Kat Kourbeti chats with Rich Graff about Making of the Mob: NY…
Kat Kourbeti: Congratulations on your new role in ‘Making of the Mob: NY’. What drew you to the part of Lucky Luciano? How did you approach the process of morphing into such a notorious gangster? What was it like on set of this project – any tidbits you can share?
Rich Graff: At the age of 11, I moved to Howard Beach, NY. I didn’t know it at the time, but most of my friend’s fathers were the head of the Gambino crime family. My best friend was Peter Gotti, John Gotti’s youngest son. Others included Angelo Ruggerio’s sons and Jimmie Burke’s son; Jimmie Conway as portrayed in the movie Goodfellas. Without ever having to commit a crime, I know exactly how these people lived, killed, and socialized. As I got older and understood what the people around me were going to grow up to be, I carefully distanced myself, and I was intelligent and self-sufficient enough not to be lured toward the artificial gratification that ultimately traps and dooms people in organized crime.
Initially I was hesitant on accepting the role; many gangster films only add to clichés’ of the genre. But the more I began to understand how patriotic and intelligent Lucky Luciano was, it dawned on me that I could create something completely original; a man who took what was once a petty criminal underworld and restructured into a global empire that still thrives to this day.
We filmed in West Virginia, which was a great experience, the scenery is magnificent and the local people were extremely hospitable. The only negative about working on a project like this was the smoking! We were smoking non-filtered cigarettes, and for a non-smoker, it was dizzying at times; I smoked nearly 2 packs a day.
KK: You have quite a diverse background – a published author, an Olympic qualifying snowboarder, a journalist, a chef, and not least of all an actor. Did you find a bit of yourself in Lucky, who dabbled in and pioneered so many things during his life?
RG: It’s amazing how many passions Lucky Luciano had throughout his lifetime, and in the same token, I pride myself on being a renaissance man as well. I have an unplanned attitude toward life, and being able to experience as many things as I can is much more important than achieving greatness in any one thing.
KK: You recently worked on ‘1971’, another challenging project based on real life events. What can you tell us about your role in it and can you elaborate on the acting process?
RG: The film 1971 is so revolutionary, so important to understand; John Raines and his crew of freedom fighters were not going to be or allowed other to be spied upon by the FBI, when they had done nothing wrong. These were Americans, who were simply protesting the war in Vietnam, and yet Hoover deemed them to be such a treat to the security of our nation, he ran wire taps on the homes, and did everything he could to inaccurate their members. This is eerily similar to what has happened recently in relation to publicly posted documents, revealing war crimes committed by our country and countries around the world.
KK: What about your upcoming roles in Insurgent and My Dead Boyfriend? Certainly very different genres across all your current projects. What was it like working on both of those movies – can you explain on both?
RG: My role on Insurgent as Aneas is a character role, but important to the story line. I loved my time there. Working with Heather Graham on My Dead Boyfriend was great. Heather is tremendously personable, as is Anthony Edwards the director. We had a lot of fun playing our instruments for camera, as we are part of a rock band, and Heather was even able to steal an on-screen kiss from me, after pleading with me for a while! HA! Actually, I snuck the on screen kiss in there, but Heather enjoyed it all the same.
KK: What was the most satisfying experience while working on Making of the Mob?
RG: I’ve never been on a more cohesive set of actors and crew, as it was my experience on The Making of the Mob. The actors fed of each other, made it fun, which allowed us to forget we were actors and allowed us to live the life of these people on camera. All of the credit has to go to the Director, John Ealer. I’ve never worked with a more selfless, un-egotistical, and multi-faceted director like John.
KK: What can an international audience expect from the show?
RG: Most American mafia films are filled with clichés, most of which are a knock-off from mob films of the past! The Making of the Mob will give you a rare glimpse into the struggles these every day immigrants went through in revolutionizing the organized crime business they created, which still exists today.
KK: What type of genre do you prefer to work on – you have crossed over so many, do you have a particular favorite?
RG: I’m a natural leader. No matter whom you are, or what position you hold, I’ll tell you exactly what I think! I connect most with those men and women who have become pioneers throughout history, men and women who were willing to risk everything for what was true to them. Kevin Costner’s role in Dances With Wolves brings all of my natural leadership skills and love for humanity front and center. It was amazing to watch him and the world around him transform in unison!
KK: We understand you recently signed on with Bohemia Group, a renowned international agency. What does this mean for your future endeavors? What do you hope to be doing next in your career?
RG: Working with Susan Ferris and her management team at Bohemia will give me the opportunities I’m ready to capitalize on. Everything has now gelled together for me, and I’m looking forward to the future!
Kat Kourbeti – Follow me on Twitter.