Meet the new Italian face who’s gaining international fame: it has to do with the Netflix miniseries From Scratch alongside Zoe Saldana and a role in The Equalizer 3 with Denzel Washington
His surname shares a resemblance with that of another Italian actor, but there is no kinship with Valerio Mastandrea. He is not even 30 years old yet, but he still has a respectable career behind him, especially in the theatrical field, having graduated from the National Academy of Dramatic Art “Silvio D’amico”. His big screen debut came in the cult film A.C.A.B. directed by Stefano Sollima in 2012. He has acted in many plays working for directors such as Robert Wilson in Hamlet Machine and Emma Dante in Le Baccanti.
The breakthrough took place thanks to the Rai series La Fuggitiva, directed by Carlo Carlei, a ratings record in spring 2021. But fame, internationally as well, came in late 2022, where he was the male lead alongside Zoe Saldana in the NETFLIX series From Scratch, based on the novel of the same name written by Tembi Locke and directed by Nzingha Stewart. The role of Lino catapulted Eugenio Mastrandrea into a new dimension, that of Hollywood, where a Sicilian chef falls in love with an American tourist in Florence. Cliché? Not really, because it is a bittersweet fairytale where you eat, love and cry.
Eugenio’s social media profile is flooded with positive comments, for his flawless acting, all in English and with no voice actors, and for his admirable portrayal of a proper Italian dealing with the theme of integration between an old-fashioned Sicilian family and a Texas bipoc. In September we will see him as one of the main characters in Antoine Fuqua’s film Equalizer 3, alongside Denzel Washington. But for now we have met with him to let him tell us more about his experiences, his (as yet undefined) relationship with fashion, food, and his dreams for the future.
I was very impressed with your English, I watched the From Scratch series and I said to myself, “wow an Italian actor who can act in English with practically no accent.” How did you manage to get to such a high level?
I am quite comfortable studying languages because I went to Spanish schools, studied English abroad, and have been listening to American rap since I was 12 years old. Acting in English wasn’t the most difficult part, because the project required a good level of English, but you also had to be able to tell that the character wasn’t exactly English-speaking, there had to be some kind of foreign aftertaste. The most difficult thing was actually acting in Sicilian, because Sicilian is a language that I had to learn from scratch, though facilitated by having been around the area: it was definitely more difficult to act in Sicilian than English.
The TV series is a TV adaptation of Tembi Locke’s novel. How did you prepare yourself to tackle this complex role?
First I read the novel very well. And then the screenplay. It was crucial for me to talk to Tembi, who is the one who actually lived through the events narrated in the book, that touch so many different themes: love, prejudice, dreams, and even pain. It is about two cultures that meet and try to coexist: they have different languages and sounds, different foods, two views of the world. The protagonists love each other to the point of dialogue to try to meet despite their differences and mutual difficulties.
I wanted to understand well all the different facets of my character. A big part of the study and definition of the character, was actually the study of the Sicilian dialect. Also because, in some way, the sounds of our language of origin are closely connected with our identity. For example, I am from Rome, and when I speak in Romanesco or in Roman, I let something of myself seep out. If I speak in a slightly more universal Italian instead, not much of me leaks out.
Most rewarding and most difficult moment when you were on set with Zoe Saldana?
In the acting world, especially in theater, the highest in rank commands, and Zoe has been an extraordinary captain of the ship, a colleague with whom to build scenes in harmony and complicity. I find her to be an extraordinary actress, so everything has a spontaneous success when you act with top-tier actors. The most rewarding moments were when I met and talked to people who really knew Saro, the real Lino who, seeing me act and interacting with me, had words of praise, I felt I was the worthy chosen one for this role. The hardest moment was definitely when my character falls ill. On an emotional level it was very hard on everyone, knowing that it was a true story, plus I add the physical discomfort of almost 4 hours of makeup, glue and girdles to cover my hair and make me look terminally ill.
“I don’t think there are romantic men who exist no matter what, you become one because at that moment you are resourceful, you risk everything.”
On social media the comments are all positive, including a host of fans thanking you for making them believe in the possibility of romantic love. Do you like this definition for Lino? Would you follow your beloved anywhere in the world?
I don’t know if there are romantic men. I believe that energies are formed and developed between two individuals and so it’s a result of what that person and I create together, right? It depends on how much and how our bodies vibrate together, which can happen between two people and might not happen again if they break up and meet other people. I don’t think there are romantic men no matter what, you become one because at that moment you are resourceful, you risk everything.
