The first two episodes of Stanley Tucci’s newest series on Amazon Prime Video, Citadel, premiered on Thursday. He plays the character of Bernard Orlick, much to the contrary of earlier roles in his career where his ethnic background was a factor in the characters he had the opportunity to portray. According to Tucci in a recent interview with Brian Lloyd of Entertainment.ie, the five-time Emmy Award winner was typecast as a “bad guy” when he first began acting as a result of his Italian heritage.
“You have to remember that Italian Americans and anyone who had a dark complexion were always playing the bad guy”, said Tucci. “That’s not so much the case anymore, which is great, but if you were of Italian extraction you were cast as the bad guy.”
He continued to state that as the Italian American community became more vocal over the last ten years in demanding a greater variety of character representation, we can see more characters with Italian surnames in the television and movie industries aside from the overplayed mafia stereotype such as teachers, among other legitimate professions.
A good example of this can be seen in Ray Romano’s recent directorial debut film, Somewhere in Queens, starring himself and Laurie Metcalf. The movie tells the story of the Russos, a close-knit Italian American family that operates a construction business in Queens and whose youngest member, “Sticks,” contemplates pursuing a potential opportunity to play college basketball at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
This has not always been the case though. As Tucci alludes to in the interview, Italian Americans have experienced “huge prejudice” in Hollywood over the years, so much so that the famous actor went on a decade-long boycott of accepting any roles connected to the mafia until he was offered the part of Frank Nitti in Road to Perdition in 2002.
Tucci’s family hails from a little town called Marzi in the Calabria region of Italy. Given his ancestral roots, the country has always held a special place in the actor’s heart. The Academy Award-nominee even hosted a series on CNN called Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy where he explores the unique cuisines and cultural traditions of different regions in Italy.
As Tucci continues his career, he will strive to continue portraying the Italian American experience in a positive light.