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INTERVIEW

Exclusive: Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) Reflects On His 15th GH Anniversary

Zamprogna

ABC

On June 22, 2009, General Hospital introduced the character of Dante Falconeri, then working undercover and going by the alias Dominic Pirelli. On the eve of his 15th anniversary on the show, Dante’s portrayer, Dominic Zamprogna, reflects on his Port Charles journey.

 

Soap Opera Digest: Take me back to early 2009, before there was a thought of Dante Falconeri in your mind and you were still living in your native Canada. What season of life were you in just before General Hospital entered the picture?

Dominic Zamprogna: Oh, man. I was about to turn 30, and I probably had the toughest year of my acting career prior to that. We had just bought a house, my now-wife [Linda] and I, and I proceeded to not get hired for over a year! So I was delivering Meals on Wheels and auditioning and just trying to do whatever I could to stay afloat, and renovating a home. That’s how I spent my days — renovating my home, Meals on Wheels and drinking home brew wine with my 75-year-old Italian neighbors that kind of adopted me. It was a really great time of my life. There was massive uncertainty — you just poured every dime you have into this home, the work is dried up, but you’re also sitting there with the woman who’s now the mother of my kids and my wife and we made these crazy friendships with these old guys in this old Italian neighborhood in Vancouver. So, it was a great time but it was also really an uncertain time.

Digest: How did your GH audition first come about?

Zamprogna: That year, 2009, was the beginning of things really picking up again. I was doing a Smallville recurring [role] and I was doing a Stargate recurring and a couple of TV movies and it was only April. And then my manager was like, “Hey, you wanna audition for a soap opera?” I said, “I don’t know…” I wasn’t really sure. And she was like, “Please! It’s my favorite soap and they’ve been looking for this character for eight months. Just do it.” And I was kind of at a point where I was like, “Hey, I’m in. I’m gonna say yes to anything.” So I did the [GH audition] tape, and it was two weeks before I heard anything back. I remember walking through a plant nursery with my wife, like a garden store, and my manager called and said, “They want you to come down and screen test.” I was like, “Cool, I’ll do that.” And then I said they, “Are they booking me a flight?” And she was like, “No,” and I was like, “Okay, I’ll still do it [laughs].” So I flew down and spent the night at the Best Western in Santa Monica running lines with my friend who helped me make the original tape. It was just kind of a crazy time. Pre-kids, pre-marriage, your life is just so different. You can take these risks and chances. The life of an actor is super-uncertain at the best of times and you don’t realize how little stress there is in being 30 years old with no kids. I fast-forward to where I am now at 45 with three kids and a wife and I’m still here! I’m obscenely grateful because every year gets more challenging in this business, and to be working on this show, is just a huge blessing. So that’s where I was: not single, but not married and with no kids, and now I’m an American citizen with a wife who’s now got citizenship and we’ve got three kids, one’s a teenager. It’s like two lives, right? It’s my life before the show and my life since being on the show and 15 years of living in California..

Digest: You and I have talked before about that great first year of story you had with Maurice Benard (Sonny) and Lisa LoCicero (Olivia) with the reveal that Dante was Sonny’s secret son by Olivia, culminating with Sonny shooting Dante and then finding out he was his father. Now that you’ve been around the soap world  for so long, you’ve seen a lot of characters get introduced — and it rarely goes as well as it did for you. Does that deepen your appreciation for just what a strong start you were given?

maurice benard, dominic zamprogna, general hospital

MICHAEL YARISH/ABC

Bullet Points: Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Dante’s father/son relationship got off to a rough start.

Zamprogna: Well, yeah. I mean, nothing’s guaranteed, obviously. Getting the role was amazing, and I was just thinking the other day about how it was such a crazy year and turn of events. [When you join a soap] you’re probably good for six months and then you really don’t know what’s gonna happen after that point. It was really well-written stuff, and being front and center with Maurice and Steve Burton [Jason] and in that world of story with those guys obviously helped. I’ll never say it was my ability to do anything that kept me here because all sorts of stars have to align for even the simplest of things to work out in our world every day. I was just appreciative that it was such a cool role and came at such an important time in my life and that it was able to last.

Digest: Can you reflect a bit on how you think you’ve changed as an actor after these 15 years on the show and all the opportunities you’ve had to hone your craft?

