BUZZWORTHY: MANNY MONTANA

Manny Montana is ready for his close up. And the time is now for this seasoned artist, star of the much buzzed about USA drama GRACELAND. Playing fun-loving prankster and FBI Agent Johnny Turturro, Montana stretches himself, crafting a layered character that will have you hooked.

'GRACELAND' STAR MANNY MONTANA

THE MONTANA FILES

HOMEGROWN OR FOREIGN LADIES: Hmmm, tough one [laughs]… if I have to choose… I always root for the home team!

AN OLD FASHIONED OR A GOOD ‘OL BEER: Old fashioned for sure!! Honestly, I have never finished a beer, don’t really like them. But my true drink of choice is a ‘Honey Jack Daniel’s & Coke’ or a ‘Hennessey & Coke.’

THE GREAT ESCAPE: Costa  Rica!!! Love that place with a passion! Great surf, great food and great people. All I need to be happy!

I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT… My student I.D. from school! I still try and get bargains everywhere I go [laughs]! Movies, Yoga, Rock climbing, etc. Sorry, ghetto upbringing [laughs]!

ACTOR THAT MOST INFLUENCED YOU: Heath Ledger. That dude was THE actor to me. Everything he did was gold. I borrow so much of how he was and how he approached acting. I pray to be as good as he was someday. God rest his soul.

LAST TWEET: “Sunday night fish fry with my brother and Breaking Bad_AMC viewing party. Good day. Thanks for frying up the fish @iceman_so_cold.”

GUILTY PLEASURE: I love musicals. People always think I’m joking when I say that, but my grandma used to make me watch a VHS recording of ‘GREASE’ with her every day after elementary school [laughs]! I would sit there with a ‘Cup o’ Noodles’ and drift away into this pretend world where for some weird reason people would break into songs out of nowhere [laughs]! To this day, I know that movie word for word and I have songs from musicals on my iPod!

FRIDAY NIGHT I’D FIND YOU… On the sidelines of a football field trying to help my kids. I’m the receiver’s  coach at my old high school of Long Beach Jordan.

YOU – IN 3 WORDS: Tough. Sensitive. Giving.

LONG BEACH NATIVE: MANNY MONTANA

HYDROGEN MAGAZINE: What were your early years like?

MANNY MONTANA: Amazing! I loved my childhood. I always had people around – my brothers, my aunts, cousins, mom and dad. I’m Latino so of course my family is HUGE! All I did was play football and go to school. That was my life. Was it always great? Of course not, but the good far outweighs the bad.

HM: When did acting consume you, where you knew this was the path you would take?

MM: I was at football practice at school and my shoulder had just dislocated for the 8th time. I knew I had to make a change. I made the 6 hour drive from Sacramento back home to Long Beach, and decided that if I was ever going to chase this dream I’d put off and been so scared of for so long, now was the time. I took a chance, and the rest is history.

HM: You got your break with the award winning short, El Primo. Tell me about that role and what it meant to you?

MM: I almost blew off the audition [laughs]! In the beginning, I did a lot of student films so I could gain experience. But many of those never amount to anything and it becomes discouraging. But EL PRIMO was that 1 in 10,000. A great script, passionate director, crew, and cast! I will forever be grateful for that experience. It launched my career.

HM: You’ve found success in a tough industry with shows from E.R., Cold Case, and Lie to Me to CSI: NY, and Cybergeddon. Not a bad resume. Give us a couple of memorable experiences from these shows.

MM: Honestly, the people… There’s a lot of competition in this game which I think breeds a lot of insecurities, which in turn makes it hard to meet true friends. But I’ve been EXTREMELY lucky!!! I’ve
met some of my closest friends on sets such as THE CHICAGO CODE, CYBERGEDDON, and of course GRACELAND. I talk to these people on the regular. They know my family, they’ve been to my house, we’ve played basketball together! That, more than anything is what I take away from my experiences.

HM: Let’s talk about Graceland. What’s the premise of the show?

MM: GRACELAND is about an elite group of undercover FBI agents who are all living in an amazing government seized beach front mansion trying to deal with the craziness of their job and the craziness
of living with 6 people in one house.

MONTANA IN 3 WORDS: Tough. Sensitive. Giving.

HM: You play FBI Agent Johnny Turturro who is quite the cheeky character. Tell us about him. What makes him tick?

MM: Johnny is just a really fun character to play. He’s always in a good mood and very upbeat, but he’s also extremely sensitive, so it makes for a lot of great layers to play. My cast mates and the writers are so amazing! No character stays the same. Everyone is always evolving and you never know who to trust! I’m a genuine fan of the show and think we can go far!

HM: There’s a lot of testosterone on set with all you guys! Any scuffles so far or is it all happy families?

MM: HA!! Not even close. This is one of the tightest groups I’ve ever been a part of. Ask anyone in the cast, we’re a family! We’re always around each other on and off set. No lie, it’s just a fun set to be on!

HM: Funniest moment behind the scenes…

MM: Too many to choose from [laughs]! Literally, all we do is joke around every day! Just try and get us to do a scene after lunch, its impossible! We’re like kids going to class after lunch break!

HM: What goes down on a typical day off?

MM: Well, we shoot in Florida, so that means I’m 3,000 miles away from my family and friends back
home in Long Beach. So, if I’m not hanging out with one of my cast mates, I’m either working out, at the beach, or just at home reading getting ready for the next day. It’s a great life!

HM: What does your family make of all your success?

MM: I think they’re really proud. They saw me start from square one, making no money on sub-par projects, having successes and failures, but always pushing forward. I don’t think they knew what to make of this crazy dream, because nobody in my family had ever done something like this before. I’m part of the first generation in the country so a lot of things seem very far-fetched to a poor little kid from Long Beach. But my family is the s**t! They never made me feel like it wasn’t possible. They’re my  biggest supporters and my biggest critics. They keep me humble and sane when things gets crazy.

HM: What’s the long game?

MM: Honestly, just more of the same. I want to be working on GRACELAND for several seasons! I want to work on great movies while on hiatus and have my career reach places I’ve never dreamed of. I want to grow and get better every day. And, I want to coach football at my old high school. That’s it. That’s what I want for my career. There are a lot of things I want out of this life. I want to give all of me, everything I’ve got. Even if sometimes it wears me thin, at least someone will walk away with a piece of me that will live on forever.

‘GRACELAND’ AIRS ON USA NETWORK, WEDNESDAYS, 10/9C

PHOTOGRAPHY: LESLEY BRYCE

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