In Conversation with actor Garry Pastore (The Deuce)

Actor Garry Pastore, has graced our screens in both film and on TV for 35 years. He is on the cast list of some of the most well-known mobster films, TV shows including The Sopranos and more recently as Matty ‘The Horse’ on HBO’s The Deuce.

PC: You were born in New York, brought up on Staten Island, how was a typical Sunday spent as a kid?

GP: My life was different because my pop was never around on a Sunday but it would usually be that we would have dinner at 4 p.m. We lived down by the boatyards. I would love to go down there with my fishing rod, go down to the pier and go fishing. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child, there was a lot to do and nobody bothered children then. There were creeps around but not like nowadays, I think it’s gotten worse. I did what a typical 8-year-old would do: play in the woods with some friends, we’d grab a stick and make believe it was a gun. 

PC: What kind of kid were you? Were you loud, shy, quiet or outgoing?

GP: I was definitely outgoing – that’s how I become an actor I was looking for attention. I was lonely. I spent a lot of time alone by myself but I always made friends easily, but for the most part I was lonely. The difference between today’s child and 8-year-old me is I couldn’t wait to go outside, but kids today they just want to stay in play computer games and whatnot, which I frown upon. I have children of my own, they are always inside playing with their stupid computers instead of going out and enjoying life. 

PC: My kid, he’s 24 now, but he was always one for camping and being outside at any opportunity he could but I do think that’s becoming rarer now with kids.

GP: Is he the adventurous type? 

PC: Yes he is!

GP: If I lived in Scotland like he does I’d be out looking for Nessie everyday to see if it really existed.

PC: You still like fishing and going out on a boat don’t you?

GP: I went yesterday. The ocean is a beautiful place to go when you are on overload and I get overloaded once a week so I need to find me an ocean.

PC: Do you live close by the ocean?

GP: I’m not far, I’m more inland. I used to live right on the ocean, it was in my backyard, today I have to travel a wee bit but not too bad.

PC: Obviously you being one of six would keep your mother busy but what did your father and grandparents do?

GP: My grandpa died when I was 8; he was from Belfast in Ireland. I loved him, he was great. His name was Seamus, from what I remember he was a fun guy. He had a heavy brogue, he always took me under his wing and when he died I was very, very sad – he was my playmate. My grandmother we lost and I barely remember her, she was from Germany – so funny how our European roots come out. My father’s parents were from the Province [of] Caserta in Italy.

My [other] grandmother died in 1921 in a fire, my [other] grandfather passed away the year I was born so I never got to meet him. But as far as my folks go, my mom was ill when I was a child so I didn’t get a lot of time enjoying the company of my parents and when I did get them both together it was a rarity. Usually that didn’t happen until my teen years and by then I wasn’t interested in hanging out at home: it was more about me going out and being with my friends. I guess I kind of regret that, you know, you don’t realise what you got until it’s gone.

PC: What about your siblings? Do they live close by or have they gone in different directions?

GP: It was nice, we had a reunion of sorts last week. My brother was up from Florida and my younger brother came up from northern Pennsylvania; we barely get time to spend time in the same room together. We went out and we had a meal in a famous steakhouse – it was lovely. I didn’t spend a lot of time with them but I did spend a good hour or so with them. 

There always been some kind of a family squabble going on and I’m usually the one who is trying to put everyone back together again. My brother is not talking to my sister, my sister doesn’t talk to my brother, the two of them are not talking at all. As you get older I think people realise that life is short, it’s silly to have these family arguments in your life because, why? What reason? I try and explain that to them just like I said: I wish the times I was mad at my parents I could buy them back. And I tell this to my children, I say, ‘Try and spend as much time with your parents as you can, because time is precious, you can’t buy it back.’ You can’t get one minute of that when they are gone, and it happens suddenly, sometimes death comes knocking at your door and you don’t expect it – here today gone tomorrow. It’s hard for a child to absorb that, even my little girl thinks I’m immortal, that I’m never going to die. I don’t ever want to bring that sadness to her because we’re so close. Life can be very very sad sometimes for a child: they are not given enough time to understand what they’re up against in their life and there’s nothing worse than losing somebody close to you, it’s horrific. 

Anyway now we have spoken about all the cheery stuff…

PC: Yes, let’s talk about you being a model. I read that you didn’t like it.

GP: No I didn’t like it at all! I started out right around high school, everyone was going, ‘Oh you’ve got such great features, high cheekbones.’ I think with the combination of my European roots it helped – it gives you a look – people never knew where I was from and I kind of liked that. I guess I was taller (I feel like I’m shrinking now as I’m older) I was around the 6ft mark, 18 and pretty thin. 

PC: Tall, dark and handsome! 

