I was cast as the male swing in Off-Broadway’s My Big Gay Italian Wedding, which meant that I understudied most of the men in the show and could go on at a moment’s notice. It was my big break in NYC! I earned my Actors’ Equity Card and joined the union! Life was great!
MBGIW was my first taste of professional work. The director of the show, Sonia Blangiardo, was also a soap opera director and was working on All My Children and One Life to Live, which were shooting in Stamford, CT at the time. She took a liking to me and offered me the opportunity to audition for a new lead on AMC.
I had never auditioned for something that enormous before and now I’m going to be considered as a lead?! I only had a few indie films and a handful of local commercials under my belt at the time. Much to my surprise, I learned that a “big” audition is exactly the same as a “small” audition in format and awkwardness. I didn’t land the lead role, but I was offered a co-star role of a “reporter” with the possibility of appearing in more episodes. Here I was, 23 years old, new to NYC, and I had already gotten a co-star role on a huge TV show. A few weeks later they called me back in for another episode. Again, it seemed like nothing could stop me.
At this point, I would like to mention that I had a survival job selling merchandise at Broadway shows. My acting career was moving along quickly, but even at the pace it was going, I still needed to pay the bills. Selling merchandise was a flexible, easy job that I could leave whenever for acting work and, because it didn’t pay much, I could stay focused on the task at hand: auditioning, booking, working.
After about eight months, I was moved into the villain role in MBGIW and remained there for another ten months. The director had been creating a new series called Tainted Dreams and asked several of us to be involved. I landed a recurring role and also did the continuity and set decorating for the entire series. I was in the cast and the crew, something I had never done at the same time, and it was quite eye-opening to see how a series gets created from both perspectives. We shot the whole series over two exhausting weeks and, after a few years, it was finally accepted at Amazon and is available to stream.
At this point, I had a pretty great resume for a young, fresh out of college actor. Off-Broadway? Check. Recurring in two television series? Check. Something was missing, though. I was still getting the majority of my auditions by myself, but there was a ceiling: I couldn’t break through to get the HUGE auditions. How did people get in the casting offices for big film and TV? What I needed now was representation.