Richard Rossi, thank you for this interview. My readers might not know much
about you. Your career is in producing/ acting / https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0744302/
Richard Rossi, from the musical Rossi family of Pittsburgh, is an entertainer, actor, novelist, filmmaker, musician, singer-songwriter, comic, painter and poet.
Richard became a performing artist at an age when most children were just starting to learn to read, playing guitar on stage at age 7 and wowing audiences with his jazz renditions of classic songs like 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' Born on March 2, 1963, Richard is the oldest of five musical children (siblings are Tony, Joe, Pete, and Beth), and he had professional musician parents, Richard Sr. and Dorothy. The Rossi family performed regularly in the bars and clubs of their hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a teen, Richard acted in films shot in Pittsburgh such as 'The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.'
Can you tell us a story on how you got your start in the film industry? I was working as a minister in my hometown of Pittsburgh. I had the idea to do a short film to promote the church and invite people. The subject I chose was prayer, and investigating if prayer for healing helps the sick get better. While editing the film at a place called Pittsburgh Televideo, a Hollywood director named Amin Q. Chaudhri was editing his movie there. It was “Diary of A Hitman,’ starring Forest Whitaker, Sherilyn Fenn, Sharon Stone, and Jim Belushi. He saw my film, (entitled “Quest for Truth” it can be seen HERE: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/questfortruthrichrossi ). Amin was impressed with my short film and encouraged me to pursue filmmaking. He cast me in the lead role of a remake of the 1960 Academy Award-winning film “Elmer Gantry.” That got a lot of press. Amin passed before we could do the project but it led to my latest film “Canaan Land” playing an Elmer Gantryish con man preacher.
Do you have a story you wish everyone knew? Could you share it with us? I believe God is the Master Artist, the Creator and He supports us as artists. When I was shooting my first feature, “Sister Aimee,” I had no money left and was on set with 50 cast and crew and no way to get food to feed them. Desperate, I prayed for a miracle. A craft services truck was off to a big movie and the shoot was cancelled. The woman driving the truck, Carmen Moriarty, felt an impulse to pull into the church where we were shooting. She saw all of us and offered us the food. We had craft services! Rance Howard, father of director Ron Howard was one of the stars of the film. “You sure pulled a rabbit out of the hat, Richard,” Rance said, with a twinkle in his eye.
Can you talk about your last movie? My last movie, “Canaan Land,” was the first faith-based indie film to make the finalized list for Best Picture Oscar. I play a con man preacher, Brother Billy Gantry. He’s an aging gigolo, and his girlfriend, (played by Dawna Lee Heising), kicks him out of her house, leaving him homeless in Beverly Hills. Billy falls for a sincere Christian, Sister Sara, played by Knight Rider star Rebecca Holden. Billy realizes his con game isn’t a game anymore. It is available on the following sites:
Christian Cinema: https://www.christiancinema.com/digital/movie/canaan-land
What can you tell us about any upcoming productions or acting projects?
I am currently shooting “Lucy and the Lake Monster,” which will be the best film I’ve ever directed. It’s a movie that is a classic children’s story kids will love, but artfully done in a way adults will like too. It tells the story of a little girl named Lucy, who believes in Champ, the Lake Monster of Lake Champlain, which borders New York and Vermont. The story is based on the childhood of my assistant director and co-writer, Kelly Tabor. Lucy searches for Champ with her grandpa. The story is a metaphor for faith. Here is the Facebook page for this new film project: https://www.facebook.com/champmovie
There’s a lot of positive buzz in the towns surrounding the lake. The film is just starting into production, but already was a front page story in the largest newspaper there. You can read the article HERE: https://www.pressrepublican.com/news/crown-point-native-s-champ-stories-eyed-for-books-short-film/article_136ffba0-e5cc-11eb-8234-cfad4a5a7fdf.html
Can you tell us who are in your movies that people might know? Rebecca Holden was the leading lady in my last film “Canaan Land.” She just won Best Actress award for our film at the Marina Del Rey Film Festival. Other celebrity cameos in “Canaan Land” include Lynda Carter, Louis Gossett Jr., Sally Kirkland, Kathy Garver, Kathy Coleman, Karolyn Grimes, Ginger Alden, and Cindy Williams.
Can you tell us who or what inspires you as an actor? Marlon Brando is my favorite actor and I was inspired by the work of him and other actors in the more naturalistic style, like James Dean and Montgomery Clift. I’ve also been blessed to learn from some great acting teachers who inspired me like Milton Katselas, Sanford Meisner, and Robert Beecher.
Can you tell a story about your other work in the future? Rebecca Holden and I are discussing doing a sequel to “Canaan Land,” as a cable TV show. The two main characters, Billy and Sara, will minister to new people and situations in each episode.
Who are some people in the film industry you would love to work with one day? The creative part of me is very childlike and I like working with stars I loved as a boy. In my first feature I wrote and directed, I worked with Carl Ballantine, a comedian and magician I loved as a child. We became friends and cigar buddies. That film can be watched HERE: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/sisteraimeefilm
There are performers I loved as a child that I would love to work with again, like Dick Van Dyke. I was on his show “Diagnosis Murder,” but I would love to work with him again.
I would love to work with actors and directors who are very good and take their craft seriously. It’s like playing sports with a great athlete. Great actors lift your game and make you play better.
Dreams: what project or script or actor or actor would be a dream for you to get to work with?
I would like to have the chance to work in the mainstream world on some shows. Most of my work is in the indie world, which I love because of the creative control it gives me, and also because I make movies about things I love. For example, I made a feature dramatic film about my childhood hero, baseball superstar Roberto Clemente entitled “Baseball’s Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories.” (Can be seen HERE: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/baseballslasthero )
My major focus is making Richard Rossi films, projects I have passion for and do my way, but I would like to balance that with acting in some well-known, bigger budget projects as well, to bring in money and fatten my IMDB page with credits in well-known shows.
Mr, Rossi, the classic question: what charity do you work with and can you
provide a link to it so others can see too please. I direct a charity called Eternal Grace that is a ministry supporting actors and filmmakers and artists. It is based in Hollywood. The charity website can be found HERE: https://www.eternalgracechurch.com
What advice would you give an aspiring actress? Act, act, act! Do plays. Make your own films. Get in an acting class. Listen to you own gut and please yourself as an artist. Don’t be a flake, follow up and show up with appointments. Don’t overlook small projects like student films and microbudget projects. Do anything to keep working you acting muscles.
A final question. What question do you wish I had asked? And what would the
answer be? The question would be, how do you define success? My answer is, ‘Your talents are a gift from God. What you do with your talents is your gift back. When you make something with your talents, you are a success.’