Exclusive Interview with Daniel Franzese of "Mean Girls"

If you haven't heard the news, Mean Girls hero Daniel Franzese was just cast for a multi-episode arc on HBO's Looking. He'll be playing Eddie on the show. After reporting on the new role, we decided to reach out so we could ask HIM all about it!

Danny was so fun to chat with; he's got so many projects, stories, ambitions, and just has the best sense of humor! Read the Exclusive Interview from ShareTV below where he dishes on his viral video (Shit Italian Moms Say), how he got involved with Looking, connecting with his fans, and Mean Girls of course.

(above) Photography Credit: Emma Lauren Photography

ShareTV: Congratulations on landing the role on Looking! Can you tell us about the audition and how you landed the part?

Daniel Franzese: I actually didn’t audition. Carmen, who is the casting director, discovered me for my first role ever in a 2001 film – Larry Clarke’s Bully. We remained friends, and she was working on the show, I told her I liked it, and she talked to them. They were looking to add a character this season that’s "a little more cuddlier" and they wrote a part for me. I went and met with Andrew Haigh, one of the directors, and we got along really well. He told me what their ideas were, and I loved everything that they were telling me. I did a screen test and got the part.

ShareTV: Wow! That’s so neat! Have you ever had a part written specifically for you before?

DF: I’ve gotten offers before, but no I don’t think I have actually. I also haven’t done this much TV. I’ve done guest stars, but I’ve never done an arc on a show. This is a new medium for me.

daniel

Photography Credit: Doug Jones @HeyComet

ShareTV: Actually, I wanted to ask you: you’ve done stage, film, you’ve directed, had art shows…. What’s your favorite and why? (If that’s even answerable!)

DF: You know it’s all different. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge. I just realized, while working on the show, that in television you don’t really know potentially where your character is going or what you’re going to do. And this is the first time I’ve ever done any acting job that wasn’t improvisation that I don’t know the outcome, or what is going to happen because they write it [for you] as you go along. So it’s interesting to have no clear ending in sight, and to let a character grow and develop. I find that really intriguing; I’ve never been able to do that yet. With theater you have the same play every night and you find little gems in the same material every night, with film you’ve got a couple of shots at it while you’re on set (and it’s often shot out of sequence and you kinda gotta plan ahead in order to develop arcs and stuff), but with this medium things unfold naturally in a way, and I find that really exciting- to see a character grow. I don’t know until I get the script for next weeks' episode what is going to happen [with the same character] and I find that really exciting.

ShareTV: You have such a great connection with your fans, it’s amazing! What do you think drives that connection and how do you engage so many people?

DF: When I was younger, I was a fan. I grew up a student of acting and really excitable about anything having to do with entertainment. I used to write letters to celebrities and get their autographed pictures and I remember how that felt, to feel connected to people that I cared about. And we really live in an amazing time right now where I could respond or talk or favorite something that a fan writes, and communicate with them on Instagram. I can take a picture of something awesome that happened in my day and have discussions with people all over the world about it, and I think it’s a beautiful thing. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of it. I know that it could be dangerous being so accessible, but I just really enjoy it. Why wouldn’t I want to talk to my fans? I wouldn’t be able to do the things that I do and live the life that I live if it wasn’t for them.

ShareTV: That really makes you stand out as a celebrity and as an artist, that you really consider your audience. I think that’s pretty cool.

DF: My mom makes me feel really sympathetic too, especially in the beginning. I would say, ‘I don’t want to answer this person.' My mom would be like, ‘Come on Danny! He’s like a little kid, they’re like a little kid and they want to talk to you.’ So my mom was a huge proponent in me reaching out more because we both love kids, people that care, and people with heart. I’m lucky, I have a lot of really cool fans. My fans like me for my art and I can’t even ask for more than that because my art brings me so much joy, and if it affects other people, I think that they are gifts from God, that’s an amazing thing.

ShareTV: I know you have a Youtube Channel and your Shit Italian Moms Say video went totally viral, and it’s hilarious! Where did the inspiration come from?