GP: Yes I was tall, dark and handsome. So I went to a couple of agencies and a few of them shot me down right away but there was one I knew, they were emerging, called Zoli Models – they were into European and Italian men – they signed me for a year. I did a lot of runway stuff, I did some print. They wanted me to go to Milan and take pictures with Italian photographers like GQ and things of that nature. I started to run into issues of sexuality which I didn’t realise was so rampant at that time. There was a lot of models and photographers and people in the industry that were not straight, and I was. I’m not homophobic whatsoever, I have many, many gay friends that I have platonic relationships with, I have a lot of fun with them – their flamboyancy – sometimes I need that in my life, the humorous thing. But anyway I was having a lot of adult men coming onto me almost like the ‘MeToo’ thing in reverse. I should have started a movement ‘HimToo’ back then… I got scared and I didn’t like it: the promises of me becoming a top model had I laid on the casting couch.

PC: Yes success, but at what cost?

GP: It wasn’t my bag so I said, ‘See ya! Bye!’ and then, from that, I started doing soap operas and that led to movies and TV shows and now this is where I am. 

PC: I was looking at your movie credits and on a couple, like Carlito’s Way, you were credited as Garry Blackwood: why the change in name? 

GP: That name I got from my mom, that was her roots, and I did it because they were not using Italians a lot in the film business. A lot of Italian actors – Frank Vincent who just passed away, my dear friend Frankie, he used Vincent which was his middle name his last name was Gattuso – a lot of male actors changed their names back then they wanted to be ambiguous as far as what their nationality was. I look back and I’m sorry I ever changed it. 

PC: What prompted you to change to Pastore?

GP: I realised that on my license it says Pastore and the IRS wanted me to pick a name so it’s been that since 1996. Anyone thinking I changed it because of my cousin Vincent (‘Vinnie’ Pastore), they are wrong! 

PC: I read about the other hat you wear, that you have been doing for a long time, which is being a set builder. I know you worked on The Path. What does that job title mean in real terms? 

GP: The problem with being an actor is you never know when you are going to be working, you are always waiting for the phone to ring because you want to have a job. A friend of mine worked in the industry as a prop master so I started with him as a prop, meaning that I would bring props to actors: if an actor needs a gun I’d bring it to them; if they’d need a car I’d drive it to them; if they want to eat a bowl of Cheerios I’d bring them the spoon and the bowl – that’s what props do. Then from there I branched out on my own and got away from propping because you have to be on set a lot. I decided the ending of it where you actually decorate the set – if the room is empty you fill it up with furniture, you hang photographs and whatever – is better so I did that and I liked it better. But unfortunately there’s a lot of lifting and dragging, hanging and being on your knees putting down flooring and it does take its toll as it’s done on me. I found, especially when I hit 50, this sucks. I have a number of injuries: I have hernias; I ripped one of my arm muscles. I was out for about 8 months with injury so I said to myself, ‘What am I going to do now? If this acting career of mine doesn’t take off, I’m screwed!’ And then, lo and behold, the last few years things have started opening up for me – more doors have opened. I used to call it ‘the ladder’, now I’m starting to get to the top of ‘the ladder’. It’s a lovely feeling because any actor will tell you, you climb up this ladder you get to the second last rung and it seems almost impossible to get over that second to [the] last rung and when you finally do, you start to see the light and you say, ‘Hey! My career is starting to take off’ and it really is a lovely feeling.

PC: I bet! When you decorate the set like you did on The Path do you ever watch the show when it’s aired?

GP: Oh yeah! The Path was a good show to work on; I enjoyed it immensely. I had a great crew and I was the boss so I wasn’t doing any heavy lifting. It has its problems, but that was the one show that I worked that didn’t have problems but a lot of times it’s employees. You have so many employees working for you: as the gang boss I sometimes have 30 or 40 people working for me at a time and then you have 40 different personalities and people not getting along. I found that the most frustrating part, that I had to play schoolteacher and then I play schoolteacher to the principals I have to answer to, so if something goes awry I still have people I have to answer to at the end of the day. Was it a good job on The Path? Yes. Did I enjoy everyone I worked with? Absolutely! The cast and crew were all great. A good experience!

PC: I interviewed Jessica Goldberg, the creator of The Path. Do you have any input with the show-runners and creators, or would they not be involved in that side of things?

GP: They like to hear what you have to say. I’ll never forget one time I was shooting Person of Interest and I was on set and I had just hooked up this magnifying glass, a big one, and the actor who played Finch, Michael Emerson…

PC: I really like him actually.

