June 7, 2014

JBB Exclusive: Interview with Johnny Cannizzaro, ‘Nick DeVito’ in Jersey Boys Movie!

June 7th, 2014

We are excited to present our JBB EXCLUSIVE Interview with Johnny Cannizzaro, who plays “Nick DeVito” in the JERSEY BOYS movie! In addition to finding out about his early days, his inspirations, and his life as an actor and writer, Johnny shares some awesome stories from the JERSEY BOYS movie set, his respect and admiration for director Clint Eastwood and the experience of working for him, how he prepared for the role, and more!

Jersey Boys Blog: So, Johnny, how did it all begin for you? Tell us about your early days.

Johnny Cannizzaro: Well, I was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn to an Italian family. I have two siblings, an older sister, Michelle and a twin brother, Michael. When I was five, my parents decided to move us out of the city and found our new home in Holmdel, New Jersey, where I started kindergarten and continued on through high school. I believe my sophomore year was when I began to discover an interest in the arts.

JBB: What kinds of things were you into as a kid before you discovered the arts? Were any of your family members into theatre or show business? Do you remember that moment when you knew that you wanted to be a performer?

JC: I was always fascinated with magic; my dream was to be a magician! I’d do anything to get someone to watch me “trick” them with what was probably a terrible trick. As I grew older, my interest in magic expanded to the stage, which was funny, because no one in my family, with the exception of my grandmother Carol, had ever showed an interest in performing. I’m still not quite sure where I came from because even her career never made it past the living room. After working backstage for my high schools production of “The Wizard of Oz,” I became very inspired! I think I was 16 when I realized that I wanted to be ON stage instead. I knew immediately that it was going to be a career path. I can’t explain it much more than that, sometimes you just know :) .

JBB: Tell us about the road to following your dreams. Who were your biggest influences?

JC: I’m such an old soul. I’ve always found great inspiration from the old time entertainers such as Charlie Chaplin & Jimmy Cagney. I also love Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke and the list goes on!

Interestingly enough, I’ve always been a Clint Eastwood fan and after working on “Jersey Boys,” my admiration for him has only grown. On set, he would come hang out in between set ups, always with an interesting story or light-hearted joke. He made the atmosphere comfortable and stress free. It amazes me how he wears so many hats being a director, and producer, in addition to acting. It’s important for actors to do all of the above, nowadays. He’s helped inspire me to do the same!

JBB: You’ve played a wide variety of roles in theatre, film, and television. What have been some of your most memorable roles?

JC: I seem to have a knack for roles in the gangster genre which I enjoy very much! I like to play eccentric characters as well. I’m also a BIG fan of Broadway musicals. In addition to being from Jersey, It’s somewhat serendipitous that Jersey Boys encompassed everything that I’m truly passionate about.

JBB: Is there any performer(s) on stage, TV, or film that is on your “bucket list” to work with?

JC: There are so many actors that I admire, but if I had to narrow it down, I would say Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. I’ve probably seen most of their movies dozens of times. It would truly be a dream come true to work with either of these icons.

JBB: In addition to being an actor, your website states that you’re a writer. Would you like to share w/JBB readers any details on your life as a writer?

JC: Absolutely! Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed as a hobby but in recent years, it’s become more of an obsession. I recently finished my first feature script which is a political dramedy currently being shopped around. I’m also in the middle of a pretty intense Mob drama and have also written several short films which are in development for online release.

JBB: You are playing Nick DeVito in the JERSEY BOYS movie! How did you become involved with the project? What was it about JERSEY BOYS that made you audition for this movie?

JC: Aside from BEING an actual Jersey boy, my agent called me almost two years ago now and said, “This is your film!” I remember thinking how amazing it would be to get cast in a film like this. That was before Clint was attached to it. She got me an audition and I wish I could say the rest was history but then the film got put into turnaround. Fast forward a year or so later, Clint Eastwood picked it up. I scored another audition thanks to my acting coach. That turned into two callbacks for two different roles, and then finally got offered the role of Nick DeVito.

JBB: What was it like to be part of a film that was directed by the Academy Award-winning legend Clint Eastwood?

JC: What can I say? The man is an icon! It was beyond my wildest dreams at this point in my career and it was an incredibly humbling experience! It’s given me so much confidence that I now feel I’m on the right path in life. What makes him such a great director, in my opinion is that he’s also an actor and understands the process probably better than any of us. He gives so much freedom to play and improvise with the characters the way we saw them. He trusted us to deliver and that’s an incredible testament to him as a director and as an artist. To be able to say that Clint Eastwood gave me one of my first breaks will be something I look forward to telling my grandkids!

