Actor John Magaro, whose filmography includes “The Box,” “My Soul to Take” and “Liberal Arts,” recently spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner about his latest project - a drama from “Sopranos” creator David Chase.
In “Not Fade Away,” which opens Friday, Jan. 4 at movie theaters throughout the Valley, Magaro plays a young man who, in 1964 New Jersey, decides to form a rock band with his best friends after the Rolling Stones appear on television.
Question: Can you tell me a little bit about your character as you see him and were able to tap into his persona?
Answer: I think Doug is kind of a typical teenager. He is trying to find an identity and he is looking for that in any place that he can. He looks for that in his family, in a band, in his friends and in a girl. And that leads to a lot of frustration, anger, depression and a lack of understanding. But by the end he has a bit of a moment of transcendence where he realizes that he has to really find that identity within himself.
Q: Did you do anything special to tap into the character’s mindset?
A: I grew up listening to a lot of 60’s music and watching films from the 60’s, as well, so I sort of had that knowledge going into it. We were also really fortunate that we did this rock and roll boot camp ahead of time, which allowed the guys to build this relationship off of the set on our own terms and gave our friendship on screen a greater sense of honesty.
Q: Did you get any inspiration for the character from real musical figures?
A: There was an element of Bob Dylan that they were trying to infuse into the look of the character with the crazy curly hair and that whole thing. But as far as people that I felt like doug might be trying to emulate, I sort of looked at Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Mick Jagger. I always felt like he had a real draw to the Stones and that he was sort of trying to emulate those guys as much as he could. I do not think that he has the charisma of a Mick Jagger but he was certainly trying to get there.
Q: Was it easy to transport yourself, so to speak, to the 1960’s?
A: Everything that David Chase does has a tremendous amount of specificity. He is very detail oriented. There was a moment when we kind of shut down shooting because we didn't have the right egg cream glass. He wanted the exact egg cream glass that would have been at this diner during that period. I think that is a good thing because you can really trust a director who is so focused on every detail and I think that it shows in the end product. We also had a great artistic team. They put together a beautiful world with these sets that we got to come into everyday. It really was like stepping back in time.
Q: Can you tell me more about your experience working with David?
A: He is an incredibly smart writer and director. He writes these honest stories and tells them the way that he wants to tell them. And he is brave enough to do that. I certainly respect him as an artist but he is also just an incredibly generous man. He really loves his actors and fights for then. He is incredibly collaborative. It was a great experience and I certainly learned a ton from working with him.
Q: You really sang and played the drums in the movie. What was that like?
A: Playing rock and roll music with these four other guys was kind of a euphoric experience. It is this amazing feeling when you have these guys who come together and create this sound. I would love to keep doing that but I have a long way to go as a drummer if I was ever going to really pursue it. I can do the basics but there is a lot more that I need to learn. I enjoy singing. I never really considered myself a singer before this. I would sing in the shower and in the car but that was about the extent of it. But I am open to singing again.
Q: Now, that is not exactly true. Aren’t you the young man who several years ago sang a song about having enough joy to go around in an exceptional Christmas commercial for Walmart and Coca-Cola?
A: I had known that director for a while before then. I didn't think he knew I sang or anything but he called me in to be a part of it and I thought he was crazy. He really wanted me to do it and fought for me to do it. The whole time i was like, “I can’t sing!” But people seemed to really enjoy it. I just kind of take it all in stride. It is certainly good to have fans but I am always focusing on the next thing and continuing to do good work. Onward and upward.
Q: Finally, what did Doug teach you about yourself?
A: I think that I sort of came into this film in a state that Doug is in throughout the film - this kind of frustration about not understanding where you are at in life, who you are and what you are doing. Just this total confusion. So I think that I walked away from it with a bit of that transcendence that Doug has. I am now trying to trust the universe to take care of me and not necessarily rely on other people to make me happy. But that is a tough thing because I feel like it is a cycle. You fall back into the pits but you try to do the best you can with that lesson.