Jersey Boys: A conversation with actors Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza

 

 Jersey Boys is a musical biography of the Four Seasons-the rise, the tough times and personal clashes, and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends whose music became symbolic of a generation.

Directed by Clint Eastwood

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A conversation with actors Michael Lomenda & Vincent Piazza

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QUESTION:  So quite an experience to work with Clint Eastwood on a movie like this.  What can you say about it?

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

Absolutely.  It was surreal at times.  Yeah.  I would pinch myself.  I would wake up in the morning and have my coffee and say, “Hey.  I’m on my way to work with Mr. Eastwood (LAUGHS) and—and Mr. Walken in this great set on the Warner Brothers lot.”  It was a consummate highlight of my career.

VINCENT PIAZZA:

Yeah.  For me, it’s a cliché.  It really was a dream come true.  Mr. Eastwood is someone that transcends movies.  He’s an icon and it seems so far-removed that I could get time with someone like that and he would be as generous and open and available to me as an actor and a collaborator. I learned quite a bit.

Question:  You must’ve learned —because you mentioned him briefly before – working with Christopher Walken.

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

That’s right.  It’s such a great treat to watch him work, because he’s such a playful guy.  He’s really funny.To see him figure that out and work that out —it’s a master class.

VINCENT PIAZZA:

Yeah.  It was a lot of fun.  On his first day he was on with us, we were a well-oiled machine.  We were two, three weeks into the shoot already. He shows up to the set.  We’re just taking him in and how he melds into the environment. The first scene was him disciplining the two guys that’s with Frankie. I remember being next to him and I had made the choice that I was going to have chewing gum like a bubble-gum gangster. I sat next to him and I remember there was a moment where I’m popping the gum, popping the gum.  He’s going through the take and – all of a sudden he looks at me he goes, “Tommythe gum.”(LAUGHS) At that point, we just had this incredible, incredible time.

QUESTION:  This is really an experience for both of you.  I wanted to ask you, what was it like to go from the musicals to cinema?

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

It was definitely an interesting transition.  You have to use a different section of your brain.  It’s remarkably similar, which I was surprised by.  But at the same time there are subtleties that you need to change, like the lack of audience.  When you’re used to having that interaction with an audience, it’s a different kind of audience onset, which took me a while to learn about.  It’s the crew.  It’s your fellow cast members.  You begin to take cues from them and use that as your audience.  That was an interesting transition.

VINCENT PIAZZA:

For me, in order for me not to be intimidated, I have to find commonality.  I have to find as much in common with what I do to interpret it. I felt like there was a real commonality in the music and it helped me, even as an actor.  Because once you’re going—the song is going, you’re going.  There’s a rhythm.  There’s a tempo to adhere to and a performance to be delivered.  So it was a great transition.  It was fun and challenging and educational.

 

QUESTION:  You both play best friends in the movie.  They’re the oldest friends of the group.  We see from this movie those relationships.  It’s a movie about these four guys breaking out of their lives and trying to make a better life, but at the same time, they are still attached to where they were from, right?

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

Right.

VINCENT PIAZZA:

Yeah.

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

That push-and-pull is something they really struggle with, right?  The ties to the neighborhood.  The super-stardom.  They’re average guys.  It’s difficult for average guys to deal with that level of success and that money and that fame and notoriety.

VINCENT PIAZZA:

Yeah.  They stayed in the neighborhood, which made sense to me. The first time they get scared or freaked out about something, they want to go home. They want to find comfort and I think there was something that really they held onto for the neighborhood.

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

That made them relatable to their fans too, in a lot of ways.

 

QUESTION:  Just to make this very clear, not only did you sing all these songs, you actually sang them live.

 

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

We sang them live.  They were live.  It’s funny, because they had to find a way to rig a lot of old-fashioned microphones so that they could pick up from the sound from the microphone.  So that was interesting to see how they would deal with that challenge.

VINCENT PIAZZA:

Yeah.  It was funny, becauseof the modern-day technology inside the very old-looking device. So that each time the set dresser moved, the audio team had their hands full trying to make that happen. It was fun.  Some of those old mics they used.

MICHAEL LOMENDA:

Yeah.  Some of them were live.

VINCENT PIAZZA:

The picked us up on the old mic — the actual mics.  They were so specific about the instruments we used, the mics they used, and how the set was decorated to the specific time.

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Jersey Boys is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 10th November

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