When you do an interview with a few long moments of silence, there’s no need to be scared. When you do an interview with a few long moments of silence and you’re speaking to someone like Giuseppe De Domenico, you know that every single one of his answers is sincere, well-thought, never obvious, you know that he’s devoted quite some time to every answer to really think about it and do justice to it.
When you do an interview with lots of moments of laughter, it doesn’t mean it’s not a serious one. When you do an interview with lots of moments of laughter and you’re speaking to someone like Giuseppe De Domenico, you know that every laughter is spontaneous, that it’s “right,” that you can be serious even in lighthearted moments.
Rationality and Emotivity, the fil rouge of this interview and the new character, Rocco, played by Giuseppe in “Bang Bang Baby,” the very first Italian Prime Video Original series (available on Prime Video with its first 5 episodes from April 28th and with the last 5 from May 19th). According to Giuseppe, a watershed show within the Italian panorama, which in a perfectly balanced mix of genres tells the story of Alice, who, for the love of her father, jumps into the dangerous world of organized criminality.
And perhaps Giuseppe’s a watershed character as well: to play Rocco, he’s revolutionized his way of approaching a role, accepting the challenge and letting the storyline guide him, letting go of the structure and methodical studies.
One year and a half ago, we asked you, “What’s your first cinema memory?”. Today, we ask you, what would you never want to forget about cinema? And is there something linked to the world of the small or big screen that you’d forgotten and that you have now found again?
Wow… No doubt, what I never want to lose is the will to experiment and question myself. Woe to me if sometime in the future my way to go should become exclusively “performative” with no time left for research or an incentive to try and do something new. This is also one of the great reasons behind my choice to act in “Bang Bang Baby.” As for what I found in the world of cinema that I had forgotten: I found friends that I already knew and met new ones. I found the will to do something nice. I found a different me and felt privileged. I will never stop being grateful for this.
“Woe to me if sometime in the future my way to go should become exclusively ‘performative…”
How do you face the disappointments and challenges related to this world?
Here a huge chapter begins… Disappointments and challenges go hand in hand, sometimes, and that’s the hardest time of all. The greatest challenge in front of which the system could put you is the one to handle all the disappointments that you inevitably get, given that ours is a job where the majority of answers you get are “NOs,” to you, to what you offer, to your professional collaboration. In those cases, what I tend to do is try to forget about the rest of the world, forget about the industry, forget about the rest of my colleagues and about what the other people do, and I try to stay as focused as I can on myself and on what makes me feel good in the shortest run. Because you’re always pushed forward by ambition, by a desire to explode, to prove something, and you’re launched at supersonic speed towards the future, which is uncertain per se in our times, and in a job that has certainly not only one single possible path to walk, but endless possibilities.
So, the biggest challenge is to stay centered on yourself, which is also the key to really being a performer.
Was there ever a moment where you would have wanted to send everyone to hell and say “That’s enough,” a moment of discomfort which later, perhaps, turned out as useful, instead, as an incentive to throw yourself again in that world?
You know, it’s cyclical.
It’s recently happened, just at the beginning of the year, when my only perspective in sight at the moment was the release of “Bang Bang Baby,” but as for the rest, that is several other projects that had left me hopeful, I was left with nothing. Sometimes, it happens to me to think, “Maybe, I’m going to university again,” or “I want to study blockchain technology;” occasionally, I shift from alternative to alternative, but the surprise is always that when I feel like I’m taking a step towards some direction that would push me far away from this path, a phone call comes, an audition comes, an encounter comes. Maybe, there’s a moment in which I say to myself, “I’m going crazy, I want to go back to Sicily for a while” and I get a train ticket; the day after, they call me and say, “You know, tomorrow this guy would like to meet you,” “Tomorrow, you could have this audition in-presence,” so you have to pack your life and go back there.
“so you have to pack your life and go back there.”
You’re one of the protagonists of “Bang Bang Baby,” the first Italian Prime Video scripted series, created by Andrea Di Stefano, all set in the world of the Calabrian mafia. The story is inspired by real-life events: the main character is Alice, a shy and insecure teenage girl who, in the pursuit of the love of her father, becomes the youngest member of the mafia. Going a little back in time to the moment in which you got the part and read the scripts, what were your first thought and the first question you asked the directors and yourself?
Good question. The very first thought I had was that I felt scared by the ambition of that screenplay.
The director himself, Michele Alhaique, during the press conference, talked about how these scripts that we got, right because they had the ambition to combine different genres, at a first read made you think, “What shall we do?”. This was the first reaction you had, that, by the way, also made you sense that there was a precise idea and project behind it, so you perfectly understood that you had in your hands something that was out of the ordinary. I was instantly struck by the fact that my character was totally unbound from any kind of responsibility. I come from “Zero Zero Zero,” a show where we narrate a huge tragedy and I have a great responsibility, with an always active back thinking; on the other hand, this character gave me the possibility – and I instantly perceived it – to be out of control, way more lighthearted, way more direct, so the possibility to build a totally different human being.
For an actor at the beginning of their career like me, to have the chance to prove how far they can go, what is their range of possibilities of expression, has been a golden chance.
