In the name of time that never seems to be enough, in honor of those who make the most out of it: watching the series “The Ignorant Angels” by Ferzan Özpetek, no matter if it is all in one go or well-dosed and savored, it’s a beautiful way to fill our days, with stories, characters, examples of humanity and relationships that make us think, move, learn. Edoardo Purgatori is the perfect person with whom to spend time discussing life, passion, the value of genuineness on and off set, and in “The Ignorant Angels”, where he plays the young banker Riccardo.
Currently available on Disney+, the series based on the cult 2001 movie “The Ignorant Fairies,” directed by the same Italian-Turkish director, is a “revolution,” to quote Edoardo, who’s had the chance to breathe that very revolution from inside the walls of the angels’ house, wearing the shoes of one of the “socially outcast” protagonists of the story. Not too far, but also not too anachronistically close to the movie, episode after episode the story evolves, fills up with and empties out of relationships, dialogues, and details, revolving around the heart of the world: humanity and the love for life.
Edoardo told us about his own position, his multi-annual experience of collaboration with Ferzan, and a few personal anecdotes, in an inspiring chat all focused on the beauty of cinema and the importance of fueling our passions.
You’re a son of artists, your mom is an actress and your dad is a screenwriter, so you must have several cinema memories. What’s the first one that comes to your mind?
Since I was a child, I’ve had the habit of going to the movies with my dad every Sunday, and with my mom, I would go to the theater. I also remember that, when my brother, my sister and I would get back home, my mom would give us those very first cameras, the ones with tapes in them, and we would record everything we’d see; for example, after watching “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars,” “007,” we would re-make our small noir films. So, I literally grew up with a passion for that world.
Among your latest projects, there’s the TV series “The Ignorant Angels” (“Le fate ignoranti”) by Ferzan Özpetek, currently available on Disney+. Is there any particular aspect of the project that made you want to take part in it?
First and foremost, it’s been an honor and a pleasure because the movie on which the series is based is a cult, a film that marked a whole generation. When I met Ferzan as a director, his first two movies, which are also the ones that struck me the most, “Hamam” and “The Ignorant Fairies,” have immediately given me a passion for Ferzan as a person and for his world, the one he tells, so it was very easy to say yes to his new work! [laughs]
The beautiful thing about this project is the fact that you can be with Ferzan and all the people who habit his world, and for a long time because if you’re shooting a movie, you’re on the set for one month or something, if you’re filming a show, you’re on the set for four months, so the experience becomes really a wonderful exchange on a human level.
Besides the series “The Ignorant Angels,” you starred in Özpetek’s “The Goddess of Fortune” and in the theater adaptation of “Loose Cannons,” so, as you mentioned, it’s not the first time you two work together. How did this relationship originate and how has it developed over time?
I did my first audition – which is never really an audition when it comes to Ferzan: it’s a meeting where you just chitchat, so you never know If what you’re saying is right or wrong – for “The Goddess of Fortune” because casting director Pino Pellegrino came to see a theater show I was playing in about a homosexual soccer player hiding his homosexuality from the world of soccer, and he told me: “Look, I think that, for your age and the part you played, and because you were really good, you should meet Ferzan.” Then, it’s a numbers game because, when you go meet him, he asks you questions of any kind, and anything you say could be right or wrong, so you’d better be genuine and honest without trying to kiss asses and be who you’re not. Which is the hardest part. When I got the phone call, it was a moment that marked my career.
Many people say that there’s a “before” and an “after Ferzan.” I was lucky enough to work a lot with him in the last three years, and I owe him so much, he’s become not only someone I love deeply, from a human point of view, but also a sort of mentor because when you work of four/five projects together (we’ve also done a few ad spots together), it becomes a very beautiful human exchange.
I’ve learned a lot and keep learning a lot from him, working with him is a dream for me because Ferzan provides you with all the elements to express yourself in the best way, without guiding you in an excessive way, and that’s precisely what allows you to give your best. He trusts me a lot, we’re on the same page by now, if there’s something wrong, it’s a game of glances, and it’s something that I love, it means there’s huge chemistry and real mutual listening, that we understand each other humanly and artistically, he knows how I work and I know how he works, and to be able to say this about Özpetek as a 33-year-old man is so cool, as far as I’m concerned!
