Gabe Fazio On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in TV and Film

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I wish someone had told me, “Don’t bring a rubber gun to an audition”. I brought a rubber gun to an audition. Maybe it was a dumb move on my part. It was red and I told the casting director that it was fake before I took it out of my bag, but…they didn’t appreciate that. They called the manager I was working with at the time, and she let me go. Oh well.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in TV and Film, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gabe Fazio.

Gabe Fazio was born Gabriel Fazio, on Long Island, New York. He is the older brother of Nicholas, and son of Frank and Madeline. Gabe mostly attended catholic and military schools for his elementary and high school education, while working for his grandfather’s moving company on Long Island. Gabe attended Suffolk County Community College on Long Island where he received contemporary and classical theatre training while performing in more than a dozen productions. He was nominated 5 times to compete in the prestigious National College Theatre Festival, for the Irene Ryan Award for Best Actor. In his fifth nomination, Gabe won the Best Actor Scholarship for his region, and advanced to compete in the finals for top honors performed at the Kennedy Center, where he became the recipient of Best Actor that year. Without attaining an undergraduate degree, Gabe was accepted by the New School for Social Research graduate program in NYC. A year after graduation, Gabe auditioned and was made a member of the legendary Actors Studio one year after graduation.

Gabe has acted in off, and off-off-Broadway plays: NY premiers of Tennessee Williams’ SPRING STORM, and Israel Horovitz’s SINS OF THE MOTHER. Gabe performed in a workshop production of FIRST BORN, written by Lyle Kessler. Gabe was also directed by Estelle Parsons in THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT, by Stephen Aldy Guirgis, and worked opposite Ellen Burstyn, in Anton Chekov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD.

Gabe also was one of the original performers of the Long Island Shakespeare Festival, where he played the title character in ROMEO AND JULIET in its inaugural production, and as “Grumio” in TAMING OF THE SHREW.


Gabe has also written/produced/Directed/acted in, two Short Films, JOE MOVER, and TEN:THIRTY-ONE and is currently writing and developing several new projects.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a suburb on Long Island called “Holstville”, with my younger brother Nicholas, my mother Madeline, and my father Frank.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was four years old, I contracted bacterial meningitis. Unfortunately, the disease left me hearing impaired and I spent most of my childhood very introverted and sort of a loner. I believe that due to this isolation, I developed a vivid imagination. It was very easy for me to keep my concentration on whatever it was that was playing in my head. Other kids left me alone since I couldn’t hear very well. But in the first grade, I had my first acting experience in a Thanksgiving play. I remember it being the first time that I was able to apply my imagination to something.

I believe those years of being a loner also gave me an appetite to “fit in”, which eventually led to me searching for acceptance in high school. I loved music, and had an affinity for Van Halen (especially the guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, my childhood hero) so I took up the guitar. However, by the time I got to my junior year in High School (my crowd were all long haired music people or “dirt bags”; we actually were called the “cave men” by others), I realized that I was progressing at guitar at a much slower pace than my peers. I knew I could get better, but that I would never be great. I just didn’t have the level of talent I wanted. I wanted to be great at something.

That year, I stumbled upon auditions for the high school musical, GODSPELL. I auditioned, but I didn’t get a part because I wasn’t a good singer. Despite that, the director needed boys so he put me in the chorus. Then one day, a kid didn’t show up for rehearsals (for one of the skits where only acting was required.) The director randomly picked me to fill in for the absent kid, and for some reason it just clicked. I ended up replacing the actor who was playing the role of “Jeffery”. (The character’s song was given to someone else.) From then on, I never stopped acting. I had found my passion.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I recently played three different roles in a limited series for HBO called I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE. I was cast to play identical twin brothers opposite the lead actor (Mark Ruffalo). Only there was a catch, the audience would never see my face as either brother. One brother was schizophrenic, and the other was dealing with his brother’s illness while trying to manage his own tempestuous life. I was hired by the director to play both roles as if I were the main actor, in order for Mark to have an acting partner instead of acting with no one or a stand-in just feeding him lines. While you don’t see my face, you do see my body. I had to gain 25 pounds for that role. Then we took a six week break during which Mark and I prepared to switch roles; he gained the weight and I lost it. I was also able to take creative liberties with each character so that Mark had something to work with; developing real chemistry, actions and reactions. And finally, the third character I played (where you do see my face) was that of an insurance adjuster. I approached it as if I was doing a play, where only the cast, crew, and director were my audience. It wasn’t about the glory of being recognized and rewarded, it was all about a collaboration to help tell the story the best we could.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Too many mistakes, but one that stands out: I smoked a huge blunt about an hour before curtain during an undergraduate production of, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? I was twenty at the time, or twenty-one. I was extremely high when I walked out on the stage and I was paranoid that I would forget my lines and blocking. I hung on everyone’s words as if my life depended on it, and thankfully I got through it. My director came up to me after the show, and said she thought that it was my best performance yet. What I got from that terrifying evening was: don’t smoke a hydroponic blunt an hour before you’re supposed to perform, and more importantly, I learned what it meant to be “in the moment”, to truly listen and to not know what was coming next.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Right now, I am working on my own projects. I write when I am not working in a production. Writing keeps me focused, inspired and sane.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

It will be a difficult process and will involve a lot of sacrifice along the way, especially in regards to relationships and money. Respect the process, love the craft, and get ready to get banged up because it’s brutal. It’s great to grow a layer of thick skin, to keep your ego at bay, and to know how to peel yourself off the ground when you get knocked down, because that will happen. But also make sure to stay soft inside, because you need to be vulnerable for the characters. Learn how to differentiate your gut, from your head and your heart when it comes to making decisions. Like in real life, having the option to say “yes” is fortunate, but sometimes saying “no” to something can be just as empowering.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I believe it is important to create the opportunity for diversity to flourish by writing stories for the screen and stage that include all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and forms of disabilities.