How much of yourself is there in your character, Rocco, and how did you build it?
I built it trying to do a completely different preparation work on it compared to what I did on Stefano from “Zero Zero Zero.” Oddly enough, with “Zero Zero Zero” I had studied a lot, I’d done an intense work of analysis, superstructures, goals, so a huge preparation and character-building work, and I tried to keep all that information constantly with me on set. Here, instead, I wanted to make a general idea of who my character could be and gave me the chance to live in the moment, on the set, day after day. It’s been a huge challenge for me, and I thank the directors I’ve worked with so much, first and foremost Michele, with whom I discussed this precise issue, I told him, “I need to trust you, please guide me because the work I want to do is all about being present to myself here, now, day after day.” Exactly because mine was a lighthearted character, blunt and direct, I was afraid that if I’d put too much superstructure of analysis and study, I would have suffocated those qualities that I thought could have been more appropriate.
“…I gave me the chance to live in the moment, on the set, day after day.”
“It’s been a huge challenge for me…”
Did you also leave some space for improvisation?
I left something, but actually, I always stayed quite faithful to the script.
The story is set in 1980s Milan, in the midst of the economic boom. The pop references, the colors, seem to be characters themselves; did you prepare in any particular way to familiarize yourself with this specific time in history? Did anything, in particular, inspire you?
To be honest, my answer would be no because sometimes I like to assign to someone else the responsibility of creating the whole world because, in the end, also thanks to the experience I’ve had, I’m realizing more and more that the figure of the actor on a set requires a specific ability, which is that of filling a shell, and what I fill it with is the content and what I create is also for myself.
The truth is not my point of view, as the content that I create is strictly related to the behavioral dynamics of human beings. So, I didn’t think about it, during the preparation phase of this first season, but now that you’re mentioning it, I will probably start studying the whole Italian pop culture of the 1980s.
At that very moment, I preferred to keep it simple, which was a challenge for me because I’ve been obsessed with the idea of wanting to prove that I was able to create a character that could be less smart, blunter, more direct, easier and more lighthearted and, within this obsession and desire, I had to make some very important choices in terms of ideas. Even when I felt like I wanted to study something, I stopped myself from doing it because I was always scared that I could replicate something that I had already done, so to get a different result, I also needed to have a different approach.
“Even when I felt like I wanted to study something, I stopped myself from doing it because I was always scared that I could replicate something that I had already done…”
No spoilers here, but Rocco, at a certain point, finds himself faced with a choice, something like rules vs heart. Imagine yourself drinking a beer with him: what would you tell him at that very moment? Do you think he’s more rational or instinctive as a person? And you? Are you more of a rational or instinctive man?
This is an amazing one, I’ll remember it forever! [laughs]
I’d never thought about going out for a beer with Rocco before, but all right, I’ll try and figure it out. I’m totally a super-rational person, and Rocco is a super-instinctive character. In fact, Stefano La Piana [from “Zero Zero Zero”] embodied what Giuseppe would instinctively do, that is being super-rational, mental, heavy, and the challenge is trying to be someone far from who you are, just like Rocco is compared to me. Probably, sitting in a pub, Rocco would have looked at all the women walking by, he would have flirted with every single one of them, which is something that I wouldn’t do because I tend to keep to myself, I’m very shy, while Rocco is very bold; he would have thrown back four beers and be super easy, while I would already be in a phase of asthenia after just one spritz, no doubt [laughs]. Rocco would have been bashful when discussing feelings, so, perhaps, I could have somehow helped him try to be less of a tough guy and be more open to sweet emotions.
“Bang Bang Baby” is the latest among many projects about organized criminality. In which new way does it bring on the screen this reality? Maybe using the family as a reading key?
In my opinion, what’s new is that this series makes it grotesque: in the grotesque, you can feel free to talk about serious topics making them lighter, and joking about them with a sort of black humor, walking on a wire of irony. I think that the grotesque also gives the audience the chance to perceive the absurd in a much clearer way because we make an operation of great seriousness and engagement, we reproduce what we’ve already seen many times: drama, tragedy, so you almost don’t think of that theme as a real issue anymore, you almost don’t think that those kinds of dynamics really exist anymore, but you see it as the usual heavy and tragic thing that tackles a trite topic. But if you narrate it with a different reading key that is almost desacralizing and could maybe annoy some people, then maybe you can stop and reflect longer upon some dynamics that really exist in life.
“…the grotesque also gives the audience the chance to perceive the absurd in a much clearer way…”
Speaking of which, given that the show mixes different genres, between serious topics and comic twists, what discussions and confrontations were there on set, between the actors and the crew? What atmosphere was there while you were filming, with the awareness that the screenplay you were working on was “one of a kind”?
On our set, the air you breathed was full of great attention, nothing was left to fate, and the credit goes to all the executive and directorial departments because, obviously, they had the great responsibility of holding the reins of something that could have gone totally off-road in no time and disperse because, of course, when you create characters that shift from one genre to another, they end up being grotesque, ironic, but they still need to be credible in the various situations, when you’re telling a tragedy, love feelings when you put up those kinds of sketches that are supposed to make you laugh.