Then, he brought me luck because when this kind of people reassure you, and I think it’s the same for you in your job, when you’re given trust (and it’s what I thank him for the most), you automatically feel braver, and trust also makes you see things about yourself you had never noticed and allows you making that step forward that maybe you didn’t think you could do before knowing that person, who could be a coach, a director, a mentor…
This is one of the reasons why I really owe Ferzan so much. After him, I met directors like Virzì, Veronesi, and I was ready to confront myself with that kind of artistry.
“Many people say that there’s a ‘before’ and an ‘after Ferzan’…”
Was there something different, special, maybe, during the preparation and realization process of “The Ignorant Angels” compared to your other collaborations? Especially given that it’s an adaptation for the small screen of his successful 2001 movie…
I guess he, just like us, felt the “burden” of the movie, however, that’s also where Ferzan’s huge mind came out, in wanting to renew it. In fact, some topics that the movie dealt with 20 years ago are now a bit outdated, they’re not so current anymore, so it’s was right to put those aside and tackle some new ones, like the storyline focused on Filippo [Scicchitano] and my character, or one of Ambra Angiolini and Anna Ferzetti’s characters, and cutting out Gabriel Garko’s character instead, and shifting all the attention on the relationships between the members of the family of the Angels.
Ferzan immediately set an environment, first during rehearsals and then on set, where you didn’t even feel like you were working. For me, from an inside perspective, it was a very beautiful and very powerful human experience, and, as it is not a show based on the plot, I hope it showed on the screen as well.
Of course, it’s rather all about the relationships between the characters, and you come out as a very close-knit group, and when you get to the last episodes, you feel miserable because you’re about to say goodbye to them all…
Okay, exactly, you want to be in their company! Good, so we achieved our goal.
When you got the part and read the script, what were the first thought you had and the first question you asked the director and yourself?
Well, inside the house, my character (Riccardo) and Filippo’s (Luciano) were actually the less layered ones as a romantic couple and for what was told about them, but it was a choice ahead of a possible second season; in fact, here the focus is all on the romantic triangle Scarpetta-Argentero-Capotondi, besides, obviously, the relationship between Ambra and Anna Ferzetti, Serra’s character, and the character played by Burak Deniz.
Of course, quite a few things can be told in eight episodes, but you can’t really tell everything about everyone, think about Lilith [Primavera]’s character, for example, who’s very important for our current times. Our couple is seen as the lovebirds’ couple, so the challenge we had to face was giving a kind of depth and humanity to the characters that could make people curious, but at the same time also saving space for a possible second chapter. Our real luck was that Fillippo and I have been friends for a long time now, we’ve already worked together on other projects, we take boxing classes together, so there was a chemistry that allowed us both to work not as if we were in a competition, but as a team, to try and bring out the best of these characters who in the script were, inside the house, the less deepened ones. However, then, as it always happens with Ferzan (and this is so cool), when you’re on set, you can take your script and put it in the trash because he changes everything all the time.
Off the record, the first time, I got really scared because, you know, I wondered, “What the fuck do I do know?”. Anyway, luckily, I’ve been working in theater for many years, so I’m used to improvising, I’ve studied for that, and I was able to give my best in facing that challenge.
Filippo and I had a lot of fun, while with Ferzan it was more about finding our space inside the group without asking to be seen more, but still having the dignity of two characters who are not there only because they’re cute pieces of furniture, but who have their precise reason to exist.
“Finding our space inside the group”
Speaking of your character, how much of yourself is there in him?
You know, I think that, after all, without necessarily discussing acting (because I think that an actor who speaks about this kind of stuff can be really boring), actors necessarily put a piece of themselves in their characters: you give a body and a soul to a character who only exists in writing; so, you inevitably end up taking inspiration from your own self and not only, from many things, the inputs and hints for an actor can be endless. Here is the greatness of the series, too: when I studied my character, I never thought things like, “Oh my God, I’m gay…”: Riccardo and Luciano are two people who love each other, who’ve been together for a lifetime, basically one wants to get married and the other one doesn’t. I am married and I have a son, I’ve been with my wife for almost 15 years, so I was familiar with some of those mechanisms, and the goal was to narrate the human dilemma, not one of the single characters, and try to see if it resonated with the audience.
How did you fuel the chemistry in such a numerous cast, who often shares the scene?
That’s “Ferzan’s power:” nobody knows how, but he’s the glue that keeps everyone together, so it wasn’t hard at all.
Also, many of us had met before: we’d already worked with Serra, Paola [Minaccioni], Anna Ferzetti, and Edoardo Siravo, so we were a group of people who felt privileged to be working on such a set. It was very easy, we relied on Ferzan and everything that he and the screenwriters had written, and we jumped into this adventure with so much love.
