Driver Off Day: Austin Dillon Goes Hollywood

A “day off” is rare for Austin Dillon due to his interests and ambitions in the sport and away from the track. Following #NASCARGOESWEST, the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet extended his West Coast swing by two days for the chance to work on his acting career, playing Wayne Cirito in the medical procedural Rosewood on Fox (Friday, April 28 at 8 p.m. EDT).

If you’re wondering how Dillon spent his extra time out West, read below:

MONDAY: RELAXATION

Austin Dillon wakes up leisurely without an alarm clock. While the West Coast swing is officially over, Dillon has extended his trip an extra two days in order to make a guest appearance on the FOX medical procedural Rosewood.

The first order of business is a driver debrief. Dillon fills out meticulous notes related to his most recent race at Auto Club Speedway and provides them to his crew chief and team engineers. Normally, Dillon is in the race shop in Welcome, North Carolina, on Monday morning to recap Sunday’s race and make plans for the next week’s race, but with the West Coast trip extended, the driver debrief document is even more important. He will also head to RCR for a meeting with his team as soon as he lands on Wednesday, with numerous phone calls and text messages to his team until then.

Next, it is off to the hotel gym, where Dillon hits the treadmill for a quick, 30-minute sprint, followed by a weight lifting session and some core work. “When I’m at home, I like to do Crossfit-style workouts,” explains Dillon, who typically trains with his pit crew and stays active by playing sports.

Post workout, Dillon chills poolside, enjoying the still crisp but sunny California sunshine. He catches up on phone calls with some of the most important people in his life, including his fiancé Whitney Ward and the competition department at RCR: his crew chief Slugger Labbe, team engineers, and his father, Mike Dillon. He also spends a few minutes practicing his lines for his upcoming role on Rosewood.

After the pool, Dillon goes back to his room for a quick shower before heading to the lobby of the hotel, where he catches a cab to nearby Hermosa Beach for lunch. On the menu today: roasted Brussels sprouts and fish tacos from Hennessey’s Tavern.

From Hennessey’s, it is just a short walk to the pier, where Dillon finds his own version of heaven: row after row of beach volleyball courts. It’s pretty quiet on a Monday afternoon, but he walks along the sandy beach long enough to find a group mid-game and asks them if he can join in. Dillon, it seems, has never met a stranger. Despite language barriers, they oblige.

Dillon Off Day
An avid volleyball player, Dillon was happy to find row after row of nets along the beach.

Following volleyball, Dillon does some shopping at a few of the surf shops in Hermosa Beach before taking an Uber back to his hotel in Manhattan Beach. It’s time for another shower after all of that volleyball.

The rest of the afternoon is spent playing golf. There’s a short, nine-hole course behind the hotel. In between each round, Dillon practices his lines for Rosewood. It’s a fairly significant role for a guest appearance and Dillon has only been in one other television drama: he played himself on the ABC show “Nashville” in 2014.

Misery loves company, so Dillon uses technology to enlist help from friends to perfect his lines. He FaceTimes Whitney and his roommate (and No. 13 crew member) Paul Swan to help act out every scene of his role.

Dillon takes a rare nap before dinner. “Mostly, I was bored,” he explained. “I never take naps. Everyone who knows me, knows I never slow down. I just ran out of things to do.”

It’s a short walk to P.F. Chang’s for dinner, where Dillon orders a Spicy Tuna Roll and Beef Lo Mein.

After dinner, Dillon calls Whitney to tell her goodnight. It’s an early bedtime for him. He has a 6 a.m. wake-up call in order to make it on the set of Rosewood. Tuesday consists of a 16-hour production day, followed by a 5.5-hour red-eye flight home to North Carolina.

TUESDAY: ROSEWOOD FILMING

A sprinter van is waiting in the hotel lobby at 6:45 a.m. to take Dillon to the set of Rosewood. Even though his flight back to North Carolina isn’t until 10:45 p.m., Dillon is told to bring his luggage with him since production days tend to run long and he might not make it back to the hotel.

As soon as he makes it to set, Dillon meets with a costume designer who goes over wardrobe options. There are two of everything since he has a stunt driver for a few of the scenes that he appears in. Twinsies!

From there, Dillon heads to the makeup trailer. For his role, the makeup artists are told to make Dillon look a little bit rough. They even put dirt on his shirt and skin and give him fake tattoos.

Off Day Dillon
Austin Dillon poses with “Rosewood” actors Jaina Lee Ortiz and Morris Chestnut.

Dillon has his own trailer, labeled with his television character’s name on the door, but he doesn’t get to spend much time there. The show’s writer, Todd, has decided to add Dillon to an extra scene. Off to the set he goes. Dillon is instructed to drive an older model Chevrolet Impala slowly down a driveway.

Dillon is introduced to Capt. Ira Hornstock, aka Dominick Lombardozzi. “Dom was really, really great,” explained Dillon. “He went over my lines with me and really made me feel at ease. He gave me a lot of pointers. He’s so good at what he does and told me to put emotion into it. The entire cast and crew was great. I can’t say enough about all of them.”

The next part of the day focuses on fun stuff. Cars blowing up. Shootouts. Action shots. “That really loosened me up and made me less nervous about my lines and trying to remember them. It was really fun to watch that stuff.”

Always one to promote the sport, Dillon chats with local and national media between takes to explain how NASCAR fits into the Hollywood and entertainment scene, and to help promote a few upcoming races.

Dillon Off Day
Austin Dillon talks with local media about how NASCAR fits into the Hollywood scene.

During the lunch break, Dillon has more time to chat with the cast. “It was fun to learn about their careers and to teach them a little about NASCAR. I gained a new respect for acting. What they do is amazing.”

Post-lunch, the shooting location moves from a parking garage to an abandoned mall in Hawthorne, California. Closed to the public since 1999, it’s been a popular location for movies, including “Gone Girl,” “Evolution,” “Minority Report,” “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift” and “The Green Hornet.” It’s dark, dusty and musty inside. The crew is given masks to wear to help prevent breathing in too much dust.

Dillon watches the rest of the cast before it is his turn to film again. “It was amazing to watch Morris Chestnut (Dr. Beaumont Rosewood), Jaina Lee Ortiz (Detective Villa) and Dominick Lombardozzi (Capt. Ira Hornstock) work together,” said Dillon. “They really know their stuff.”

Dillon’s biggest scene comes towards the end of the day. He rehearses with Morris, Domenick and the show’s director, Deran, for several takes before the cameras start rolling. His scene is filmed several times from various angles before wrapping.

From there, it’s a red eye flight back to North Carolina and life as a NASCAR driver resumes as normal.

Curious if Dillon perfected his lines on Rosewood? Watch him in the season finale on April 28 at 8 p.m. EDT on FOX.