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Spotlight: Giacomo Gianniotti

"It never feels like work."

Giacomo Gianniotti graduated from Humber’s Theatre Performance program in 2012. Just two years later he’s landed a recurring role on Selfie, a new comedy on ABC, opposite Karen Gillan and John Cho. That’s in addition to his recurring roles on Murdoch Mysteries and the period drama Reign, and after wrapping up his first series lead on an American network as Andrew in Backpackers on CW.

And the best part, he says, is that it “never feels like work.”

“It still gives me that feeling of playing and pretending that I had as a child. And I hope I never grow up and that feeling never fades.”

Guerrilla Shooting
Of course, it is work. And, even when it’s fun, you’re still not exactly relaxing on the couch! Giacomo describes his time on the comedy series Backpackers:

“A lot of the really great stuff comes from my co-stars and I improvising and riffing in the moment. Doing that and contributing to the writing of the show in that way has been really rewarding. It’s guerrilla shooting though, so it means very long days with few to no breaks. We shoot half hour episodes in just three days, and are almost always block shooting to make things extra confusing [in block shooting, different scenes are shot one after another from one angle and then re-shot from another angle]. So there is little time to fuss around and you always have to be on your best game.

Stage and Screen
Don’t get the wrong impression, this self-professed “carefree, positive guy” isn’t complaining. All those challenges just makes it more fun.

“It reminds me of the theatre. Everyone involved really cares and it’s like a family.”

In fact, Giacomo admits, he never expected to be on-screen at all.

“[I never thought] that I would, a) be working and, b) that it would be in television and film. I thought I was going to take the stage by storm.”

Learning Experiences
He says his theatre training at Humber prepared him “immensely” for his work in film and television.

“First year, not being able to speak was one of the best lessons I could have ever learned. Thank you, Tatiana Jennings. It is better to listen then to speak. You learn more that way. Doing original Shakespeare was also a crazy ride. We were cast in a Shakespeare play, given only our lines and a three line cue, rehearsed separately on our own and then, in 3 weeks, performed the play, never having rehearsed together before. It was an incredible learning experience and we all had a lot of fun doing it.”

Giacomo also says he never expected that he would “learn about myself and who I am as opposed to ‘how to act.’”

“Every character starts from you and you have to figure out who that is before you can really be free and without self-awareness.”

Good Problems
For every up there is a down, and Giacomo admits that, while having tons of work is fantastic, it can be a difficult lifestyle to maintain.

“When you really start getting busy and you really are a ‘working actor,’ staying sane and maintaining a healthy personal life becomes difficult. You have to miss a lot of things due to work and it’s a sad part of this business. I think other passions, relationships, and health even can go by the wayside if you’re not careful.”

This self-confessed workaholic says he loves the pace of it all, but also says it’s important to take time off – not just for the quality of your life, but also for the quality of your work.

“Sometimes it’s nice to take a break, see family and recharge. I think as an actor you draw from your own life and… it’s important to take a break sometimes and ‘have more experiences’ so you have more to draw from.”

Read, Read, Read
When asked for the best piece of advice he’s been given about acting, Giacomo says it’s simple: read.

“I was given a great piece of wisdom from an actor I did a play with at Tarragon a few years back. He never went to theatre school, but he told me the best way to be the best actor you can be, is to read voraciously. Read the classics, the writers who captured what it was to be human at those times in history. Because then, when you play those characters, you will already know what it was like. Knowledge is not only context but something tangible you can draw from.

Luckily that wasn’t too difficult for Giacomo, who calls himself “a voracious reader”. “And,” he says, “funnily enough, all I’ve been doing since getting out of theatre school is period shows!” Guess that bit of advice paid off!

Coming Soon to Theatres Near You…
If you can’t get enough of Giacomo, be sure to check out the up-coming Jesse Owens biopic Race, where Giacomo, in the role of Jewish American Olympic sprinter Sam Stoller, will play alongside Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons.

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Giacomo Gianniotti was born in Rome, Italy. He immigrated to Canada with his family at a young age and grew up in Toronto. Giacomo splits his time between Toronto and Rome working in stage, film, and television. He is a bilingual actor working both in English and Italian. He graduated from Humber College's Theatre Program and has also completed an actor's residency at Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, in Toronto.

Giacomo Gianniotti