GP: What a great guy he was! Oh my God. You want to talk about a great man? He was awesome. The director was saying we need to do something with the magnifying glass, I said, ‘If I may be so bold, and with all due respect, why don’t you have the camera looking up at Michael looking through the magnifying glass?’ and his mouth dropped and he goes, ‘Fucking brilliant mate!’ So he did it and the shot was used. So I was happy about that and that I made a suggestion where the director wasn’t such an egomaniac that he thought, ‘I’m not going to listen to this, on how to line up the shot,’ but he was very cool and we became really good friends. 

PC: I have been chatting to some of the cast from Mindhunter about the fact that people think David Fincher is so controlling because he insists on so many takes, but in fact he is quite open to suggestions. 

GP: Having this art director background behind me when you dress a set… even now I’m very critical when I go and see a movie – if there is some art missing on a wall or if they are shooting and there’s nothing behind them to split up the wall I go ‘Ugh’. Of course, after you do something for so long, you are good at what you do. It is very, very obvious, I would ask somebody who had that knowledge what I should do. 

I love seeing people when they shoot movies – and I know you have seen this on television – when an actor opens a refrigerator door and they shoot through the refrigerator with the camera facing the actor. I love those shots and mailbox shots and things of that nature, where they are shooting through to see their face opening something or closing something. It’s a great great shot and it’s using your imagination to get the camera to do things you don’t normally see. That to me makes a wonderful director, or a director of photography, when they use these little nuances that you don’t see a lot. You know, be creative with the camera, that’s what it’s for. I love all that. 

PC: I haven’t seen it but I was reading about your On the Waterfront production and I just wondered how did you feel when you knew Budd Schulberg (who wrote the original screenplay of On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando) and his family were going to be there to see it? That must have been like winning the lottery!

GP: Waiting for Budd was just a wonderful experience. We did On The Waterfront in Hoboken (where they shot the original movie) at Frank Sinatra Park. We put it up as a staged reading: basically the actors are holding the scripts; some of them were smart enough to get off-book, I don’t know how they did it. I didn’t have a script to hold because I didn’t have a lot of lines. 

We didn’t have a lot of time to do it. My DP [Director of Photography] who I had used before in several films (who I love) is from Holland, his name is Fokke Baarssen was PA for me and when we were shooting On the Waterfront I said, ‘I wish you’d come shoot some of this stuff and record it, it’s magnificent.’ He’d just got out of film school. I handed him a video camera and he shot away and made a movie out of it and it won a lot of awards. Sadly I haven’t yet got it out there but I will. It’s a wonderful film; what a great movie it was; it was really lovely. And yes, Budd Schulberg came on the last night. We had torrential rain and couldn’t shoot it outside so we had to find a venue to shoot it in. We went into a college lecture room and we put the set dressings from outside, inside and everybody came. Budd Schulberg saw it and a week later he passed away, and then I made the movie in his honour. His family came and they loved it and it was called Waiting for Budd.

PC: Did you get any feedback on what Budd thought of the staging of it?

GP: He loved it, he loved it, and they mentioned it at the movie; he was very very happy. This work was his swan song, he saw his piece of work performed for the very last time and then he passed away. It’s a beautiful, sweet story and I should get it out. I’m just so busy I need to be cloned.

PC: You do! I mean just looking at all the stuff you have done from producing to directing to acting…

GP: I’ve got one for you. I started writing a script For Futt’s Sake, it’s about these two guys who are brothers and their father owns a tavern in Scotland and the father was behind all the pranks about Nessie: he put all the fake dinosaur heads in the pond; he’s a practical joker. His two sons become practical jokers as well and the mayor’s son from New York studies with these two boys in college, they become great friends, and his name is Steven Fudderman. He’s going to get married and the two pranksters from Scotland come to New York for the wedding and they get into all kinds of trouble. 

PC: That sounds like a lot of fun.

GP: It’s a great script and I want to finish it. I guess now that I’ve told you about it I have to finish it. 

PC: You must! Anything Nessierelated people are mad about over here. All the tourist shops are full of Nessie stuff and every few years we get the headline about Nessie being spotted. I’ve been on a glassbottomed boat on Loch Ness where you go out looking for it so it’s a huge thing here. 

GP: I’m going to finish and I’ve actually just pitched it to a director – he loved it and thought it hysterical. It would make a great comedy. We need more comedies!

PC: We do but having said that I loved your movie Destressed with all of its angst and emotions. When you wrote that it was because of the effects stress had on you that led to you being admitted to hospital: was it autobiographical?

GP: Yes of course! We as humans… I don’t know how it is where you live, but I’d say, for the most part, every day has its stress level and what elevates it depends on the day. I’ve had days where my stress level is at 10, other days it is at 2. I don’t exactly know what the factors are, most of the time I can probably tell you what they are. It’s your job and money. Unfortunately money and job go together, if you don’t work you don’t make money, if you can’t make money you don’t have a job. So I’d say they are the two biggest factors. Then it’s just life in general. As I said in the movie: you create your own stress. If you get up late… like today I got up late, you called – I’m going to be honest with you, I set my alarm, it didn’t go off! But I’m tired. I got up very, very early to go out on the boat yesterday and, believe it or not, everyone says fishing is relaxing, yesterday it was work! It was a wonderful day but it knocked the crack out of me so I slept like a log last night so I woke up feeling wonderful, absolutely wonderful.

