Vince Piazza is Lucky Luciano

Mystic Piazza

Photographs: Barry Hollywood
Interview: Salli Paradisio

Cool and tough in most of his roles, in-demand young actor Vincent Piazza (who plays Lucky Luciano on the hugely popular HBO series Boardwalk Empire) is also a fashion plate with a knack for looking hip. Piazza shared some time on an exclusive photo shoot and interview with DA MAN in between filming.

He was a hockey star and an accounting major before he found his true calling, and sublimely talented actor Vincent Piazza is now on the verge of superstardom. With parts in the film Rocket Science and (2007) TV shows like Law & Order and The Sopranos, on his CV, he’s set to hit it big with a key role in Martin Scorsese’s new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. Piazza grew up in the Queens section of New York and played university-level ice hockey, while studying accounting. After a premature end to those things, he get into acting. In addition to Boardwalk Empire (a gangland film set in New Jersey in the 1920s) alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names—director Martin Scorsese, actor Steve Buscemi and writer Terence Winter—Piazza plays the role of the legendary mafia boss Lucky Luciano (a young version).

DA: Can you tell us about your upcoming work this year and next?
I’ve spent the bulk of my time the past year focused primarily on Boardwalk Empire and my character, Lucky Luciano. I have been reading some scripts in my free time but haven’t come across the right one yet.

DA: Have any of your roles been close to real life?
I usually start each character with what I can draw from my life (among other things) and although my body of work is still young, I think there are bits of me sprinkled throughout.

DA: As a former high-level ice hockey player, how do you think you’ve translated that to acting, if at all?
I doubt I’d have much success without having had that in my life. Hockey taught me so much that applies to acting … presence, focus, endurance, work ethic and most of all, teamwork. I think any team sport during development can be of great help to an actor.

DA: What else would you like to share about your showbiz journey?
It’s been very good to me and hopefully, I to it … but there’s lots to learn and the question you ask is a nice reminder that it IS a journey.

DA: What were your favorite subjects in school?
I was an accounting major, go figure … but I was so focused on hockey and the friends I made there are still in my life today despite only going to college for a year. The rest was a bit hazy but I’m guessing those stories are out there somewhere.

DA: What are your strengths, as a person? As an actor?
As a person: avoiding this question; as an actor: pondering this question.

DA: What areas do you feel you need to improve on?
Everything, always … when we finish trying to improve, we die.

DA: To make it big in showbiz, how would you rank things like timing, ‘who ya know,’ ambition or other criteria?
All the criteria are relevant but every actor is so different and I feel it’s according to what you want as an actor and what your tastes and desires are. My accounting background tempts me to give you percentiles, but I didn’t graduate so I’ll just say it’s a case-by-case basis.

DA: What is your dream role/character?
I have a few roles that are abstract in terms of literature because they stem from people I’ve met in life. That said: with some luck, if the right “scripted” role comes along where I can mesh that character into it, it would be a dream.

DA: Which comic character do you like?
The singing and dancing frog [Michigan J. Frog]. That skit killed me growing up.

DA: Which actors would you most like to work with?
VP: Is it wrong if I say everyone?

DA: You’re quite fashionable, which brands/styles do you like?
VP: When I dress up, I love Varvatos, but as for my everyday stuff, I’m pretty inconsistent … it seems that it’s all mood-based … I look generally how I feel that day and the clothes are from all sorts of strange places and kind of old…I have a few shirts and jackets that are coming up on 12 years old. I’ll come back into style at some point. You’re making me think I should go shopping now.

DA: Which directors/producers would you most like to work with?
I had one dream come true this past year: Working with Mr. Scorsese, Terence Winter and HBO. And until this meal fully digests, I’ll think about the next one.

DA: Do you hope to stay with the crime/thriller genre or move to something else?
I will continue to work on being able to equip myself to work on many genres. I love contemporary drama, classical and comedies. I hope to work in all of them, but I don’t sing … not much cooking there.

DA: Who is your role model? And how has she or he inspired you?
My family has been amazing to me along with my mentor, Alice Spivak. She’s been so instrumental in helping me form as an actor and human being.

DA: Describe the ideal long-term partner for you?
I haven’t figured that one out yet.

DA: In 25 words or less how would your lover or friend describe you?
Wrong person to ask. Hopefully they’d be kind.

DA: In five years from now, what do you see Vincent Piazza doing?
Breathing, living, loving, acting and changing.

DA: What annoys you most about the showbiz industry in America?
There are so many great people and productions in the American showbiz industry. (How’s that for a preface?) But, there exists rigidity and impatience, which simply isn’t conducive to art of any form, however, money makes it move; so I can see the other side of it too. But there still needs to be a gray area where the two sides can meet, eat and shake hands.

DA: What is the best part of the showbiz industry?
As an industry, it’s one of the best exports America has.