ED- The Eerie Digest would like to introduce a familiar face to all our readers. Actor Joseph Tudisco has been on many of today’s favorite television shows including Law & Order and The Sopranos. Joseph what inspired you to go into the field of acting?
JD- I started to get an interest in acting a bit later in life. I was 35 at the time and worked a full time night job in a food warehouse. I decided I wanted to change my life so I enrolled and took some college classes at Kingsborough Community College, which had a great reputation for its Theatre program. I figured I’ve been acting out all my life, why not on stage. It was there that I found the road that would never end – acting.
ED- Before acting you were a coach for a High School football team in Brooklyn, New York. Please tell us about this aspect of your life.
JD- That was just about as important in my life as any other aspect. Sheepshead Bay Sharks, was the team I coached for 14 years under Dick Reilly, running the junior varsity team. It was spotlight theatre with 30 – 40 teenagers as a captive audience. Not only did I teach these kids about football but also along the way I realized that they were teaching me about life. After some mediocre seasons, I had back-to-back undefeated teams. I realized winning was not something you talked about, but something you did. So I started to preach working hard, being the best team you could be and giving all you could to the game. I decided I would take whatever results would come based on that. Oh, by the way, the next season we lost the first game and won all the rest. I absolutely loved coaching football.
JD- Both these projects were very low budget. It probably cost me money to be in them but I had a major role in ‘It Came’. I remember it had a great amount of ‘cheap’ special effects. I actually had my head cut off. ‘Manhattan by Numbers’ was directed by, at that time, an up and coming foreign director Amir Naderi. He would spend so much time setting up the scene and than conclude with ‘but do what seems natural to you”. So it was a very comfortable process, especially since I was pretty new with being on set. This was a major boost in my confidence as it encouraged me to move forward with my career.
ED- In the early years that followed you played roles in ‘The Cottonwood’, ‘Timeless’, and ‘The Devil’s Own’. Please tell our readers about these productions.
JD- ‘The Cottonwood” was my first contract role on a union film where I became eligible to join SAG. I played Officer Mazzola and had a funny scene with the lead actor, Steve Feder. ‘Timeless’ which was previously name ‘Under the El’, made a run at the Sundance Film Festival in the late ‘90’s. I was beat up in a men’s room off the expressway for my truck keys. ‘The Devil’s Own’ was a film where I played a core cop and worked about 13 days as a background actor until Harrison Ford convinced director, Alan Pakula to give me a couple of lines. The ‘Devil’s Own’ was the first major, big budget film I worked on. I did continue to work background for a couple of years and then decided that I needed to step onto the next rung of the ladder.
ED- In 1998 we saw you in two productions, ‘O.K. Garage’ and ‘Celebrity’. What was the theme behind these projects?
JD- ‘O.K Garage’ memories are vague. I only remember that it was filmed in Red Hook Brooklyn. The scene was shoot on the corner where I was born and raised until I was 12. Actually ‘Celebrity’ was an interesting film for me. How could it not be with Woody Allen in charge? The film covered the exploits of a young actor or rock star, not sure which one, on the rise to fame. The scene took place in a hotel, where youngsters destroyed their room. I was one of two desk clerks taking the frantic calls from the patrons complaining. I think much of the scene ended up on the cutting room floor. Funny, some of our best work (at least in the actors mind) seems to end there.
ED- The next big step was a role for you in ‘The Sopranos’. This show won many awards and was the best show on Cable TV for many years. Tell us about the actors that you worked with.
JD- At the time ‘The Sopranos’ was not the household name it would become. I was cast in the third episode of the first season. No one knew what this project was about yet. It was a scene that started out with one line and turned into what was a pretty good clip for my reel. I worked with Michael Imperioli in this scene, although we did have some distance between us. When I went to the table read, they gave me a new script with additional lines. Then, again, days before I was set to shoot, I receive another updated script with a few more lines. When I arrived on the set, director Nick Gomez said he wanted to add more. So there I was right in the middle of a solid scene with Michael Imperioli. Nick Gomez was just amazing to work with. He never made you feel like you were doing anything wrong, even when he gave notes and adjustments he would put it on himself that it was a bad note on his part that needed to be corrected. I just loved that I was part of the history on that show.
ED- At the end of that year, and into the following one, you worked on four projects. These included ‘For Love of The Game’, ‘Boiler Room’, ‘It Had to be You’, and ‘All the Wrong Places’. What were these about?
JD- At this point, I was starting to feel that I was the working actor I would dream about by auditioning and booking day player roles (today they are called co-star roles). You develop a strong sense of confidence and auditions become more about the work you can offer and not ‘how can I overcome the nerves.” “All the Wrong Places” was an artsy low budget film that followed an artist through his difficult pursuit of love. I played a NYC cop who always seemed to show up when the artist was in places he shouldn’t be. “For Love of The Game” – Yankee Stadium during the spring… I’m a big baseball fan. I played a Yankee fan yelling derogatory remarks at the opposing team. “Boiler Room” paired me up with Giovanni Ribisi. I first met Giovanni on set, just as we were starting to block the scene and he walks over to me introduces himself, we shake hands and he starts to run lines as if it was normal conversation. I must say, it took me by surprise and when I realized that he was running the scene, I started to stutter the words. We finally (not that it was his fault ) got it flowing and I thought it to be a keeper. The scene never made it to the film. “It Had to be You” was a funny romance film about two people who meet each other in NY while making plans for their weddings to other people and well, they fall in love. I had three scenes with Michael Vartan, playing the hotel bellhop.
ED- Your real break saw you in a number of the ‘Law & Order’ programs between 2001 and 2010. Please tell our readers about this aspect of your life and what it meant to you.
JD- They say you become a real New York actor only after you book a role on the Law & Order shows. I was fortunate to work on three Law & Order episodes, and one episode on both Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit. I guess it was the perfect place to portray the true New Yorker that I am. Characters I played were James Rooney a bar owner, a junkyard owner, truck driver, animal control agent and lastly a jewel thief. I was fortunate to work in a scene with Jerry Orbach in his final season of Law & Order.
ED- During that same period you starred in quite a few other productions including ‘Bono’, ‘Stolen Lives’, ‘Blink’, ‘Crime Scene: The Bobby Ray Summers Story’, and ‘Jersey Justice’. How were you able to cope with the many characters that you portrayed.
JD- At this point, the roles became larger with more character development needed on my part. My senses were to put myself into the situation required and react according to how I would handle the situation as myself. I find that life can provide a great deal of creativity (for character development) based on what we see, hear and feel just by participating in it, life that is. As an actor, there can be no sleepwalking through life.
ED- You were also a voice actor in two of the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ video games. How this differ for you as opposed to on screen acting?
JD- It’s a whole different ball game. I found that they wanted an almost sing song type of delivery. Start way up high with the voice, come back down and right back up for the end. I must say it was very taxing on the voice. I was ask to deliver each line several time with a different emphasis. Thankful they weren’t long days and you come to appreciate the money for such a short work session.
ED- What new projects are in store for you in the next few years?
JD- I just finished doing two holiday commercial spot for the New Hampshire Cash Spectacular Lottery Game, a short Twilight Zone type film, THE MOTEL, that has been making the rounds at Horror Film festivals. I was the only character and had so much fun working for new director Dan Schanler. Coming up, I have been cast in a co-starting role in the wonderful HBO series BOARDWALK EMPIRE.
ED- Joseph, it was great to meet another New Yorker as yourself. I want to wish you luck and thank you for your time with our interview, and ask that you stay in touch with The Eerie Digest and let us know about all your latest projects.