So we create the stress in our lives, I thought Destressed needed to be told as a film because it wasn’t just me, it was everybody that I came across. I’m very delighted I made that film. I think it came out better than I expected it to. We had a great time shooting it, Fokke and I: we drove cross country; we got to see some beautiful sites; met some beautiful people; we saw people who had things much worse than us. I think that’s what really what makes our lives different from each other’s: is that I see people who are always angry every day and negative and I can’t be around those people anymore; I can’t allow negativity to be in the same room as me. I’ve been there and it’s evil. When you are down and out, and you are in a downer, nobody wants to be around you, nobody wants to be with you, nobody wants to talk to you – they want to avoid you at all costs. Being there and seeing that, and looking at the other side of the rainbow, it’s terrible – it’s terrible to be that person. That movie was made to enlighten people and make them realise that it’s not good to be sad and depressed.

PC: I read you shot part of it and then ran out of money that must have been stressful in itself? 

GP: Of course, it sucks! I dumped a lot of my personal funds into it that I don’t know if I will ever get back again.The problem with films like this is it’s available now, you can watch it almost all over the world (in fact I think you can see it in the U.K.) It’s word of mouth, if a million people see it yes I will make it a million dollars but also a million people would have seen it; I think a million people should see it; I think the more people that see this type of movie the better for mankind. Maybe you will take a minute to be a little nicer, take a minute to understand the plight of others. That one soldier in the film who came back from the war – and he lost three limbs – having not met a man like him before I didn’t realise what his life is like and for that one moment I met him I shut myself down [and] said, ‘God! Could I be him?’ and my honest opinion was, ‘I’d put a gun to my head and shoot myself!’ I don’t think I could be as strong or as courageous as he is. That’s where things changed for me in the movie – and in my life – is that I met somebody who had been through so much worse than me. He really didn’t bitch about anything and to this day I’m proud of him. I’ve taken him out fishing and it’s beautiful to see this man, who doesn’t have his own legs to stand on, and he’s out there enjoying the ocean and fishing and I said, ‘My God! This guy is a marvel!’

PC: I have a good friend and he has suffered great tragedy in losing his son a little while ago and I have said to him, ‘I don’t know how you have carried on with your life.’ He says he has suffered a terrible loss but there is always someone else who’s had it so much worse and that you have to make the most of your life. And I think that’s what your film showed – you think you are having a bad day but there are so many people who have it harder. The people you showed who had been in the path of hurricanes and lost everything makes you think how hard they have had it.

GP: It’s funny, you wonder how film festivals work because I applied to so many, especially in Europe, for Destressed and it didn’t get picked. While over here it won best picture. And I would say to myself, ‘Jeez, how did it get best picture here and not even get picked over there?’ I wanted the world to see the movie. I had screenings in Belgium and Holland but the people in Europe especially in Germany etc. the war-torn countries – they don’t wear their heart on their sleeve like they do here in America, they keep a stiff upper lip, they keep things tight to their chest and don’t share their feelings. I realised that even there I had people cry over it and people came up to me and said, ‘I don’t cry easily, I certainly don’t divulge my issues and problems, and I think I might now because of your movie.’ And I think, ‘Wow! I’m really turning heads with this, so this is why it’s important that people see it.’ I feel my film Destressed needs to be seen by more people. 

PC: The same guy I talked about just now (he is a Site Manager on a building site) he posted recently that 1 in 4 construction or building trades workers have suicidal thoughts because of the similarities of being an actor in that you don’t know where your next job is coming from, where you are going to earn your next pay cheque, to pay your bills. And because the building trade is so full of hard, tough guys many of them aren’t showing their emotions, or expressing their worries and fears, and they are bottling it up leading to suicides. 

GP: You are faced with that pressure to bring home a cheque. I honestly think the single worst thing a man has to deal with is to worry where the next meal is coming from and how is he paying for it – it’s horrible.

PC: You talked about your best friend Chuck dying because of the stresses of finance his job brought. 

GP: That was horrific! He was my best mate. I could never replace him – not that I’d ever want to – but I think life’s tribulations… He was a banker, he’d wait for one of his deals to come through, and a lot of times they didn’t but I think the combination of all those years of stress took him. He was a good man and I loved him very much. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.

PC: I think it’s lovely how you are not afraid to say you loved him, too many men shy away from showing such emotion.

