Manny Montana stars as Johnny Tuturro in USA's "Graceland," an undercover FBI agent who works alongside other agents from the DEA and the ICE. Manny sits down with us for a conversation and a shoot to accommodate!
Let’s talk "Graceland." It quickly became a very popular summer series due to its unique premise, and smart casting. What do you enjoy most about working on such a great drama?
Honestly, my cast mates! They are freakin' hilarious!! We were never not laughing and joking! Even when things were hectic on set and we were against the clock it was always fun!
Can you talk about landing the role on this show and a bit about the audition process? Did you do anything unique to show you would be perfect for the role?
It was crazy! From the moment I got the script I felt like it was mine. And I say that with no bravado or arrogance. It just left like it belonged to me. But the process itself took so long! I think I had about six to eight auditions! When casting a show I guess the network just really wants to make sure they're casting who they feel is the right person. It was hard but I'm so glad it worked out. Being on a show like "Graceland" is literally a dream come true.
So tell us more about Johnny. What makes him tick? Does it take you a while to get into character, or is he very natural for you?
Johnny is just a really fun character to play. He's always in a good mood and very upbeat, but he's also extremely sensitive so it makes for a lot of great layers to play. My cast mates and the writers are so amazing! No character stays the same. Everyone is always evolving and you never know who to trust! I'm a genuine fan of the show and think we can go far! Honestly, 'Johnny' and I are very different but also very much alike so really it just depends on the scene and premise to figure out how long it'll take to get into character.
I’ve read that you have always been interested in careers that, maybe I would say, are reserved for dreamers. Tell me about the moment, or series of events, that led you to realize acting was something you would be so passionate about?
I was in college at football practice and my shoulder had just dislocated for the 8th time. I knew I had to make a change. I made the 6 hour drive from Sacramento back home to Long Beach, and decided if I was ever going to chase this dream I've put off and been so scared of for so long, now's the time. The rest is history.
What three words would you use to describe your personality, and why?
Tough. Sensitive. Giving. It's just how I was raised. I have such a big family and have always been around so many people that I think you just inherit so many different characteristics. So I think I took a little bit from everybody. But I was always taught to be a giving person. It's just always feels like the right thing to do.
Any personal ambitions yet unattained? Directing? Producing? Writing?
Oh most definitely! Producing is really on the forefront of my mind. The longer I'm this business the more the idea of putting something together and making it fit like a puzzle is so appealing to me. I want to be a producer on "Graceland" but I really want to understand the position, not just have the credit. And from there expand into movies.
Now tell us, what are some of the things you are just obsessing over right now? TV Shows, Books, Twitter?
I watch an incredible amount of TV (laughs). I'm so serious, I am and will always be a genuine fan of this pretend world! "Breaking Bad," "Game of Thrones," "Parks & Rec," "House of Cards," "Orange is the New Black," and "Arrested Development!" I could go on forever! (laughs) No matter how much is going on in my life I always make time to watch my shows. It's my therapy.
What do you enjoy doing on your days off to just get away?
Well we shoot in Florida, so that means I'm 3,000 miles away from my family and friends back home in Long Beach. So if I'm not hanging out with one of my cast mates I'm either working out, at the beach, or just at home reading getting ready for the next day. It's a great life!
Can you tell us about any new projects you are working on?
I just got off the set of the Untitled Michael Mann Film. It was a very small role but I just couldn't pass up the chance to work with this legendary actor who I've been a fan of since I was a kid! Other than that, I'm just hunting for the next gig and praying I can work on "Graceland" for several seasons more!
For all the dreamers out there still working towards their goals, what advice would you impart to them?
Listen to your own intuition! You're the one that has the dream. You're the one that feels it in your bones that this is what you're meant to do. Follow that intuition. Don't listen to people that are in the same beginning stages as you tell YOU what's best for YOU! I know it's cliche, but there's only one you in the world. Be that unique person and shine that light.
Just for fun:
a. The last movie I watched was… "This is the End." That movie had me in tears I was laughing so hard! b. My mama always told me... Being average is boring. c. I couldn’t live without… Football. It's my first love and I love everything about it. d. What makes me laugh is… My brothers. I laugh harder with them then than any other time in my life! There are certain life long inside jokes that only someone with siblings can ever understand.
Interviewed by Pauline Aguayo