VINCENT PIAZZA: OPEN TO THE JOURNEY
Imagista managed to catch up with the ever thoughtful, modest, and generous Vincent Piazza on the eve of the launch of his latest film, The Wannabe.
Vincent co-stars with Patricia Arquette and plays…well…a wannabe mobster with delusions of mobster glory.
Imagista: So you’ve got a new movie coming out? Tomorrow right? Can you tell us a little bit about the project? (Note: interview date was 12/03/15)
Vincent Piazza:: Yeah sure. It’s a little film called The Wannabe and it was something I started working on a few years back with writer/director Nick Sandow and we co-developed the material. We both really wanted to make a smaller gritty little indie film together and we in pursuit of something. We’re both very familiar with the mob genre and it felt like the film presented an opportunity to maybe say something new and different. We also wanted to give it a unique look and feel as well as the story itself.
The story was actually inspired by a real life couple. My character, Thomas, has this diluted fantasy of being part of the mob but with no real access or wherewithal to be in the mob. And his partner Rose, played by Patricia Arquette, both enable each other down this dark maze of a road.
The story takes us on this really exciting ride and there’s some humor in there as well. It feels like a really well balanced piece.
Imagista: Had you worked with Patricia Arquette prior to this project?
Vincent Piazza: This was our first time working together. She was wonderful. I was shooting Jersey Boys in LA while Nick and I were preparing for this so she and I were able to prepare for the piece before getting to set which really helped a lot. She was a total joy to work with.
Imagista: How was it working Nick as a director? Were you guys friends before developing this piece together?
Vincent Piazza: We met over this project actually and formed a relationship around it. He’s a really interesting guy and had this wonderful idea and we were able to collaborate on it.
Nick himself is an actor which I felt really helped. I think actors often make the best directors because there’s an understanding there and kind of a language that we speak.
Imagista: How did you get into acting in the first place?
Vincent Piazza: It was really a series of odd events that led me to acting. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with myself in my early twenties. I was actually working on Wall Street in finance. I worked with an older guy in the that business who was really my mentor in that business. He’d kinda tease me saying I was wasting my time in that business, “you really should be an actor”, he’d say. I was kind of the office clown and he saw that in me.
Tragically he suddenly passed away. His death and passing left a deep mark on me and made me question my life. I thought “maybe I’m not happy with what I’m doing. Maybe I should try the acting thing”. So I tried it and I never went back.
Imagista: That’s a huge leap to make: finance to acting, so how did you manage to successfully make that transition? I hate to say describe it as luck…
Vincent Piazza: No but there is a big element of luck to it. Looking back on it I see the audacity of my decision. There was really no reason for me being drawn to acting. There’s no one in my family in acting or in the arts. There was no sense of it being logically viable. I was basically feeling around this dark room. It was definitely something that was pretty nervy of me to do.
Imagista: In terms of the scope of work that you’ve done to date which ones have given you the greatest sense of satisfaction?
Vincent Piazza: Every time you go on set no matter what the level of experience the other actors have it’s always an education. Some jobs have been greater education than others.
For example working on Boardwalk Empire certainly taught me a lot and gave me the reach that I needed. I got to work with incredible people, learned a lot about endurance and how long you could stick with an idea.
Imagista: How would contrast working on a series like Boardwalk, which you did for five years/seasons versus say a film like The Wannabe?
Vincent Piazza: So many of the stories I like these days happen on TV. The problem with TV for an actor though is working without an end and the incredible amount of surrender you must have to the writers, the show runners and the people behind it to help you navigate this journey.
There’s a lot required in that even when you are in incredibly good hands which I was with Boardwalk. Playing a historical figure, like I did on Boardwalk helped somewhat because I knew my character would live and rise. I can only imagine what it must be to play a fictional character.
With movies you have an end. You have an arc. You able to tell a concise story in a couple of hours. There’s that journey that’s also challenging but there’s also a little more to grab onto (with movies) in your choices. You can perhaps make stronger, more confident choices knowing that they will pay off or at least lead to something. Whereas you might be tempted to make a big choice on television but it can be risky because you’re not quite sure if it’s going to go that way (laughs).
Imagista: Who would you site as your greatest influencers on your career?
Vincent Piazza: My acting coach Alice Stevack is like a second mother to me. She’s reared me since day one and I still work with her today. She’s been so nurturing of my work and how I’m taking to things. We’ve been working together for fifteen years now. She’s been a tremendous influence on my and has helped me to keep my head and my heart in the right place. She’s been a wonderful guiding force for me.
On the creative side I don’t really particularly hand it over to one person or one thing in terms of my influences. Any time I work on something I kind of explore the genre. There are so many talented actors and director out there. You’ve got your Brando’s, De Niro’s, Pacino’s but you also have this British phenomenon. These guys are wonderful actors that are inspiring.
I like art begetting more art and driving us forward. So it depends on what I’m working on but I always keeping my eyes out for influence and things that inspire me. I think it’s important to keep it wide and to keep an open mind.