GP: Listen, love is something you feel in your heart. As far as women go I’ve probably been in love three times and I know who the three are and those three were very, very special to me. Sometimes you don’t want to love but you grow in love and I loved them on first sight.

PC: Since making Destressed how do you recognise the signs now and what do you do to calm yourself? Obviously you go fishing but what other measures on a day to day basis do you take to reduce your stress levels? 

GP: What you should do is take a minute and think about how to get out of the situation you are in. If you are in a stressful situation (what’s going to be a stressful situation) think how are you going to get out of it. If it’s money what can you do to find some money for a quick fix. You can borrow it which is also stressful asking someone to borrow money from them, nobody likes to do that, it’s horrible. You don’t want to go to your friend and say, ‘Hey, I want to borrow some money,’ but we do it and we’ve all done it. Just as you can be wary about borrowing I can be wary about lending it. We don’t like to be in that position either but if you have something to sell, maybe you have something that somebody wants, maybe it’s time to sell that precious heirloom you have and it will help you out. 

There is always a solution. The problem with humans is, we panic, and if we learn not to panic and we learn to take our time… It’s so funny because I’m a better teacher than I am a student. A lot of times I don’t even listen to my own advice. I will suggest something but meanwhile I will go and do the same thing. I’ve learned that taking a minute or two – or five or ten – and just thinking the situation out and saying, ‘How can I make this better?’ That is usually the solution to the problem. 

PC: Rather than tying yourself in knots, lots of people bury their head in the sand and the problem is still there the next morning.

GP: That’s a normal reaction but wait… I’ve got a better one – let’s go to the pub and get drunk – getting drunk is not going to fix it, it’s going to get worse. How many have gone to the pub and got drunk then they have gotten behind the wheel of their car and crashed or police knocking on their car window. Now you have two problems from the one you originally have. People do stupid things all the time and if we just stopped and realised what it is that we do and why do we do it, I don’t think we’d be in half the shit shape we get into most of the time. We are to blame.

PC: At the end of Destressed your baby daughter makes an appearance and I was wondering how fatherhood compared at 50 years old to when you had your first, or in fact your first three, at a much younger age.

GP: Obviously I don’t have the patience that I had but when I see her little face and her eyes light up when she sees me I have a choice to put on my daddy smile. Sure she sometimes get on my nerves but I’d rather her get me upset than anybody else because she doesn’t know any better – she’s only 6. 

PC: But when you go home and she puts her arms around your neck and says, ‘Daddy!’ That must be the best feeling. 

GP: It’s amazing! There’s no better feeling. Just last night, for two minutes, she sat on my lap, she just looked at me adoringly – I don’t think about much after that. I realise I have such a gift, a gift in a young child, a young, innocent child and she completes me.

PC: We often like to talk a bit about romance in our interviews so if you can would you tell me how you met and courted your wife Melody?

GP: Melody, my love. It was right after the terrorist attack here, I was going through a really bad time. Away from the film business I took a job as a chef (because I went to culinary school) and I was talking to a friend and they wanted to buy a restaurant in New York, on Staten Island, they wanted me to go work there for a bit and see what I thought of it. I thought it was make or break time: he wanted me to be his restaurant partner and I was thinking of getting out of the film business for a bit (which I’ve done on more than one occasion) I do it probably once a week… I was being a chef and I wasn’t feeling great about myself: I’d just lost a couple of friends in 9/11; I just wasn’t in a good space. I was lonely too. I wanted to get married and I wanted to have children. I think that was the biggest bummer of my life that I thought I [was] never going to carry on my name and be married. And lo and behold this woman came into the restaurant, she was sat at the bar and I sent her over a crab cake and that’s where it started – so a crab cake initiated our love. I tell men to try that: if there’s a woman you want to court, you want to have her – get her a crab cake!

PC:  Tried and tested method! 

GP: It works amazingly!

PC: How long have you been married?

GP: Almost twenty years. Believe me it’s had its ups and downs, like anything else. No marriage is perfect, it’s what you do to make it work, and there’s nobody to blame. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s her, sometimes it’s got nothing to do with either of you, it’s another one of those things where you should take a minute and breathe.

PC: Even though my husband and I have been married a long time, we still fight – you’d think we’d know each other well enough by now not to get so irritated. We can have a huge fight over nothing and then an hour later you think, ‘What was the point? What a waste of time and energy.

GP: Absolutely! I tell you one of the things I think is an issue, is when you meet someone and get married right away without knowing the person; you have to marry your friend. When we were having issues we went to a councillor, at first there’s a lot of venom, ‘Oh it’s his fault.’ But one of the things that was brought up – which was really really wonderful – that she had said, ‘We weren’t even friends; we didn’t really know each other.’ And I was like, ‘You are right, we didn’t.’ We didn’t take the time to discover who each other was. If you don’t understand a person’s nuances, and you don’t understand what makes them tick, how the hell are you supposed to fall in love with them? You need to go out and discover each other more and really be friends. She still loves to push my buttons just to get a reaction.

