By Bily V Vigeant
As a youngster, I was heavily influenced by the legends of the Silver Screen, Bogart, Cagney, Robinson, Brando and DeNiro. After watching THE GODFATHER in 1977 as a teenager and awed and floored by Marlon Brando’s Oscar winning performance portraying Mafia Don Corleone, I found myself re-enacting scenes and dress rehearsing scenes from the movie. I would borrow my grandfather’s vintage tweed overcoat, his grey fedora hat, and leather driving gloves and stand in front of my mother’s bedroom bureau mirror and awkwardly recite lines and delegate family business from the movie. Never thinking that someday this could happen.
Hollywood movie-making seemed a world away. Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island provided me with a stage of a mob movie. I witnessed a daily cast of characters straight out of Central Casting and daily happenings of the underworld. I witnessed the good, the bad, the ugly. To this very day on my acting resume under special skills I list street smarts as my area of expertise.
Fast forwarding to 2008 I make my leap into the world of acting, but first I face a medical crisis that forces me to re-examine my purpose in life. One day at a routine doctor’s appointment the doctor finds a large mass on the left side of my thyroid. He then proceeds to tell me all his tests point a very aggressive form of cancer. He needs to operate and not sure what my outcome may be.
Dumbfounded for days of the possibility I may have my life end, I sat evaluating, pleading and praying to give me a second chance at life and what I would do differently. Acting was one of the wants I promised myself. Luckily, following surgery, after a six agonizing week wait for results, the mass came back benign, my journey as an actor starts and I never looked back.
Later in the summer of 2008, I enroll in an Intro to Acting class at the Perishable Theater in Providence studying under Mark Peckham. Shortly after I then enroll into a beginners acting class at LDI Casting in Providence studying with casting director Anne Mullhall. I proceed to have headshots done and submit for a Showtime television series “Brotherhood” being filmed in the Ocean State. I receive my first acting casting call to work background and featured background for Season three and work in three episodes.
It was exciting to work with actors Jason Clark and Jason Isaac. After this experience I knew I was hooked. I registered myself with the Boston Casting Agency Pro Talent site, took courses with casting director Angela Peri and proceeded to take an advance course of being in front of the camera with casting director Carolyn Pickman of CP Casting for an intense six week course.
I’m on my way! Between working television pilots I get a call for ABC’s “Body of Proof” prime time drama starring Dana Delaney. It’s coming to Rhode Island. This is a medical crime drama, based in Philadelphia. I submit for a Philadelphia Police Officer. I work background and get featured background in eight episodes. Then one day I get called from Boston Casting to come in and audition for a speaking role on the show. I was excited. I went, I booked I lived it and it was a new chapter in my career. Day player! Loved hearing those words! You’re booked!
I also get booked to work on ‘Royal Pains’ on the USA Network for an episode. I then receive a call from Director Michael Corrente and Producer Chad Verdi. They’re filming the movie LOOSIE’S and need a heavy for a violent scene to beat and collect money from the star of the film Peter Facinelli, They explained the scene and what they needed, I replied I’m your man for the job! It was intense and they needed violence. So much so I almost broke the pretty boy Peter Facinelli’s nose on the second take. Another story for another day.
My career and name is starting to circulate in the business. Next up I get a notice for an open casting call for the movie THE FIGHTER starring Mark Walberg and Christian Bale. Little did I know my acting life would be changed forever.
I became Union on this film. A member of SAG – AFTRA! I also refine my career aspirations. I was cast as a Boston Policeman, while working a scene at Top Donut, in between takes I was looking for a seat to sitdown, I notice a chair open at a table where Director David O. Russell is sitting. I swing my leg over the back of the chair and say “what do you need me to do now boss?” He smiles and says, “wow your a big guy and your arms are huge.” Then he offers me a piece of fruit from his lunch and says, “what do you want to do?
I reply, “I want to act.”
He says, “you want to act in this crazy business? I told him I’m crazy and I want to act! He then calls over his assistant and questions him about a scene on Thursday and if so and so is going to make it for it. The assistant responds unsure. David then turn back to me, grabs my face, turns it left, then right. He says, “get your hair trimmed and tight, shave your goatee and go to wardrobe. I’ll see you Thursday – you are now an Actor!”
I felt like I was hit by lightning form the acting gods above. I did as he asked, not knowing what David had in store for me. I show up on set at Billerica State Prison. I’ m dressed in a prison guard uniform. We first shoot exterior prison yard scenes with Christian Bale. Then we move inside for interior scenes. I then hear my name being called and report to inside a small prison cell with a film crew.
David O. Russell, the other guy who was suppose to play the part, Christian Bale and me. My scene is I escort him into the cell and then proceed to tell him to start to strip for a search. Unreal! The scene never made it to the final cut in the movie but it did make it to the featured deleted scenes on the Blu Ray disc. Also I could be seen in the Top Donut scene playing a Lowell police officer. Playing two roles in one movie and one was with an Oscar winning actor in the movie he won his Oscar for!