Zamprogna: It’s funny. When you’re 30 and you’re going job to job, piecing it together, you’re handling it differently because you’re young and you’re confident. Over the course of being on a show like this, there are ups and downs like there are with any profession; there’s good days and bad days and days you wish you did things differently. I see people post [scenes] from 15, 12, 10 years ago that I’m proud of and then other things they post from back then that I’m not proud of, where I wish I had understood the text better or the gravity of a situation at a given moment better. I think that’s what you learn through wisdom and life skills that you’ve gained over time as opposed to just being young and dumb and hot-headed. I’m still hot-headed, but I have more wisdom to pair with that [laughs]! And what confidence you may not have because you’re not young — I still feel pretty young and in my prime, surprisingly, like I don’t feel like I’m old enough to have been on the show for this long or to have kids as old as mine are — but I’ve lost the confidence that you have when you’re 25 or 30 years old and feel like you’ve got your entire life ahead of you. At 45, you have those years of living under your belt and you’ve experienced things in life, like my mother dying, and you’ve been touched more by life than most have at the age of 30. Some people do experience a lot by the time they get to that age and I did, but it was not a lot of tragedy, it was mostly just my desire to seek and explore that led to my life lessons at that point. Whereas now, you integrate so much more into what you bring to a character. So it’s really interesting to play a character for so long, which you develop on camera and in your life and you kind of meld the two.

Digest: At this point in your career, is it easier for you to go with the flow when you’re frustrated by things that I think every actor is frustrated by at one point or another, whether it’s wanting to be working more, or feeling like your character is doing something inconsistent with what you’ve played before?

GH

ABC

“Lante” Lane: Julie Marie Berman’s Lulu was Zamprogna’s first serious GH love interest.

Zamprogna: We’re all human, so of course we’re gonna get upset if our character is doing something we think isn’t true to the character. We’re gonna have a problem with it. And you can state your case, maybe, if it’s really of value, but you have to kind of be okay with it. There are days where you really like what your character is doing or feel like you really connect to what your character is doing. And then some days you feel like, “Oh, I don’t know that I would really say this at this point,” or, “I don’t know if that’s accurate.” You do take ownership over it because it’s what you’ve helped create for 15 years, in my case. But also, that’s uncharted territory for me, right? I’ve never been on a show this long. I’ve never been playing a character for this long. I’ve never grown on camera this long. And the beauty of this job is that if you have a day where you don’t agree with something, you come back tomorrow and you do something else.

Digest: You left the show in 2018 and returned in 2020. What do you think it did for you personally that you took a break from GH?

Zamprogna: A couple of things were going on at that time. I had never been in this town as a free agent, so to speak. I came here with this job and didn’t know any casting people. I was almost 40, and I was like, “Okay, worst-case scenario, the show gets canceled tomorrow, I haven’t done my due diligence in this town to make sure people know me and I’ve got connections and relationships and all that kind of stuff.” As an actor, you need to do that. I’m a terrible networker, but the one thing you have to do is audition, and for the longest time here, it wasn’t really possible to do other projects. But in 2018, Frank [Valentini, executive producer] let me go out and do this show in Calgary, and I had actually screen-tested the two previous years for other pilots. I realized, “That’s really the only exposure I’ve had to other casting directors down here. I should really kind of get out there.” So I did. I call it kind of a mental health break because I’ve never been in the same place for this long, playing the same character. I just felt, “I think I need to go and kind of do something else for a while.” And in doing that, I achieved what I wanted to do — I met a lot of casting directors, you take general meetings, you do a bunch of auditions. You kind of get your hustle back, and that’s important, too. Even now, outside of this show, I work on two or three other projects that I’m trying to get going, and that only happens from hustling and getting things done. [The break] kind of snapped me back into that frame of mind. And the reason for coming back, also, is because I love it here and I legitimately missed my friends that I’ve made here. Even when you have a bad day, as everyone does, you’re surrounded by people that you care about and that care about you, and I missed being part of a team. And so when I had kind of accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, I was grateful they wanted me to come back.

dominic zamprogna, kelly monaco, general hospital

Disney/Christine Bartolucci

New Lease On Life: Since emerging from his recent coma, Dante has been enjoying domestic life with Sam (Kelly Monaco).

Digest: Well, I’ve got to tell you, Dom, that your popularity hasn’t waned, because when Dante was in that coma, there were a lot of very concerned fans who were afraid you might be leaving again.

Zamprogna: It’s nice to hear you say that people were worried about me — when I went into Frank’s office and he told me I was going into a coma, I started to worry about me [laughs]! There’s any number of ways comas can go. People joke, “Oh, you’ve got easy work.” And it’s like, “Yeah, as long as it’s an on-screen coma! I don’t want to be in an off-screen coma, because then I’m not on the show!” But honestly, that means the world because we all care what people think about us, you know? And if people are happy to have me around, it feels good, obviously. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.

Digest: What would you like to say to your fans on the special occasion of your 15th anniversary?

Zamprogna: Well, thanks for acknowledging it and kind of sticking with me. One thing you learn over the years is that you can’t please everybody, there are people who like you and people who might not like you, and you just have to stay true and honest to yourself.  I am just grateful that what I put out there, that I find fulfilling for me as an actor, is also fulfilling to some people out there, too, that are a fan of the show and of my character. I’m very humbled and honored and very appreciative.

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