Film Courage: Where did you grow up? What was life like at home?
Tino Orsini: I grew up in Somma Vesuviana in Naples in an apartment block opposite my school and across the way of my aunt’s house. Mum brought up my sister and myself pretty much by herself as in my early years dad was living in the UK and in business with his brother.
My Grandad lived with us at the time. I lived next door to my best friend and I had a pretty happy childhood.
Film Courage: When did you emigrate to the UK?
Tino: We joined my dad and emigrated to the UK in 1979.
Film Courage: Did your parents lend support toward being creative / artistic or encourage a career?
Tino: Both my parents encouraged a career in something that I was passionate about even then.
There was always music around the house and my mum has always sang especially Neapolitan songs and we would love watching films of Toto’s (Neapolitan comedic actor) and plays of Eduardo De Filippo.
Film Courage: What were your plans after high school?
Tino: My plans were to go to Hollywood and forge an acting career there so I decided against university and try it out in L.A.
Film Courage: What was the first day like arriving in L.A.?
Tino: My first day was like a dream. I had always wanted to see America for myself, especially Hollywood as I have always loved American culture, particularly the movies and T.V. So I found myself being excited in doing the most menial tasks at first like going to the grocery store or just walking around and seeing where Lana Turner or Gene Kelly lived. It was amazing!
Film Courage: Do you miss home?
Tino: I missed home and after a few years of living and working in L.A. I decided to move back to London and to focus on Theatre for a while as I had lost that connection out there.
Film Courage: What is your typical day like?
Tino: A typical day starts with an early start if I’m working on set or rehearsing a play, have breakfast, run my lines, check my e-mails, then check in with my agent or see the casting breakdowns and apply accordingly.
If I’m rehearsing I usually try and go to the gym or do some yoga and drink plenty of water throughout the day which helps me stay focused. If it’s a performance in the evening then I do various vocal and physical exercises.
Film Courage: How many acting classes have you audited in the Los Angeles area? What are things that stand out about great teachers or actors? What are red flags about certain classes that made you pass?
Tino: I have always maintained that training should be on-going. Whilst in L.A. I audited a great many acting classes but the ones that stood out for me was of course The Stella Adler Conservatory and Living the Art Institute with Kimberly Jentzen. I think what stands out with a great acting teacher is trust. If I feel that I am not judged and can express myself in class without any fear then I’m able to learn and evolve as an actor.
Some classes were obviously less organized and the teachers didn’t really have the know how and seemed like they were only trying to make money out of vulnerable actors.
Film Courage: You attended Drama Studio London but did not graduate?
Tino: When I returned to England I decided to go to drama school and was accepted at Drama Studio London. I did not graduate because there was work for me back in L.A. and I opted out of the Christmas shows so I only did two semesters in all.
It was unfortunate at the time but I don’t really regret it as I’ve come to learn so much just by gaining work experience on set or on stage and I knew that even back then.
Film Courage: One of your early mentors was Sally Marr, the mother of legendary stand-up comic Lenny Bruce. How did this relationship begin? What did she teach you about acting? Did you meet Lenny?
Tino: I met Sally through my uncle as they had been friends and I thought she was so funny and she became a mentor for me through her irreverent knowledge and invaluable advice on the business of acting. She had been in the entertainment business all her life and she used to say Kid, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and of course had encouraged her son Lenny to do comedy. I never met Lenny but have kept in touch with Kitty his daughter who now runs ‘The Lenny Bruce Foundation.’
Film Courage: Can you recall a time where you were harshly corrected on set or on stage by a director and how you turned it around?
Tino: A director once said during a scene something like ‘that’s not good’ and I replied ‘well, it’s good enough’ and I laughed it off. It showed him that I felt worthy enough as an actor to stand up to him. After the run he complimented me on my performance and all was forgotten.
Film Courage: Best on-set guidance a director gave to you. What made it compelling?
Tino: The best advice from a director was ‘don’t act’ in a particular scene.
I thought that was brilliant piece of directing as I really had to unlearn and realize that I am enough. It really is that simple!
Film Courage: Describe a dream acting role for you.
Tino: I would love to play a Shakespearean villain with the likes of Kevin Spacey.
Film Courage: Your experience with Stella Adler? What did the teach in the classes, structure, class size? Is there freedom or constraint with the work?
Tino: My experience with Stella Adler was the most amazing time. I never got to meet the great lady herself as I began just after she went back to New York but the teachers there like Arthur Mendoza were inspirational and I made life-long friends there.