Nothing is impossible at this point. My next project is I get cast to play a heavy underworld strong arm named Big V. My job is to enforce and control daily business on the streets of South Boston. This was written by Adriano Masciarelli and directed by Ben Proulx. In this film I get to kill for the first time on the screen. It was intense and took me two days to get out of character after the killing.
Next I get cast by CP Casting as a SWAT officer in the movie THE TOWN directed by Ben Affleck who also starred. This was a great thrill to work with Ben and to be directed by a great talent. This movie was a crime drama. I worked six scenes in this movie. I was featured and in one of them I work alongside Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver. I then get a call from a writer director Dana Howard. She’s writing an online web Mob series named “Fedoras.” She explains the outline and has a character that is tailored for me. Mafia Don Nino Ponticello. After review of the script I accept. This character brought me back to the days of being in full garb in my mother’s bedroom mirror giving orders to the mafia family I adopted. The series is set in the 1930’s and I’m the Mob boss of all bosses. Controlling and running the family business. Wow dreams do come true.
Next I get cast by CP Casting in the film GOD ONLY KNOWS written by Emilio Mauro , directed by James Mottern and Starring Harvey Keitel. I play a Mob Crime Boss, attending a swearing in of a new family member played by actor Ben Barnes.
I go undercover for my next film KILLING KHAN directed by JR Hepburn. I attend an open casting call in Boston. I audition for a role of a cab driver. I book the part. I was so intense that they offered me the role of Ivan a Russian spy. I’m treacherous in this role. I have a Russian accent and I am a cold hearted killer. It’s due out this Summer.
My career turns into a horror show. I receive a call from director/actor Tom DeNucci from WoodHaven Productions telling about a film their doing called SELF STORAGE starring Eric Roberts, Michael Berryman, Jonathan Silverman. He forwards me a script and the plot is my boss Jonathan Silverman buys body parts to sell on the secondary market. I would play a character named Mumbo. He’s the enforcer and heavy of the operation. This project goes VOD to 1,000,000 homes, Netflix, and DVD sales. I received great publicity and marketing on this project.
I follow this up with another WoodHaven Production named ARMY OF THE DAMNED, starring horror icon Tony Todd, and Michael Berryman, Joey Fatone and Sully Erna. I play SWAT officer Beefcakes turned Zombie. I act throughout the whole second half of the movie with Tony Todd. With this project I didn’t have a boat load of lines but I had an incredible amount of action. I die three times and each time I come back stronger and crazier than ever. This was a great challenge. Worldwide distribution with VOD, and DVD sales. It’s great seeing your work on store shelves!
I worked on AMERICAN HUSTLE directed again by David O. Russell and starring Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. I was cast as a featured FBI Security Guard. I shoot the scene with Amy Adams where I escort her down the hall to a padded cell throw her in and she runs back to try to get out. I close the door on her. When the film comes out it shows the back of me throwing her in the cell and my hand closing the door. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. Great fun to work this project with great talent.
Right after this film I was cast by Boston Casting as a featured Electric & Power worker in the film THE EQUALIZER starring Denzel Washington. It was a small scene with four of us Denzel, Chloe Grace, a counter worker and me. Great to see a legend at work. He’s a real pro.
2014 is going to be a great year. I’ve just been cast in my second lead role in the film BLUE SUEDE to be directed by JR Hepburn for Vendetta Motion Pictures. My role is Mafia Don Franco Pizzano. I’m avenging my fathers slaying by the Chinese Mob and daily trials and tribulations of them trying to take over my family’s territory in Chinatown. No War! No Peace! This film and my performance will be epic! Shooting begins in Boston late July 2014 I also was just cast a Mafia Don in a Wes Williams film DISTRICT C-11.
Stay tuned because I just finished auditioning for a movie THE WHOLE TRUTH starring Rene Zellwinger. I’ve been called back twice. I also just auditioned for CP Casting by Carolyn Pickman for a role in BLACK MASS, the Whitey Bulger story, directed by Scott Cooper starring Johnny Depp. I have a lot to bring to this film , living and knowing the chain of events and the first hand experiences are priceless to add to the realism of this film. Then I’m waiting for auditions for Chad Verdi’s passion piece BLEED FOR THIS. It’s the Vinny Paz story that is being produced by Verdi and Martin Scorsese. Vinny is my cousin. In this film I have a great advantage. I lived the whole story first hand.
The best is yet to come my friends and I want to take a moment to thank Carol Patton and Imagine Magazine for their undying efforts and energies for introducing and fighting for the film tax credit legislation and incentives. The efforts they put forward on our behalf have assisted and assured us the continuing progress of movie making being made here in Boston. I personally thank you Carol and IMAGINE Magazine for keeping me and so many others dream of acting alive here in Boston. All dreams come true, the difference is how bad you want them! Just Imagine!