We all have stories to tell and everyone should get an opportunity to have their stories heard. This is the only way for us to progress as a species, and to better understand each other. With more diversity in our stories, perhaps we will better accept one another.

What are your 5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone had told me, “Don’t bring a rubber gun to an audition”. I brought a rubber gun to an audition. Maybe it was a dumb move on my part. It was red and I told the casting director that it was fake before I took it out of my bag, but…they didn’t appreciate that. They called the manager I was working with at the time, and she let me go. Oh well.

I wish someone told me that, just because you have an agent now, doesn’t mean you’ve “made it”. When I was in my early twenties I began freelancing with a big agency. I did very little to work on myself, as far as learning what it is to act professionally. I wound up behaving like a dumb twenty-year old, who thought he had “made it” because he had an agent. Bad decisions cost me my relationship with that agency. I guess you can say, I had a lot of growing-up to do, but I also didn’t have the proper mentor to smack me in the head to wake me up. Experiential learning can be the best way to never make the same mistake twice.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Start writing your story. Start drawing on a sketch pad, or cocktail napkin, or painting on a canvas the terror that keeps you up at night, and the joy that makes you laugh to tears. Express what’s trapped inside you in some artform that is not necessarily performance art. Write a comedy skit and go sign up for an open mic. Make a fool of yourself. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Get humbled. Squash the ego a bit. Stop subtle bragging, because that is just your insecure self seeking approval. Find a community of artists you respect and meet up every now and then for a coffee or a tea or a beer and chicken wings, bounce around ideas, gripe about life’s trivialities, and talk shop.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I ever became a person with enormous influence, I would start a ‘read a book’ movement, and challenge youth to read a classic novel, or any book, non-fiction, fiction, instead of spending so much time on social media. I am concerned for these generations that are brought up on social media, as it evidently consumes so much time during the developmental stages of childhood. I never thought I would be echoing my parents, “when I was your age…”, but I now see the value in how my generation spent time during those years. Sure, there was TV, and video games, but I’m generation X. The video games I played were Atari, and it got boring real quick. TV only had so many channels. We spent most of our time playing outside with the neighborhood kids, digging holes, building forts, climbing trees, playing games like “get the guy with the ball”, making our own rules, problem solving with each other, role playing, lighting things on fire, getting in trouble, learning about actions and consequences…we were socializing in the flesh. This was of course my experience growing up in the suburbs. It’s different for every kid, but I just can’t imagine that I would be the same person if I was exposed to the kind of media that is so easily accessible for children and teenagers today. I’m no psychologist, but I think reading a book can give a young person a different perspective on life. It exercises the creative part of the brain because it involves imagination. I believe imagination helps us to learn how to relate to a character’s situation, and can help us develop the empathetic region of the brain and gives us a better chance to live in harmony.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

First, my mother. She was the one who encouraged me to pursue acting. Probably because I had been such an underachiever, with C- grades all throughout my schooling. She must have been relieved that I found something I could focus on. And my peers. Especially when I got a little older. My peers are the measuring stick I use as far as my level of progress is concerned. I surround myself with actors whose work I respect. I learn from them and grow with them, and they in turn, respect me as well. We challenge each other and encourage each other; we become like artist teammates. And when one of your teammates achieves a certain amount of success in the business, they want to help you. That’s the way it worked for me. I was given opportunities to share my work with individuals who were in a position to hire me. I think of it like a recommendation. I am forever grateful to the teammates who have given me those recommendations. One person in particular has always been my champion, and if it wasn’t for this person, I don’t know where I would be in this world as an actor.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Isn’t it better to fight to see your fantasies realized, even fight and lose, than to suffer and dream away in silence?” — John Cassavetes.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Anthony Hopkins. I once read this short story, A PIECE OF STEAK, written by Jack London, about an over-the-hill prize fighter, “Tom King”. And there was a line in there that stuck with me, “…he lacked the wisdom, and the only way for him to get it was to buy it with Youth; and wisdom was his, Youth would have been spent in buying it.” This quote made me fearful of growing old. I thought that with age and wisdom we lost our youth and the flame of passion would burn out. But then I saw Anthony Hopkin’s work in THE FATHER. I found it to be one of the most heart-felt performances I have ever seen on screen. The fact that he delivered that performance at his ripe old age, broke that belief I had about youth being traded in for wisdom. Because I saw the soul of a child radiating from inside that 80+ year old body of his. That’s what made his performance so rich, real, raw and moving. It made me realize that the fire can burn even MORE fiercely as we age.

How can our readers follow you online?

I just started a professional Instagram account @gabefazioactor

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Gabe Fazio On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in TV and Film was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.