PC: Yeah I do that. When we have a row sometimes I deliberately just say things that I know will wind him up (which is pretty nasty and callous).

GP: I think you women do it on purpose! 

PC: We do and if you don’t react that’s even worse! If my husband walks out of the room I shout, ‘Yeah, that’s right, just walk away then!’ And if he stays in the room he gets into trouble.

GP: It’s called ‘let’s play push the button’. We may have just stumbled onto something! We could make a game show called Push His Buttons

PC: Your wife and I will be the first contestants. (Both laughing) 

GP: I have a lot of laughs with her; she’s a funny lady.

PC: You seem to be cast in a lot of mobstertype roles (it’s obvious to anyone why) but do you feel limited by that or are you more than happy as long as they are good scripts?

GP: Well one thing I will not do anymore… I’ve been passing scripts up because people will say you should take anything, and I say, ‘Well, no you shouldn’t,’ when you have been doing it as long as I have. I think it can ruin your career and I think I am in a position where I can tell people, ‘No I’m not going do it,’ because I’ve been doing this long enough. I will not take any role. Just because someone wrote a role for me in a movie they feel that I have to do it – I will not do it! 

I just did a cameo in a short Fokke Baarssen made. I played a crazy Russian in a nursing home (believe it or not) and I did it because A: I love the guy B: I thought it was funny; even if it’s a little tiny role in a small film, I don’t care. I did it mainly for him but it was fun to do; I love to do comedy. I’m not in the movie long enough to have to worry about it and last year I was cast in an Adam Sandler film where I play a mayor. I’m Italian and I’m not a mobster. I welcomed the role being in a movie with obviously famous actors (we call them A-list actors). I’m in a film with four of them and it was a great opportunity for me and I proved that I can do something other than being a mobster.

The problem is not with the actor it’s with the casting director (they may not want to hear what I tell them if they are reading this) I’m going to tell you casting directors straight up ‘think outside the box’! Just because we have an E at the end of our name does not mean we can only play mobsters; you need to get the actor in the room and try him, see if he can actually pull it off and I can!  It’s not my fault I don’t get in, it’s the casting directors’ fault because ultimately they’re the ones who get you in the room. I just played a sheriff in a small town and I’m not an Italian in it – I’m Irish, my last name is Whelan. Here is a director who didn’t see any ethnicity, he looked past it and I have a Midwestern accent in it. I did it because I want to play different roles: I am an actor; Italians can do Shakespeare; Pacino got a shot doing that; my name is Pastore, give me a shot. 

PC: Your English accent earlier was pretty good I have to say.

GP: I can do any. I just need to be in a room with somebody and I can talk like them, it doesn’t take much; it’s an uncanny ability to be able to pick up on somebody else’s accent. So many British actors do American. Look no further than Gary Carr on The Deuce – he’s from London and he plays a pimp! 

There are a lot of British actors I look up to because they are wonderful (just their whole aura is amazing to me) and then they come to New York and they do all these characters very well. Another one is Tom Hardy – oh my God! He can transform into anything: that’s a good gift, it’s quality. If you’ve got it, flaunt it! 

PC: Obviously you are enjoying great success playing a mobster on The Deuce, I was already a fan of the show before I was introduced to you. Was it a normal audition process?

GP: I actually read for the pilot as a bartender, I didn’t get it and I’m happy I didn’t. My friend Lou Martini got it (I adore him). Usually if a friend goes and gets a part over me I’m not the slightest bit jealous: I’m very happy for them. I’m like, ‘Hey listen, you got it! God bless. Run with it.’ I can’t say all actors are like that. Sometimes you can hear the jealousy in their voice, which is unfortunate for them because if you have that kind of attitude, it’s not going to get you roles. If that’s the attitude you have, get out – you shouldn’t be in the film business at all. If you don’t get a role it’s not always because of talent, maybe you are not the right height.

Right now I’m up for a role and I have my fingers crossed and my toes crossed because I want it – it will help me get through the winter – and if I don’t get it I may have to go back to work as a set dresser again and I really don’t want to, because I’m trying to keep focused on my acting career now. 

As far as my role on The Deuce goes, I love playing Matty; he’s not just a mobster he’s a business man; he’s based on a true character. Matthew Lanniello was a mobster, I have met him once or twice in my life. Some interesting facts: My dad and he worked together in the Brooklyn Navy yard after the war, they knew each other; at that time my father worked under the offices of Albert and Anthony Anastasia and I’ve played them twice, in two films! How do you like that? Ain’t that crazy! 

