Frontier Insider

Gino Cafarelli is a one-stop shop of a guy. A native New Yorker who loves the Mets, Gino is dipping his hands into everything entertainment.

Most recently, you can see him in the newly released video on demand film called Capone, opposite Tom Hardy.

Gino is also working on turning his children’s book into an animation as well as developing screenplays.

Gino Cafarelli has worked with some top notch actors, casting directors, directors and producers and has given us an inside look into his career.

Gino, you play “Gino” film called Capone. Tell us about how you developed your character and details on your audition. (See the Capone Trailer).

I was very lucky to have gotten the role offered to me. I worked on a film called Big Fan 10 years ago, and met the director of Capone, Josh Trank, then. So we had already worked together. He was a producer and editor on that film. Big Fan went to Sundance in 2009, and was up for best film in the dramatic competition. My work was getting some great attention as well. So he was very familiar with my work as an actor. Josh wrote the role with me in mind. Hence, the character name “Gino” lol. Extremely grateful to Josh for that.

Gino Cafarelli

You’re an actor, producer, director and you’ve added writer to your credits. What’s the latest on the children’s book you’ve written, Athena Visits The Marina, which was inspired by your daughter? Will the book eventually be turned into an animation or film?

I’m very excited about the children’s book. Most projects I create are personal, very authentic, and come from the heart. Yes, it was inspired by my daughter. Shes going to be seven years old.

My daughter was born with a hearing loss in both ears and wears hearing aids. Athena Visits The Marina is about a little girl who visits the marina with her parents and communicates with the sea animals and fish at the aquarium via her hearing aids. I had the idea a few years ago, when I was in Greece. My daughter’s mom is Greek. We go every summer. I love Greece. So we were in Athens in a cab, and we had passed by a Marina. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to do an animated show, about a little girl who lived by a marina, who communicated with the sea animals via sounds with her hearing aids?”

I had pitched a different type of animated project a few years back but the show never sold. Animation is very different from TV and Film. A few years after that Greece trip I started doing my research on children’s books. I was always at a Barnes and Noble with my daughter reading children’s books. I said, “Why don’t I just start with a book first?”

There aren’t many books about kids with a hearing loss so I started doing more research. I knew nothing about how to put a kid’s book together. But I’m a firm believer in you don’t have to know how, but believe in your heart you will, and it will come together on its own. And with hard work and persistence, of course!

I started scribbling down some ideas and then sent them to a publisher I researched called Mascot Books. They loved it so we teamed up! I finished my manuscript during COVID-19 quarantine and sent it to them. I probably could have self published. But they are a one stop shop. They can edit the manuscript, give you choices of illustrators, print the book, set up an electronic book as well, and help with marketing and putting it in book stores. I just picked and finalized an illustrator who I’m extremely excited about.

The book should be out this fall. I’m very confident the book will do really well. There’s nothing like it out there – an illustrated story book about a little girl with a hearing loss will be great for all kids. I would love to see it as an animated TV show or film. I figured I’d plant the seed first with studios and networks by showing them an incredible book. The great thing about a company like Mascot is that I own complete rights to the book and its characters. So I hope Disney, and Nickelodeon read this, LOL!

You also wrote and are currently developing two feature screenplays. Please give us some inside information about the screenplays.

The first I wrote solely. I wrote it with Zendaya and Demi Lovato in mind. It’s just who I envisioned. I try to write what I know – authentic, real and from the heart. It’s set in the mid-90’s in NY. It’s about a waitress who aspires to be one of the first female DJ’s. It’s kind of like a follow-up, set in the same world as my film Cruise which is currently on Hulu.

The second I co-wrote with another writer. It’s set n 1999. I wrote it with one of my best friends in mind, Kathrine Narducci, as the lead. Her character owns a bar/restaurant and I’m her cousin who works there as a bartender. It’s a wild ride.

Both films take place in NY so I would love them be shot in NY. I can’t give too much away but both screenplays are incredible. The characters are a combination of people that I’ve come across. I usually write at home; not at an office. I’ve been doing lots of writing during quarantine.

How has COVID-19 impacted you?