The classes were fairly large I remember, in fact I was the only man in a class of 30 at first.
I felt like I could try different characters and scenes and not be afraid of “falling on my backside.”
It really was liberating and I loved every minute of it in fact I think I was the only student that attended every single class as I was so enthusiastic!
Film Courage: What does theatre performance provide you with that film and television does not?
Tino: Well in theatre there is the instant rapport and gratification that one gets from a live audience. The laughter or silence that happens during a performance is palpable and you really have to think on your feet because you are there every night telling a story as if for the first time which is so exciting whilst film you really are performing for the camera and you do bits at a time so you’re really in the editor’s hands and much less in control of your performance as you are on stage.
Film Courage: Your oddest audition story?
Tino: Once I auditioned for a TV series and the Casting director I was reading for had me read then I got a call from my agent afterwards saying that the casting director thought I smelled too good and to lay off the aftershave which I thought was hilarious!
Film Courage: For those actors who do not live in LA, what should they know about pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles?
Tino: Well I can’t really say as L.A. has changed a lot since I was out there but I think the advice I would give if someone wants to go there to pursue a career is surround yourself in people that believe in you and your talent. Try and market yourself because it is a business after all but don’t be dragged into ‘their’ idea of who you really are. You need to maintain a thick skin and believe in yourself which will give you that extra bit of confidence and also integrity in your work and acting choices.
Film Courage: Most discouraged day you had as an actor and why you haven’t quit?
Tino: I don’t remember a particular day when I felt discouraged as there have been a few but I’ve always tried to remember why I wanted to be an actor in the first place and that feeling I had when I was doing school plays in my teens and loving the buzz I felt on stage when the audience clapped at the end of the performance.
Film Courage: What have you been told is your type and do you stay within these roles or audition for whatever you feel is fitting?
Tino: I have done lots of gangster types, or New York Italian tough guys in general because of my Italian background but I am always interested in playing different characters, a little off-beat with interesting stories to tell, certainly dramatic but also comedic. I love making people laugh!
Film Courage: Some of the greatest truths about acting that you learned by doing/experiencing, not through schooling?
Tino: I’ve learned to remain true to myself no matter what. It’s a very competitive industry and there is lots of rejection but if you are right for a role then the opportunity to express yourself will come up in one way or another. Being resilient when one isn’t working and to enjoy the process. When you take yourself serious as an artist then the right people will gravitate toward you and give you those opportunities.
Film Courage: What can you recommend to other actors on putting a reel together?
Tino: I would say put your best work in a reel which is not too long and distracting. Keep it simple!
Film Courage: How long did it take you to get your reel together?
Tino: I looked around and found the right editing company for me and was able to get it all together in a couple of weeks until both my agent and I were satisfied with it.
Film Courage: You have extensive training. Any advice to individuals leaving high school who cannot afford to attend college? How can they still hone their acting skills?
Tino: Keep working at the craft wether it’s being in student films or community theatre.
Film Courage: What is next for you creatively, Tino?
Tino: I’m starting my own podcast and hope to bring a Neapolitan play to the UK sometime this year. To continue doing interesting film and theatre projects and challenge myself as an actor so that I can learn, grow and be happy doing the thing I’m so passionate about and love.
Tino Orsini is an Anglo-Italian actor with extensive credits in Film, Theatre and T.V.
He trained at The Stella Adler Conservatory in L.A. and Drama Studio London.
He began acting in school plays then began his professional career with the role of screenwriter Walter Gannett in the critically-acclaimed mockumentary ‘The Making of…And God Spoke'(1993) directed by Arthur Borman.
His theatre credits include Dionysus in ‘The Frogs(Theatro Technis) Polonius in ‘Hamlet'(Barons Court) Nat Miller in ‘Ah,Wilderness!'(London Theatre Workshop) Baptista in ‘The Taming of the. shrew'(Cambridge Shakespeare Festival) “V” in ‘Project Lolita'(Vault Festival) Michael in ‘The Blind Bet'(Hen and Chickens) and most recently Robert in ‘Under the Blue Sky’ (Drayton Arms).
He has a few independent feature films coming out soon including ‘After the World Ended’ directed by Tony S Ukpo and ‘Monalisa Lives’ directed by Anthony Abuah.
He also appears in numerous short films, web series, T.V, commercials and writes a blog.
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