2022 has already been a banner year for Pasquale Esposito. The talented Italian actor seems to be everywhere these days and the industry is taking notice.
Esposito stars as ‘Eduardo Arenella’ in HBO’s Gomorrah, as well as a role on Industry playing fashion designer and millionaire ‘Enzo Rocco,’ also for HBO. He also appears in the role of ‘Vincenzo Danioni’ in the new British period drama Hotel Portofino for PBS Masterpiece, starring Natascha McElhone. Lastly, Esposito plays the role of ‘Pucci’ in the much-anticipated SHOWTIME series Ripley, directed by Steven Zaillian and starring Andrew Scott.
As a filmmaker, Esposito directed a documentary titled In the Right Light, based on the award-winning documentary play Seven, about seven female protagonists and their journey to freedom. Esposito also wore writing, directing and acting hats in the play, A Looking Glass, at the Lotus Theater in Munich.
Before his Industry debut tonight, Reel 360 News had a chance to chat with the passionate actor.
What’s your origin story?
It started at the beginning when I was a child. I always had such a huge interest in the magical power of telling stories. I remember studying and getting to know that back in ancient times it was custom that when you introduced yourself to somebody else, you wouldn’t say just your name, you would say a bit about your own personal story (maybe a story about your father and your mother) as the place where you’re coming from. I always found this so fascinating, like if you want to know me, then let me tell you my story, the story line of my life, a unique tale nobody else can tell.
There is a book written by Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, that talks about the nature and the structure of story and how it is intimately related to mankind. I learned about the Native American culture, where telling stories was used to heal people. Then, later in my research in behavior and expression, it was clear that everything is a story and that the main point is not so much the story, (the plot is important) but rather “how the story has been told.”
I do think the love for story, for the phenomena of a narrative, implies imagination. I mean each story is a picture and each picture is a story. This powerful ideal has always been at the origin of my passion for acting. Imagine an empty stage on which any story can be told and each story is both not true and real at the same time. Let me just share some quotes about “story” with you:
“You’re never going to kill storytelling because it is part of humankind…”we” come with it.” -Margaret Atwood
“People forget facts but they remember stories.”
“Every story is us.”
How did you get into the film industry?
I started off my career as a young extra working in feature film and on a TV show, then I immediately went to study acting and got into theatre. I still love theatre. It is the live event, the people sitting in the seats can’t be compared to film acting.
Yet film acting is like “Formula 1” metaphorically speaking. It is fast, it is intimate and you have to be dangerously open to be seen. I also love film very much. It is a completely different language from the theatre. This feeling of “being dangerously open to be seen” drew me to the film industry.
Who were your mentors?
My main mentor was Dominique De Fazio, former student and subsequent collaborator of Lee Strasberg at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York and taught periodically at The Actors Studio. Before him I was studying method acting with Susan Batson, Sandra and Greta Seacat.
Then, I met Dominique who invited me to see differently and to go to the roots of creativity. I studied with him for almost 18 years and taught for him in his studio. From that moment I also got interested in Zen and went deep into it, by myself. I was officially ordained in 2001 at the Fudenji Zen Temple in Fidenza, Italy with the Zaike Tokudo ceremony by my Zen master Fausto Taiten Guareshi.
I understood that the mind’s tendency is to constantly look for a way. It wants to have a method, to own a technique and wants to know what and how to do it. Mind and any kind of knowledge can’t access creativity, so it was clear to me that there is no way as a way. In fact, whatever involves creativity also implies freedom and unpredictability. In one sentence it could be said: ‘the unknown is the home of creativity.’ There is no control on what you do not know and the quality of the action that opens up to creativity is effortless and choiceless.
What drives you to create?
To know myself, implies full knowledge of what I am not. I think there is a lot of confusion about “knowledge” and how to access creativity. Instead, be aware about the priority of “being” to “knowing.” You need not know to be, but you must “be” to know. This is very important in acting and “Being” applies to the “Now – here”
How did you prepare for your role as a gangster in Gomorrah?
After I read the script, it was so interesting to delve into this human being, ‘Eduardo Arenella,’ a mafia guy who loves to dress elegantly and in some way has some kind of ethics. I love to observe the behavior. So, I studied how he answers and the way he dresses, what kind of movement can he make dressed the way he does and I arrived unexpectedly to the scent he could use.
After a lot of research, I find the one: “patchouli.” The smell is quite strong and is slightly sweet and spicy. It has been described as a scent akin to the aroma that comes from wet soil. This brought me to discover his behavior through a metaphor, like whatever he does, even though it is a bad thing, he has to leave a nice and good smell. It was quite an experience going through this human being, who by the way, was a real man who is still alive.
Do you have a favorite episode?
I have to say that I loved all the episodes and I did enjoy the whole shooting. It was a great project and a great production. Still if I have to say my favorite episode, I’d say the episode in which they try to kill me/’Eduardo’ and they don’t.
After that, there is a shift in the story, because the whole game of alliance and confederation changes. There is a woman who is a boss and responsible for an area outside of the center of the City of Naples, who comes to me to offer a new alliance. From there it is interesting to see how he manages the relationship while keeping his power.
You are working a lot! Congrats on Ripley! What drew you to the project?
I got an audition for a regular in this TV Show and I still remember, I had five scenes to prepare. I got an email from my agent in which the casting director was told by the director to let me know, that he loved the self-tape I sent and that the role was more for a young man and that still he wants to give me a role that appears in two episodes, the role of ‘Pucci.’ Of course, I accepted.
The experience was great, to be directed by the Award-winning Steven Zaillian not because he won the award but because he mainly is a screenwriter and his perspective is so exquisitely interesting for me as an actor. Then I got to shoot all my scenes with Andrew Scott starring as Ripley on location in Capri and the Amalfi coast in Italy. It was an actor’s dream come true.
You have an appearance on HBO’s Industry. How did you prepare for your role?
The character I play in the show is a millionaire fashion designer named ‘Enzo Rocco.’ I went to see online videos of the life of Halston (Roy Halston Frowick). I observed the way he walked and his behavior, essentially how he moved the body and the way he answered in particular situations. I dove into the character of being a fashion designer, to see what it requires to do such a profession and I came across very interesting research that brought me to see the phenomena of “appearance.” To appear is to show, to exhibit, to make something appear for others to see.
This was one of my main guiding elements in giving life to this character. Because the question is about my preparation for the role, I also would like to say something about preparation. In the past my preparation was very long and deep.
Today what has changed is the awareness about the fact that whatever can be prepared doesn’t help the present moment, that is always unknown and uncontrollable. That doesn’t mean that I don’t prepare anything, it just means that I prepare what can be prepared with the awareness that the moment is uncontrollable. It is very clear to me to not rely on my mind for creativity but rather on my being that implies now – here, at this moment, and it implies relationship, plurality, and inter-dependability.
Immediately after the shooting of the second season of Hotel Portofino this September, I’ll be shooting the second season of the Serbian TV show South Wind. It is a huge success in Serbia. The new season also brings Eric Roberts and William Baldwin to the show. I also have a theatre project called “The Vegetal Way” in which I am playing the protagonist, a man who lost himself in a search to find his soul mate so that he can feel complete and in his journey realizes that there is only one relationship to heal and love… and that is the one with himself.
Catch Pasquale Esposito on Industry tonight on HBO.