Professionally, it all stopped of course. And it seemed like there were lots of unanswered questions and uncertainties. So I had to adapt. I shifted and put more attention into the children’s book. I started cooking a lot more too. Also, for fun, I put together a sizzle reel for a cooking show that I may pitch. Thanks Irena for filling up my fridge, lol! Before COVID-19 hit and lockdown started, I was in the process of doing an 80’s musical murder mystery that I was creating inspired by my film Cruise. I booked a few venues, that would have an audience of hundreds of people and that came to a halt because of quarantine, social distancing and not being allowed to be in large crowds. Not sure when or if the musical will happen now. Safety first.

As far as personal, I’ve had my good days and nights, and bad days and nights. I was and am extremely scared. I have parents that are elderly, and I’m a dad. Health is the most important thing. I would give up my career, which I’ve dreamt about all my life as a kid, in a heartbeat, if I could heal the world and take all this sickness away. So far, so good with my family.Knock on wood. But unfortunately friends, and friends of friends, were extremely affected by this horrible virus. I continue to pray for all that are sick, and have been affected by this pandemic. And thank you to everyone on the frontline.

You were born to immigrant parents in Queens, New York. Tell us about your upbringing.

Yes, my parents came to NY from Italy in the 60’s. They are from a small town called Pietrapertosa located in the Basilicata region, City of Potenza. I spoke only Italian in the household as a little boy. I learned English in school as a kid and still speak fluent. I wouldn’t trade growing up Italian American for the world. It’s all about family, family gatherings and great food of course. My mom is an incredible cook. Growing up with my sister and brother in Queens was lots of fun. I’m the oldest. They both have red hair lol. I have dark brown hair. My grandmother Emanuela on my mom’s side had red hair. They took after her. I did have lots of bikes growing. My first was a Huffy, from Santa lol. But once I got older, 12 or so, I used to go to the junkyards near Shea Stadium and look for bike parts and build my own. Build and paint them. I miss those days. I went to Holy Cross high school, which was all boys at the time. Now it’s co-ed. I got my degree, a BS in management, at St. John’s University in Queens. Queens represent through and through.

Gino Cafarelli

What was it like growing up in Queens with such easy access to Shea Stadium? How have the Mets influenced you in the entertainment world?

Lee Mazzili, Dave Kingman and Tom Seaver always reminded me of the Mets as a kid. I could walk to Shea Stadium, being that I grew up in Flushing. My cousins were in Corona, Queens, so Shea was close to them too. We would all walk as a group to day games. Such great memories. I remember Mr. Met lived upstairs from my cousins. I thought that was so cool lol . And of course who can’t forget 1986, the year they won the World Series. What an incredible year! I put the 1986 win in my short story Franny Lew, which inspired my film Cruise. Rob Siegel wrote and directed Cruise. I showed him my short story and he wanted to do it as a film. I was going to pitch Franny Lew as a series originally. Rob did such an incredible job. I will always be thankful to him for the opportunity. He’s an amazing talent and person and wer’e both Met fans lol! What are the chances? We started shooting Cruise in October 2015 while the Mets were in the playoff run, and then went on to the World Series. What are the chances of that happening? The energy and excitement on set was incredible. Bummer they didn’t win it all in 2015. But still grateful for the memories.

What was it like working with Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro in 2005’s The Good Shepherd? Were you nervous?

Pesci was Pesci, total character. I will admit I was kind of tossing and turning in bed the night before I was going to shoot. I was like, “Hows Robert DeNiro going to direct me?” I was such a fan of his work growing up. And then throw in having scenes with Joe Pesci and Matt Damon. Yes, I was a little nervous lol. But when I got there, DeNiro sat me down and told me what he wanted. It was so simple, and so real. He said, “Walk into your space, look at your surroundings, and do your thing.” The casting directors Amanda Mackey and Sig DiMiguel said, “He picked you out of all 100 actors because you were very natural, that’s what he likes”. They are fantastic CD’s.

In your early days of show business, you were a Production Assistant. How’d you break into being a PA? You must have some good stories. Do tell!

