Can you hear him now?

By Jane Larkworthy

Paul Marcarelli shares the same predicament as Adam Scott’s character Henry in the television show Party Down. He’s a trained, serious actor whose work has appeared on stage and in film, but he’ll likely be most remembered for one straightforward yet unrelentingly catchy phrase: “Can you hear me now?”

Yes, he was that guy.

“I’ve always been convinced they modeled that character after me,” muses Marcarelli, whose tenure with Verizon earned the kind of recognition Henry faces in the show: people always asking him to do the line. “I think the consensus was, ‘What a tragedy. This person had aspirations that were far beyond this one character.’”

It’s true that Marcarelli’s talents are far greater than the role of “test man” he played for nearly a decade. He wrote and produced the feature film Clutter, which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2013. It was nominated for the New American Cinema Award, The Women Film Critics Circle Award and won best feature at Harlem International Film Festival. His 2011 film The Green similarly went on to win several best feature awards and dozens of other honors. 

“But the reality is, as Mad Men’s Don Draper said, ‘That’s what the money is for.’ I have a fantastic life that working in commercials has afforded me,” he says. A lot of that fantastic life now takes place on the sprawling Litchfield, CT farm he shares with husband, chef Ryan Brown. The two have taken a tucked-away 14 acres and blessed it with four green thumbs.

“Ryan came to gardening long before I did, but he’s now far surpassed my ability,” Marcarelli says. “Last winter, he’d started about 1,000 seeds in the basement. Now we’re planning what to do in the winter for what we want in the spring. Eventually, we’re going to end up with one of those places that’s so totally landscaped, no one will want to buy it because it involves so much work!”

Don’t get me wrong, Marcarelli’s still in the Hollywood game. The on-going actors’ and writers’ strikes have put a hold on his current project and all else for now, but he still auditions for voiceovers, commercials, video games, cartoons. He just keeps it close to the homestead now. “Basically, anything I can audition for from my home studio,” he says.

What should a neophyte gardener plant in the fall?

This is the best time to plant just about everything—everything that you want to come back year after year after year. Early fall is a great time to plant shrubs—I like to start with either a fence or a wall, rather than just plopping down a shrub or a plant anywhere. The best thing to do is go to your friends’ gardens and ask if you can borrow a little chunk of something, like phlox. Everyone is always trying to give away phlox. Irises are also great, as is gayfeather—it’s hearty and puts on an amazing purple display year after year. I also love Brazilian verbena. It’s this tiny delicate flower and it self-sows all over your garden. And if it lands in front of smaller plants, it’s transparent so you can see through it. And hydrangeas are a must in New England.

Favorite nursery?

We take almost daily trips to Litchfield Hills Nursery. The staff is super helpful and knowledgeable, and they have a great selection. They feel like our gardening buddies.

Gardening attire?

Whatever I woke up in. It’s the only place you’ll find me shirtless if it’s hot out.

Who does the weeding?

Ryan and I both do it. No one weeds your garden as well as you do.

Do you protect anything for winter?

No. I used to tent boxwoods, but now, if it can’t survive and provide appealing color and/or structure during the bleak months, we don’t plant it.

Any big fails?

We planted 40 copper beech last fall to create hedges. I think we made a rookie mistake and dug too deep, so the beds collected water, froze and killed the roots. Only one took.


Jane Says: Stay Outside

As it begins to get cooler, these go-tos are flexible with the seasons.

Rich, but not too… Henne Hand Cream feels luxurious, sinks in quickly and I love its citrus scent.

Wrap it up The Great Novelty Cardigan is like wearing a light blanket. Keep it loose or tie it close when temps drop.

Like butter…but not Beauty Thinkers Nourishing Face Moisturizer may be olive oil-based, but its texture is butter-smooth.

To cover and protect Iris and Romeo Best Skin Days SPF 30 evens skin tone, protects against the sun’s rays and imparts a lovely dewy finish.

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