PC: It is! Wow! 

GP: It’s great to play a character like that because I start to learn about them. Matty seems to be growing as I play him. I hope I will be back in season three in some capacity but that’s up to the powers that be. A lot of people like my character Matty, they like the way I play him. I’m scary yes but the original Matty was scary too. Just to clarify, because everybody wants to know why he’s called ‘The Horse’, it’s not a sexual innuendo! 

PC: It was something to do with his throw wasn’t it?

GP: It’s because he was strong – it was nothing to do with his penis size at all!

PC: Surely he was quite happy to run with the sexual reference though!

GP: That’s what people think but it was his body size it was referring to. Everyone laughs because I keep my weight on when I play him because he was a horse – he wasn’t a pony. After I finished playing him I lost probably 20 pounds.

PC: You don’t want to be really skinny though, you have to have a bit of meat on you!

GP: I don’t think I could ever be skinny again. 

PC: Did you get to hang out at all with James Franco or Maggie Gyllenhaal, or did they keep themselves to themselves?

GP: I actually did hang out with Maggie, we had a meal one afternoon. We went to a famous Sushi place called Nobu (Robert DeNiro owns it). Our campers were parked outside and we went in and had some sushi and Maggie and I spoke a little bit and it was basically about the show. We talked about our children as well because not every actor when they are with other actors wants to talk about work, but we always seem to. But I got to see who she was and we also talked about the scene I shot with her. 

What people don’t realise is when I watching that porno movie on The Deuce, she’s in the movie as well and she’s naked but I don’t see that. As an actor I had just saw her on screen performing sex acts, so of course if I’m in a room with her – across from her – I’m going to be embarrassed for her. So when the actor David Krumholtz who plays Harvey says to me, ‘She’s still got the moves.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, she does and I’m not looking at her,’ and she goes, ‘Look at me! I’m right here,’ I’m doing it out of a kindness being a gentleman. Do you follow me? To her – or the way they wanted it to work – is because I’m doing it because I’m a male chauvinist pig but I wasn’t being that, I was being just the opposite: to show her I’m not making a big deal of it. That’s my interpretation of it and that’s how I did it. If you watch it again you will see that I look away out of embarrassment for her. So we spoke about that. She said, ‘You know that’s interesting. Most actors would not have gone that far.’ I said, ‘Well that’s what I do as an actor: I take the situation and I put it into real life,’ and I guess some actors won’t do that. If I just saw her on screen, naked, performing a sex act I’m not going to feel very comfortable being in her company – especially if I am gentleman. I want people to realise that Matty the Horse was not some scumbag mafia: he was a family man; he had a wife; he owned businesses. He’s in a seedy business but that does not make him seedy! Everyone expects everyone on the sex business to be seedy, you almost anticipate that, ‘Ugh, he makes porn movies. He must be a creep!’ He wasn’t a creep – he’s a businessman and I want to be able to show that side when you create a character: to show he’s distancing himself from the business he’s in. He wasn’t gay but he opened gay bars as a business. If anything I think he was ahead of his time. He was a very, very, smart business man. I hope they show more of that in season 3, let’s show the inner mind of Matty.

PC: Have there been any other shows featuring him?

GP: No. Because he was a very quiet guy you rarely saw him in the spotlight. I research the characters I play and I found out very little about him. He has a son and I’d love to talk to him. I want to do him justice but I don’t want to make him out to be something he wasn’t. I can’t stand when they do that; they demonise people; they look at these mob members as ruthless killers. Not all of them are like that, a lot of them are just plain businessmen.

PC: Where I grew up there were a few of these types, one of them, who was called Mr Rose, couldn’t have been more of a gentleman and showed kindness away from that other side of his life.

GP: A lot were like that. In the neighbourhoods they lived in, people felt safe because they knew nobody would come into the neighbourhood and cause trouble. People sometimes can’t disassociate TV from real life so the people I live beside probably think I’m a gangster… 

PC: Seems to me people in America can be very vocal about being anti-porn, was there much backlash to stuff depicted on The Deuce?

GP: No. The only thing there was, was the horrible accusations against James Franco. I’m going to be honest with you – and I’m speaking from the heart – James has been nothing but a gentleman: he’s handsome, astute and intelligent and he’s been nothing short of being a gentleman on set. I watch everything that goes on and I think these allegations against him are horrible. Just because somebody says something doesn’t mean it’s true, there are always two sides to every story, yours and the truth. I believe he is pretty innocent in most of this, men will be men and boys will be boys and women can be women. I’ve seen women do some lecherous things too. I am an advocate of the #MeToo movement and I do believe that women need to be treated better and I’d be the first to say it, but if you lie about something to get your 15 minutes of fame, shame on you, and you should be charged like everybody else for a crime they’ve committed. If you are going to ruin a man’s life for your self-gain then shame on you! Just think if they’d shut the show down…

PC: Yes! I’d read that Maggie Gyllenhaal had spoken to every single cast member and asked how they felt about working with James, everybody, like yourself, supported him so there was no reason to cancel the show.