They were shooting Sea Of Love with Al Pacino in NYC one day. I would always hop out of my car whenever I would see movie trailers on the street, watch them shoot and ask what they were filming. This time I asked one of the guys with a walkie talkie, “How do I get a job like you?” He was a PA. I didn’t know what a PA was or even what they did. He told me to pick up the Hollywood Reporter and mail out letters to all the films being shot in NY, asking producers to be an intern. I took his advice and mailed 50 letters that year. An assistant to a producer on a movie called Mr. Wonderful called me. They offered me a walkie talkie PA intern gig. I worked for free and loved it lol. It was my first time on a professional set. The movie was directed by the late great Anthony Minghella with Matt Dillon. 30 years later I’m acting with Matt Dillon in Capone. Crazy! I told Matt that story when I met him on the Capone set. He couldnt believe it. He didn’t remember me, so long ago. But I said, “You grubbed lots of cigarettes from me” lol. He laughed. We both quit years ago. I still keep in touch with Dominic Minghella, who is a great writer. Hes. awesome.

You were cast as Vinny Pitts in an episode of The Sopranos, directed by Oscar nominee Mike Figgis. Did you shoot in New Jersey? What was it like on set?

We shot in Brooklyn actually. Figgis was great and we have the same birthday. Weird right? LOL. I always heard the horror stories about auditioning for The Sopranos. I had friends who auditioned like 10 times. I auditioned once and was 1000 percent prepared. The Sopranos got me my SAG card. I only did one episode. My character was never developed for further episodes. I thought it would be, but it wasn’t. I always get asked how I got my SAG card and I say, “The Sopranos.” I’ll never forget that.

Gino Cafarelli

What risks have you taken throughout your life? What were the results?

I took a risk in the room when I read for David Chase. I had to do something different that stood out from everyone else and it paid off. Secondly, shooting my short story Franny Lew that got turned into the film Cruise. People have been talking about doing the film The Cruising Strip Franny LEW (Francis Lewis Boulevard) for 30 years. I was very persistent, passionate and patient about getting it done. It was a 10 year journey. I’m proud I was the one to do it. Now that old school back in the day culture is back there’s been other stuff that came out, and coming out, since Cruise. Its very flattering. I take it as a compliment. I was always a confident leader and not a follower. Passionate and persistent.

In 2019 you had a cameo in the Philadelphia mob movie, The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese. Playing ex-Mayor Frank Rizzo (1972-1980) must not have been an easy task. What type of research and preparation did you do for your scene?

It’s always about the work. I put together a self tape. I had known about the project and book I Heard you Paint Houses for years. So, when they were about to start casting I read the book and wrote my own monologue. I had my agent JR at Malaky in LA send it to Ellen Lewis. She’s not easy to get to. Thousands of actors were looking to get an audition. I was proactive about the work, tape was on point and my agent loved the tape so much that he got it to her. She saw it and loved it. Ellen said to my agent, “I’m going to show it to Marty.” Marty loved the tape. He looks at all tapes of principal actors with or without lines. Ellen Lewis now wanted to work with me in the room. An actual audition. I went in and was up for three roles. I didn’t know which roles. Months later Ellen Lewis called my agent and said, “We want to offer the role of Mayor Frank Rizzo, from Philly. It’s going to work a week but may not have any lines.” I immediately said, “Yes, are you kidding?!” I don’t care what it is lol. I wound up working two weeks and got to hang on set with all the greats. The scenes in the film are quick — a photo op with DeNiro, and in another scene being introduced as the Mayor of Philly. Lots of prep went into the whole process. I’m sitting next to Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino at a table for two weeks. Pinch me lol.

What’s the difference between a good director and a great director?

A great director lets you ask lot of questions. Flush out who the character is. And I love directors that let you improv as well.

As a producer, what exactly do you do?

I’m very intutive and love connecting the dots. Putting the right people together is very organic and natural for me. People call me a natural born producer. I don’t do the budgeting, that’s more the line producer’s job. But I do know how to network and save a project money. It’s all relationships and personality.

What advice do you have for actors who want to dip their toes into directing, producing and writing?

Do it all. Back in the day, people would say you’ve got to focus on one thing. I tried, but I wanted to act, produce, direct, market the project. It was frowned upon. Now today it’s cool to be a renaissance man or woman and do various things. It’s become somewhat hip to do it now, but I’ve always been that way. Wear as many hats as possible, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Shout out to my sister, brother, mom and dad. Of course my munchkin, my daughter. And thank you Mike and Libby Angeliades, and the entire Angeliades family, for their support on my children’s book adventure.


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