life. Hopefully they’ll make good decisions. There is other stuff to worry about, cancer and things like that. I’ve got three healthy kids. I’m not worried about anything.
HuffPost: You’ve been married close to 20 years [to model Jill Goodacre] which is really 300 in Hollywood years. What’s your secret?
Connick: I think it’s different for everybody but I love my wife and I know she loves me. We’re best friends. We’re just lucky to have found each other. It takes a lot of work but I just feel very blessed that I found the right person. It’s a very fortunate situation and not everyone has that.
HuffPost: Do you play the piano every day?
Connick: No I don’t.
HuffPost: If I was your friend and had you over for dinner, I’d make you play piano. Does that ever happen?
Connick: Usually the friends I hang out with don’t ask me to do that. That’s probably why they’re my friends. It depends on the situation, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
HuffPost: So it doesn’t bother you when people ask?
Connick: No, not at all.
HuffPost: Because I definitely would.
Connick: I’ll play at your house.
HuffPost: Aw, thanks. Not that you’re coming anytime soon, but I appreciate the offer. It’s amazing how you started as a pianist and singer and segued pretty effortlessly into acting.
Connick: Well there is a little bit of effort in that you have to read scripts and audition and develop relationships. It takes a long time to develop a body of work but over the last 25 years I guess I’ve done that many movies. In hindsight it may seem effortless, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.
HuffPost: What’s the one role you missed out on that you really wanted?
Connick: It’s funny, you audition for things and sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t. Nothing really comes to mind. It’s not like there’s a classic thing that I didn’t get that turned into a huge blockbuster. I don’t really think of it like that.
HuffPost: So what you’re telling me is you didn’t audition for “Titanic.”
Connick: (Laughs) No I did not.
“Dolphin Tale” hits theaters Sept. 23.
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