How would you describe the series in one word?
That’s a tough one… I’d say, on one hand, revolutionary, but let me explain: the theme in itself is not revolutionary, but the fact that such a series is the first Disney original series where the standard idea of family, princes and princesses, is changed a little bit, is revolutionary. So, the series doesn’t tackle revolutionary topics, but the fact that it’s a Disney production is. In other words, now princes and princesses can be not only black, Chinese, or things like that, but also gay, or trans, and still live in Disney’s world.
I like to think of this as a small revolution.
Also, it’s an Italian series, it’s not the typical American “out-of-the-box” product…
Exactly, and we’re so many steps behind them if we think about shows like “Euphoria” or “Sex Education,” for example. Anyway, there’s another word that comes to my mind to describe “The Ignorant Angels” and it’s simply “home,” in the sense of warmth, being in the company of people who feel like home.
You act in movies, TV series, theater shows, and you’re also a dubber: to which world do you feel like you belong in the most intimate way?
To each of those. I come from the theater, it’s the first thing I did and that made me fall in love with this job, I feel in all of those situations. It’s just that I get fond of and passionate about the stories, the characters that we narrate: one time I can do that with just my voice, some other time in front of the camera, or on a theater stage, I don’t care about the formula, it’s the story that we tell that matters to me.
“I get fond of and passionate about the stories”
The most significant cinematographic encounter you’ve had so far?
Ferzan, absolutely, I owe him so much. He’s made me grow up a lot as a human being, over the years he’s fairly challenged me, he’s given me the right beatings and the right validations ahead of where I am today. So, it’s Ferzan.
Who or what inspires you at work and in your everyday life?
Those who put passion into what they do, and not to please people, but because they’re deeply convinced of what they’re doing and put lots of love into it.
The first VHS/DVD you bought?
“The Lion King.” I also saw it five times at the cinema.
A character from a movie or TV show you’d like to have as a friend?
Good question! Right now, I’m thinking of the “Peaky Blinders,” I think I could have a great time with someone like Tommy Shelby, or Ted Lasso, the characters from that show are hilarious. Then, I’d love to have a dad like Milo Ventimiglia in “This Is Us.”
A real-life character you’d love to play?
They’re so many… Now, I’ll say Hemingway because he was such a weird guy, an alcoholic, he was always fighting with someone in the streets. I also have a great passion for history, and a while ago I was listening to Alessandro Barbero’s podcast, and in particular, to the story of a German spy who used to live in Japan, he was called doctor Sorge, you should listen to it, trust me, you will wonder why on earth they still haven’t made a movie about him.
An epic fail on set?
I’m famous for my epic gaffes, and that’s because I’m very genuine, and then, on set, in my opinion, go big or go home, so you have to take risks, you have to fuck up because otherwise if you play too safe, the risk is that you don’t make any revolutionary discovery.
A recent epic file of mine dates back to a theater show I played in… At the end of the show, we went to dinner all together, with the whole cast and crew and our head comedian, Pannofino, we were all around the table with some people, discussing theater closing and that kind of stuff, and I said: “Well, sure, let’s see what ‘the big boss’ has to say about it!”. Obviously, who was sitting there with us? His daughter: she gave me a look and turned pale. [laughs]
“…if you play too safe, the risk is that you don’t make any revolutionary discovery.”
Your must-have on set?
Music helps me enter the world of my character or the one we’re about to put up. I create playlists that help me dive into that world. Music is the most immediate way for me, it really places me somewhere else.
What does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
To feel free to mess up, risk, having no one to answer to, having no fear of being a total jerk in front of everyone.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Choosing to do this job, going against my father who wasn’t really on my side on this. And choosing to do it with passion and love every day.
What are you afraid of?
I’m afraid not to have enough time to do all the things I want to do.
What’s the latest thing/person that/who made you smile today?
My son and my wife.
Your happy place?
My family. Also, my passion for boxing because my gym is one of the places where, when I am there, I’m just Edoardo and no one else, I go there, sweat with my mates, no one cares about who you are, what you do, where you go and what you want.
Photos&Video by Johnny Carrano.
Grooming by Adelaide Fiani.
Styling by Sara Castelli Gattinara.
Styling Assistant Bianca Giampieri.
Thanks to Others srl.
Total look: Giorgio Armani.
Cardigan and leather pants: DSQUARED2.
Jacket and shirt: DSQUARED.