DF: Partly? Right around the time the “Shit Says” meme was going around on the internet, I was excited and waited for the "Italian Mom" one. It wasn’t happening. My friend Michelle Ceglia, who is the key hair person on American Horror Story, she’s Italian and we’ve known each other for years, and I said, “Do you want to come over?” And she was like, “You can come over, but I don’t have anything, not even a piece of cake.” She said it like an Italian mom, and we were laughing. And I was talking to my friend Lisa Mastroianni who co-produced and wrote all the Shit Italian Moms Say stuff with me and we started just ripping on all the different things our moms say. And we were like, “We are doing this, and we are literally doing it this weekend.” We went out to Ross and I was trying on all these womens clothes in the dressing rooms and we were telling the people that we were making a video to surprise our moms, which was truthfully what we were doing, but not all the truth and we got a lot of our locations that way. It happened so quickly, and then we made a second one, and I want to make more. I’m going to try to do a web series in 2015. But I have to shave my beard in order to do that! And I have to have a beard for different projects between now and April, so hopefully when I wrap Looking, I’ll have a little break where I can shave my beard real quick and film a couple more Italian Moms, and grow it back real quick before my next job.

daniel

ShareTV: So exciting, I can’t wait! So was that your favorite video to make on Youtube, or is there another one that was just really fun to create?

DF: They were all fun, and I enjoy all the videos that I make, even the ones that I’m not in that I direct. But I think "Shit Italian Moms Say" is probably one of my most favorite things I’ve ever done, just ever. I know Mean Girls might seem like it may be it, but it’s the one thing I could watch over and over again and never get tired of my own performance because I feel like I punked my mom. I laugh at how well I punked my mom, I got her! And it’s this inside joke that a lot of people get to appreciate because people have moms like that.

DF: And I get some of the most heartwarming letters from people. Just recently I got this one from a woman who is playing the video at her moms memorial, at the year anniversary of her passing, because it brought her so much joy to remember all those times while missing her mom. Even though it is a lot of my mom, it definitely is an amalgamation of a lot of different women in my life, including my grandma, who has also passed. It’s cool that it had that effect on some people and that it’s actually doing some nice good things in the world, being out there.

Sharetv: Wow... I didn’t expect that.

DF: I know, neither did I. It’s pretty powerful, huh?

ShareTV: Yea, I love it! I think I should ask you about Mean Girls next because I know people are going to want to hear about this. So, it was 10 years ago and there’s still so much talk about a sequel. I want to know your opinion: do you really think it’s going to happen?

DF: Um, I guess never say never, but it doesn’t look that likely in the near future. But you know they’re making a new Goonies now with the whole original cast, so I guess you just never know.

ShareTV: What was your favorite scene (to shoot, to watch, or whatever you feel you really connected to) in Mean Girls? 

DF: I was really excited to sing “Beautiful” in the talent show. I’m a musical theater guy, that was my original focal point in life; I ended up falling into film. So, I was really excited to get to sing on camera, especially in a scene like that, and to be funny at the same time, it was a good experience, my mom was in the audience. It was just fun, it was a really great day.

damien

ShareTV: Did anyone or anything inspire you, or was it something you always had in the back of your head that you wanted to do.

DF: It was always in the forefront of my mind. I always wanted to be an actor. I studied it, I watched everything I could watch on TV, I went to movies a lot and followed performers and directors. I went to college for acting, but it wasn’t until I was 20 that I got my first professional job in theater. And then at 23 I got my first movie. That was when I first got into Hollywood.

ShareTV: I love to hear about how people got their start; it’s so interesting what inspired you.

DF: When I was a little kid, my grandfather had twelve brothers and a sister, and they all lived on the same block in Brooklyn. When I was learning my ABC’s or something like that, I would play what I affectionately call “The Coffee Table Circuit” where I would go from coffee table to coffee table with anything I had ever learned and perform for people. I guess early on, I was groomed as an entertainer, I was one of the first grand kids from my generation to be on that block and everybody was making a big fuss out of me, and I got used to making people laugh or sing something that was precocious and getting a rise out of people. I’ve always dedicated my life to trying to be funny.

DF: And then growing up chubby and gay, you have to be funny to survive. And I think it’s amazing how stuff like that lends itself to troubles in high school, having to stay funny in order to be popular, and then playing a character like Damien that opened the doors for a lot of other people to automatically be popular, I’ve had letters from guys being like, ‘thank you for making it cool to be a chubby gay guy like right before I went into high school, all the popular girls wanted to hang out with me.’ And I was like, ‘Oh man, I wish I had that!’ you know, but if I didn’t have that, I’m glad I had a small part in helping create that niche, for some kid to have an easier time. And I feel the same way about this job in Looking, because a lot of time when I see gay programming I get disinterested because I don’t see anyone that looks like me. Now not only do I get to see someone that looks like me, but they look exactly like me, because it’s me. And I think that’s such a great thing because I learned my lesson with fans from Mean Girls, how much that actually does help other people. So hopefully, this role in Looking will continue that.

daniel

Photography Credit: Doug Jones @HeyComet

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Love Daniel? Follow him on Twitter and Youtube, plus check back on ShareTV for another interview with him in the coming months!

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