Our actions change depending on who you are facing, if it is the great love of your life surely you do things, you think differently, you say things that you would not say to another, otherwise that wouldn’t be the great love of your life, would it? To answer the question about my beloved, I must love her so much to follow her to the ends of the earth. Actually I don’t know, it has never happened to me, perhaps I would.
“If I had to choose a definition for myself I would say that I am a clumsy aesthete, it seems that I am randomly dressed, but maybe I’m not really.”
How do you manage in the kitchen, since you are a chef in the series, which among other things defends the supremacy of Italian cuisine? Can food be an ally in love?
That Italian cuisine is the best in the world is an established fact, there is no doubt about that. To eat sushi I had to be dragged, it’s not that I didn’t like it, but I don’t find Italian cuisine to have any equal. Personally, I’m not at Lino’s level, but I do okay in the kitchen. Let’s just say that if I invite you over for dinner, you won’t leave my house still hungry, nor will you feel like looking for a street food shack.
What about fashion? What is your relationship with it? And with stage costumes?
On set, the suit makes the man. Costume is a great ally for the actor, not to mention that I find it a lot of fun to be able to dress up in roles that you wouldn’t usually wear in real life. So whether you dress up as a chef, astronaut king or queen or jedi master, it all helps to identify with the part.
I’m not much of a connoisseur, let’s say I think I have a sense of aesthetics, I like to match colors, balancing shapes and tones. If I had to choose a definition for myself, I would say I am a clumsy aesthete, it seems like I am randomly dressed, but maybe I’m not really.
“Acting with good actors is not easy because you’re playing on a team with a guy who is great at passing the ball to you, to stop it, to pass it back to you and to score goals. Denzel has charisma, he has a really powerful aura and he influences everyone around him, from the cast to the production.”
Another big anticipated role is playing opposite Denzel Washington, what can you tell us about this character? What was it like acting with Denzel? Anything that impressed you? Experiences that you will treasure?
Let’s say that we cannot say much about the film because of a confidentiality agreement. This is the last chapter in the Equalizer saga and there is a lot of anticipation for the conclusion of the plot. Denzel, who plays a former CIA agent, is never left alone by trouble somehow following him even in Italy. Within the events of his life seemingly in exile, I play one of the policemen in command of this fictional country who will become entangled in the events of the story. Acting with good actors is not easy because you are playing on a team with someone who is great at passing you the ball, to stop it, to pass it back to you and to score goals. Denzel has charisma, he has a really powerful aura and he influences everyone around him, from the cast to the production.
Which Italian and foreign directors and actors would you like to work with and why?
I would have liked to work with Monica Vitti, the actress of my heart, Nino Manfredi and Vittorio Gasmann. Thinking of living actors: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.
“I think in life you have to jump in, surfing in the ocean, trying not to hit your head in the sand.”
What are your dreams for your future, what goals do you have? Are you going to Los Angeles to work in Hollywood?
An actor’s job is unpredictable, you sail so much by sight, and I realized this by ending up playing roles I never imagined I would play. I never imagined going to film a series in America, I never imagined sharing the stage with Denzel Washington. This is to say that one is ready for anything, anything could be. At the moment we can say that because the news is out now anyway. I’m filming Don Matteo, I’m the new captain of the police in Don Matteo 3. Of course, I would never have imagined that either, so if I had to go to Japan tomorrow for my job, I wouldn’t be surprised. I remain open to every possibility. I think in life you have to jump in, surfing in the ocean, trying not to hit your head in the sand.
What’s your biggest dream?
Acting at the Greek theater in Syracuse. Because, as I told you before, life is unpredictable. It happened to me to work in Charlie Chaplin’s studios, where he made all his films. It was one of my biggest dreams, and I had to go to the other side of the world to make it happen. While Syracuse, which is less than two hours away by plane, I still have not reached it as a professional goal. I haven’t got there and maybe I will never get there. To this day it remains a dream, with plans to perform Prometeo Incatenato di Eschilo there, a classic in Syracuse theater programming.
Talent: Eugenio Mastrandrea
Photographer: Erica Fava
Styling: Giorgia Cantarini
Stylist assistant: Federica Mele
Photographer assistant: Sara Meconi
Press: Office Woolcan @woolcan_news
Special thanks Istituto Superiore di Fotografia @stitutosuperioredifotografia
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