However, at the same time, they can’t become different characters, they need to stay true to themselves but with different reading keys. Sometimes, our conversations were always focused on where exactly in the story we were at on that day, realizing that maybe at that moment we needed some slightly longer timings and change road for a while and go from one genre to another, with a different rhythm of lines. In the show, everything seems very organic, but if you stop and think for a while, step by step, about what you’re watching, you really move from one genre to another, and each one is very credible.
How would you define “Bang Bang Bang” in one word?
Watershed. I feel like there could be the necessary conditions for a before and after “Bang Bang Baby,” if we consider what we’re used to watching in our national television panorama. The series could split public opinions and open up discussions because what really makes everyone agree are perhaps those eternal colossal movies. Sure, everyone has the ambition to make immortal stuff, but I think that causing debate is already a nice form of success.
Quoting one of your latest Instagram posts, what’s a march that you would have liked to join?
[Laughs] I would join all marches against climate change in every part of the country, I would constantly take part in those.
I feel like there could be the necessary conditions for a before and after ‘Bang Bang Baby’…”
What’s an era in which you would have liked to live?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by a year in particular, 1968, which has marked a change. I wonder, what was the atmosphere like back then, in that world? So, the years between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. Who knows if people back then were aware of what was happening? And, if you think about it, who knows if today we’re aware of what’s happening. Yes and no.
What inspires you at work, but also in your everyday life?
I like to be inspired by everything concerning astronomy. In fact, I often happen to share on my Instagram feed some content about it. There are magnitudes, spaces, and proportions that are so unimaginable but also so real that they influence and downsize certain everyday dynamics. I like to be inspired by this sense of belonging.
A real-life character that you would love to play?
Antonello da Messina. He was one of the most famous painters of his time, his works are exhibited in the most important museums in the world, and he was my fellow citizen.
“There are magnitudes, spaces, and proportions that are so unimaginable but also so real that they influence and downsize certain everyday dynamics.”
What distracts you?
The lives of others.
What does it mean to you to “feel comfortable in your own skin”?
It may sound ironic, but it’s true: in a time dominated by social media like ours, I always feel bound to think that the others are doing better than me because, obviously, everyone decides to show the best and most attractive part of themselves, as we decide what to share, it’s not “Mr. Instagram” who happens by and films you while you’re clinking glasses by the pool striking a perfect pose. I feel good when I can detox from all this frenzy of needing to show that we are happy, that we’ve gotten where we wanted to get, that we’re perfect; I feel good when I accept all my limits and know that this is my life and I need to go on regardless of the results I achieve because I wouldn’t bring them with me in the grave anyway when I die.
My life aims at being different from materialism and consumerism, which is why I feel lucky to do a job that has to do with introspection and artistic expression, so I feel good in my skin when I remember that my life is not materialism and consumerism, and allow myself to be who I am in a super long-term journey.
“…I feel good in my skin when I remember that my life is not materialism and consumerism…”
While playing Rocco, did you discover or re-discover something new about yourself?
Yes, that I can be a more lighthearted, straightforward person, that I can allow myself to have fun and be fun, without necessarily acting too much like an intellectual guy.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Jumping into a cage full of pigs with my eyes close. Episode 7 of “Zero Zero Zero.”
What’s the latest thing/who’s the latest person who made you smile today?
How important are dreams or nightmares to you?
I think they’re almost prophetic. The world of dreams has always fascinated me, I’ve always promised myself to keep a small journal on my nightstand to write down something every morning; unfortunately, I still haven’t made a daily habit of it, but anyway, this is a period in which I’m not dreaming regularly, but sometimes I dream this vivid and imponent dream whose assets unfailingly change, but it’s recurrent, and I still haven’t figured out its meaning. So, I put so much weight on dreams because they’re a part of me that I believe is also a part of my subconscious that manifests itself with symbols, situations, circumstances, and people, so it’s a deep part of you that decides to express through images something that you can’t put in words in your everyday life. It truly is a fascinating world.
“…so it’s a deep part of you that decides to express through images something that you can’t put in words in your everyday life.”
Your happy place?
Because there I’ve lived some of the most beautiful, stress-free, deep moments of my life. On that island, I feel I can change. There, I attended several workshops focused on acting, voice, and several experts told me about how the electromagnetism of an active volcanic island like Stromboli intervenes overwhelmingly on the functioning mechanisms of your brain, which in turn can be influenced by electromagnetic waves, so it’s an incredibly beautiful place not only landscape-wise. It’s a super happy place for me and it represents a place in which, when I go back there, I can totally detach myself from the problematics of the continental western world.
Photos&Video by Johnny Carrano.
Grooming by Francesca Naldini.
Styling by Sara Castelli Gattinara.
Styling Assistant Bianca Giampieri.
Thanks to Others srl.
Thanks to Prime Video Italia.
Location Manager Luisa Berio
Location Circolo Vittorio
Jeans: Calvin Klein
Shirt: Calvin Klein
Jeans: Calvin Klein