JBB: How did you prepare to play the Nick DeVito role?

JC: I was trying to get some background on Nick and managed to contact Tommy DeVito (portrayed by Vincent Piazza). We spoke on the phone for over an hour about everything from robbing the jewelry store to “The Variatones” to “The Four Lovers” to the birth of the Seasons. Shortly after being cast, I got an email from Nick’s daughter, who contacted me when she heard I’d be playing her father. She was so kind in sharing old personal family photos and records of her dad and the rest of the group. It was incredibly helpful because I got to hear Nick and learn so much about him! It gave me some insights about who he was, which I hope I was able to resonate into the film.

JC: Considering you were born a long time after The Four Seasons’ heyday, were you familiar with their music? How did you immerse yourself into the music and the era before the shooting began?

JC: Again, I came from an Italian family. Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli were as common as Sunday dinner. My siblings and I, to this day, love their music because we grew up on it. So yes, I was extremely familiar with them. From the day of my first audition, The Four Seasons have been on loop. I think I still have Broadway soundtrack in my car. It’s timeless and always will be! I’ll probably pop one in after this interview.

JBB: Can you tell us about your days on the set. What are some of your most memorable experiences about the shoot/post-shoot?

JC: One of my scenes was day 1 of shooting and “Jersey Boys” was my first feature film! I was absolutely terrified but learned very quickly there was no time to be nervous when you’re working on a film of this caliber. CE moves very quickly, he knows what he wants and you’re expected to deliver. The most memorable moment for me was on that first day when he let Vincent, Michael, JLY and I improvise the hell out of the backstage dressing room scene. At one point, we even wrestled to the floor. I don’t know if any of it made the final cut but it was amazing to have that kind of freedom!

JBB: Had you seen JERSEY BOYS on stage before being part of the film? What really stuck with you about the production? Any WOW moments, favorite scenes, or musical numbers?

JC: I did. I’m a big musical theatre geek so my friends would always say, “You HAVE to audition for Jersey Boys” or “You look like John Lloyd Young,” etc. I’d always brush it off because I never felt I could sing well enough. I had seen the show several times prior to shooting. My favorite moment is when the Seasons rise from the stage singing “Rag Doll,” which has always been one of my favorite tunes. The sit down scene was also great! You never know where life is gonna take you and I’m so grateful for the opportunity! It’s my ultimate dream to work on Broadway; so needless to say, there will ALWAYS be a very special place in my heart for “Jersey Boys”!

JBB: What’s on the horizon for you post-JERSEY BOYS

JC: I have a few other film projects in the works for later this summer. I’m still writing, of course, and I just began my second screenplay, which is a mob drama, so I’m very excited to see where that goes. Other than that, I’m just looking forward to the release of the film and prepping for the year ahead! It’s hard to believe it’s just around the corner already

JBB: So, Johnny, it sounds like you had the most awesome experience as a cast member in the JB movie! What did you learn about yourself that you didn’t know before playing the role of Nick DeVito in the JERSEY BOYS movie?

JC: I would have to say I learned to trust myself. They always say an actor’s worst critic is himself; so, sooner or later, you have to tell that voice in your head that they hired you for a reason and just be confident that you can do the job! It was an important lesson and something I will always keep with me. :) I’d just like to say thank you for the opportunity to answer some questions for Jersey Boys’ fans and say I hope you enjoy the film!:) Give me a follow on twitter @JPCannizzaro or Instagram at johnnycannizzaro.

JBB: It has been our pleasure, Johnny!


  1. Great interview with Johnny Cannizzaro! It was fascinating to read how he really prepared for the part of Nick DeVito and his days on the movie set. Looking forward to seeing the “Jersey Boys” movie!

    Comment by Katie — June 8, 2014 @ 10:37 am

  2. It’s nice to see some interviews with cast members on Jersey Boys Blog. This interview with Johnny was so genuine. Hope you guys do others soon.

    Comment by Bob — June 8, 2014 @ 10:38 am

  3. This kid has that authentic Jersey look. Clint Eastwood sure knows how to pick them and clearly he embraced his role by doing such background research before filming. Looking forward to the film and to see what this movie does for his career.

    Comment by Chris — June 9, 2014 @ 7:34 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Please leave a comment