GP: It wouldn’t have been fair, it wouldn’t have been right and, quite frankly, it would have been disgraceful to lose work over that. 

PC: The problem is, is that there’s always that stain on your character whether it happened or not – people always remember you for that though don’t they, even if, or when, it comes out that he is completely innocent. People will say there no smoke without fire…

Do you think on The Deuce it shows a true representation of how New York was at the time period it is set in?

GP: Absolutely. Oh yeah. I lived in the city in the early ‘80s and it was still pretty disgusting: Times Square was not somewhere you wanted to walk people through. There were sex shops everywhere – I guess like the Red Light district in Amsterdam but less classy. It was really horrible; conditions were nasty; it was dirty. 

PC: What turned that around was it when they started opening brothels? Did they clean up the streets then? 

GP: I guess when they went inside there weren’t as many street walkers but there were still some even into the ‘80s. I lived in Manhattan, off Park Avenue, which is a very affluent place and I used to see them walking up and down Park Avenue regularly. Now there’s no prostitution (that I know of) that’s in your face. 

PC: Moving onto the music questions… Can you remember the 1st record you ever bought? 

GP: Yes I do I remember it very well: it was Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones. I think it had just come out and I was a huge fan and that was the first one I bought. I bought several after that; I bought Sticky Fingers and some others. A friend of mine was into them (I was only about 10 or 11) and then I started getting into them. I started my rock and roll roots early. 

The first record I ever heard was The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” – my brother and sister played it until they wore grooves into it. 

PC: I saw a video of you in a band! 

GP: I still get up every now and then and play a few songs. I enjoy it. I love it, actually.

PC: It there a song that takes you back to a special time in your life?

GP: Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”, one of my top 10 favourite songs. It takes me back to my childhood down by the docks and it makes me think about happy times – that’s the one that brings me

PC: Do you dance?

GP: Yes I actually have pretty good moves for a white guy! I tease my son all the time. He was going to a dance and I said, ‘Come on and let Daddy show you some moves,’ and he started laughing at me.

PC: What would be on your playlist if you were on a road trip?

GP: Let me look… The Beatles, The Stones, Motown, reggae, Bob Marley – big fan of his – love reggae. Music that makes me happy; although every now and then it’s good to shed a tear because it takes you to a place. 

PC: Do you like to go to see live music?

GP: I still go to concerts, the problem is they are so expensive so it’s hard but I try to go. I saw Black Sabbath last year in their farewell tour: Ozzy was great and I think that’s because he was sober; I could actually understand what he was singing. I thought that was pretty cool to see him say goodbye. A lot of bands are saying goodbye now, that makes me sad but The Rolling Stones keep on rolling. I met him Mick Jagger in the ‘80s. I didn’t know what to say, I was flabbergasted, my tongue was tied. I’m not usually star struck by any means but when you meet someone who you have grown up listening to…

PC: I wanted to ask you about the time you met Aretha Franklin.

GP: I was in a restaurant (the same one I met Mick Jagger in) and she came in – I think they had done the Grammys here so she was here for that. We spoke for 15-20 minutes (not continuously) but she was the sweetest woman. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ She struck me. That’s music I like to listen to; I really like her stuff. 

PC: So to wrap things up, the three questions we ask everybody we interview: what is your favourite or most used word?

GP:  My favourite word is ‘yes’! 

PC: How would you spend your perfect day? 

GP: It would be spent with my family, and my children not bickering with each other. My favourite type of day is waking up on a summer’s day and taking the family to the seaside, maybe going on the boards and taking my children on the rides – I really love that. And knowing that I have a job and knowing where the next meal is coming from, because (I have to be honest) in 36 years of being in this business, the worst part is not knowing what you are doing next. And I don’t want to do that anymore, I want to know I have a job, doing something I want to do and working with the people I want to work with. I think those days are coming. 

PC: I think you are definitely on track with the projects you are working on currently including Shooting Heroin, which sounds great! 

GP: Yes Shooting Heroin I’m looking forward to that because it’s a pet peeve of mine. This drugs epidemic is disgraceful I want it to go away and I think the only way to raise awareness is to stick it in people’s faces and this movie is going to do that. 

PC: What could you not possibly live without?

GP: The ocean! 

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This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Any opinions or views expressed within the interview are the subject’s own and publication does not imply endorsement of any such opinions or views by Absolute Music Chat or its personnel.

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