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Known Aliases: Eli, The Duke of Ely

30 May 2012

Today, folks, I’m happy to welcome actor and producer Gerard Marzilli to the blog! In addition to being the lead in The Starmind Record and one of the principal cast in Quantum Theory, Gerard is a hell of an interesting and funny guy, as you’ll find out below!

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Shawn: Tell us your secret origin story. Where did Gerard Marzilli come from?

Gerard: Whoa! Secret origins! Well, okay but Geoff Johns really should be writing this, he’d make it much more exciting! Here goes: I grew up in the biggest little state in the Union, Rhode Island. For most of my years there I lived in Warwick, hometown of James Woods and adjacent to the town of East Greenwich, hometown of Debra Messing. Weird, huh? Lots of famous folks and lots of British sounding towns in such a small place! I lived there for 18 years with my parents and two younger brothers.

S: How did you get into acting?

I watched a lot of those “making of” specials as a kid and they really got me interested in acting and the process of making movies. It just seemed like Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg were having a great time making “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and I wanted in! I started taking acting classes at about 5 or 6 and going to see shows with my folks at the local Equity theatre in Providence, Trinity Rep. At 8 I read an article in which a child cast in “A Christmas Carol” at Trinity Rep mentioned that she was paid $100 a show. Being an enterprising little capitalist I thought “No way! $100??!! No wonder actors are so rich!! Where do I sign?!” I promptly called the theatre and made an appointment for an audition. I then announced to my parents that I had an audition they had to take me to! They were very surprised but very supportive! I didn’t get that job, but after auditioning a few more times, I worked my way into local theatre and stayed there until I went off to study Theatre and Film at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. I moved out to LA 10 years ago to pursue acting and have been making a living with it for about 5 years now.

S: Let’s talk about The Starmind Record. I’m not going to give away anything plotwise (go watch it, people!), but you play an essentially normal guy reacting to an extremely abnormal situation. I remember from several sub-par acting classes that acting “normal” is much harder than it looks. How did you get into Eli’s head?

G: With any character that you are cast as, there is always an element of you that is in there. That is what attracts actors to certain roles and that is why you are cast in any given role. You spot that piece of you in that character and say “Ah, I get this person!” Sometimes a character has a large piece of you and sometimes a very small piece. Part of an actor’s job is to take that piece and extrapolate it out until they can follow the journey and see what it is they have to become in order to do justice to the role. For instance, we are all capable of murder, it just would take a tremendous amount of stress or trauma before most folks would actually kill anyone. With Eli, I see a guy who is much like me, ambitious, driven, he lives and works Los Angeles in the entertainment industry and has big dreams. He is just a bit more selfish and less concerned with the safety of others. He’s not so reticent of risking other people in order to achieve his goals.

S: Richard III. How did you get involved? Is Danny Trejo as terrifying and awesome as he seems?

G: I met the casting director for that show in a workshop and read a couple of the scenes for her. She then brought me in for the director and he liked me and cast me as The Bishop of Ely! It was such a fun experience! Here I was, performing with not only Danny Trejo but David Carradine and Steven Williams (of 21 Jump St. fame). These were folks who I grew up admiring and watching on TV! I was a young actor who felt a bit nervous and in over my head and was playing a young priest who was in the middle of a very dangerous power game and was definitely over his head! So, yeah, it was pretty easy! Danny Trejo was awesome and not the least bit terrifying! My first day with the cast he shook my hand and said “Hey, I’m Danny! Man, you look pretty familiar, have we met?” and I said “Yeah, you look pretty familiar too.” He thought for a bit and said “hmmm, were you in prison?” I mean seriously, what’s a radder icebreaker than that?!

S: You’ve done theatre, film, and television. Which do you prefer most? And why?

G: You know, they’re like children that I love individually for their own unique reasons. Theatre is a beautiful experience where every night is different and you get to live the experience all the way through each show. When you have a really great show and the audience is going crazy, it’s like being a rockstar! It’s also a serious acting workout. You rehearse more, you work harder. There are no cuts, no second or third take. I wouldn’t take any actor seriously if they’ve never done any theatre — I’m sorry, but that’s just the truth. It makes you a better and deeper actor in ways that film never will.

At the same time, film is what got me into acting. It’s magical and like fighting a small war. It’s very cut up. You’ll do a bit of the scene, cut, do a bit more, cut. There is no through line like in theatre and it’s often shot out of order so you always have to be cognizant of where your character is at in their development. Sometimes you don’t even have the other actor off camera to say your lines to! The advantages are that film is like a “best of” performance wise. In theatre, when you have a great moment, it’ll never happen that way again. In film, you can take all of those great moments, cut them together and have them forever. Television is much the same but much quicker, they have a lot of material to get through in not a whole lot of time. I admire any regular on a TV show because they work their tails off!

S: Tell us a little about the upcoming Quantum Theory film. What’s your role, and, without giving too much away, what’s the story about?

G: In addition to serving as a producer on the film, I’m also playing the role of Lee Fisher. The story is about a team of scientists, two women and a man, who create a technology that allows the user to alter reality with the power of their minds. When that tech is stolen by an evil defense contractor, the team must use all of their smarts (and sassiness!) to steal it back. Problem is, the bad guys keep changing reality around on them! Lee Fisher comes along early in the first act and offers to fund the team’s research on a small scale. He also becomes romantically involved with one of the scientists, Chelsea, however he may not be all he seems…and you can torture me all you want but that’s all you’ll get out of me!!

S: You’ve also acted as a producer a couple of times, and on films where you’ve also acted. How is the work balanced there? When do you sleep?

G: Um…sleep? What’s that? I take 3 or 4 hour naps! Seriously though, you just learn where and when to rest and how to build up the tolerance. It’s like working out, start small and keep adding weight. Through studying martial arts, I learned to take rest, then punch hard.

Some weeks are just killer! You often have to look around and say, ok, I know I need sleep, but I have a lot to do? What absolutely needs to get done now? What can wait? Also, I believe that every actor needs to produce their own work. It’ll put the control in your hands and let you determine your career. Some folks come into this business and doors just open up immediately for them. Most of us have to work our tails off and scream at the top of our lungs until someone finally notices us and gets who we are. If you spend your life waiting for permission from your agent, your manager or some studio, chances are… you’ll spend your life waiting.

S: Well, shit. It looks like the world ended while we were talking. I knew we never should have let France develop the bomb — we could only make fun of them for so long. The world is now a desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland that looks shockingly like the Aussie desert. In fact, the world now rather resembles the Australian documentary The Road Warrior. The Great Humungous is scouring the land for hockey-mask polish as we speak. How do you plan to survive this anarchist wasteland? What do you take with you, and who do you team up with?

Don’t worry. He’s friendly.

G: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! You mean the Lord Humungous? The Warrior of the Wasteland? The Ayatollah of Rock-n-rolla??!! Well, sir I’m grabbing my assless leather chaps and joining up right away! That guy knows the score! Alright, Humungous would probably eat, kill and rape me…in that order…and that’s a compliment to me! So in lieu of joining Wez and the rest of the Dogs of War, I’ll probably join up with Tenny and his post apocalyptic theatre group and perform for communities. I guess I’d just keep trying to make theatre and make money. I’m pretty good at coming out on top in a crappy situation. My parents once said when I was a kid that they could drop me off anywhere and I’d probably find my way home. But what do they know? They only tried that like, twice!

Note: I did get geek-schooled here. It is the Lord Humungous, not the Great Humungous.

S: Well, that’s the end of the world sorted, then. What’s the best part of your job? The worst?

Best part of the job? Getting paid to play make believe! I think it’s much the same for athletes, we both are very fortunate to spend all day every day doing what is essentially a kids game. I get to be anyone I want and in the process, I learn a lot about people and people fascinate me intensely!

The worst part? The grind of self promotion and getting there. We grow up being taught in America that if you keep working hard and you are talented, you will reach the top. In entertainment, that’s only half the battle, you also constantly have to shift, change and outflank with a new idea to get your work out there. There will always be another level to reach and you’ll never learn everything. I’m sure even George Clooney and Brad Pitt have their days of dissatisfaction. At the same time, there is always something to strive for so I guess it’s a win-win!

S: What’s a film that really inspires you? How about an actor? A filmmaker?

G: I’d say my top 3 are:

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Director George A. Romero tore a gaping hole in the industry by producing a film outside of Hollywood that became a hit and a classic! And he did it all with great ideas and hard work. That is a guy who never waits for permission, EVER!

Phantom of The Opera (1925) – Lon Chaney’s performance was seminal in my development and his characters inspired me from the time I understood what a TV was. That guy is acting on a different level than any one else in the film. If you haven’t seen it, do so right NOW!

Citizen Kane (1941) – What Orson Welles did with not only this beautiful film, but with his work in radio and theatre with his Mercury Theatre ensemble is an inspiration to any entrepreneur. And he was doing it all at 23 and 24! It is truly humbling.

S: Anything you want to add?

I’d just say to any aspiring actors and filmmakers, again, never ask for permission! Do it! In any way you can! Do it in your basement, in your back yard, with your flip cams and your iMovie software and put it on youtube. With youtube and sites like it, we have the chance to pitch a show, every day!

Also, come post your work on http://www.8sidedforum.com/! If you’re new to L.A. or thinking of coming, chat us up! I’m always willing to go out for coffee and offer folks advice! And we love meeting new actors and filmmakers!

And, check out our Quantum Theory promotional video at http://www.indiegogo.com/quantummovie and tell your friends!!

Finally, thank you very much for speaking to me Shawn!

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