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INTERVIEW

Exclusive: Meet General Hospital's Gio, Giovanni Mazza

giovanni mazza

CHRISTINE BARTOLUCCI/ABC

Giovanni Mazza, who made his General Hospital debut on May 15 as Giovanni “Gio” Palmieri, is no stranger to the spotlight — but prior to now, it was primarily his musicianship, not his acting chops, that got him there.

An Illinois native, Mazza’s entry into the arts began at an early age. “I started playing the violin when I was three,” the young star explains. “My mom is a teacher, and she wanted me to play because she wanted me to be good at math.”

In 2015, when he was 9, “Literally out of nowhere, I played for the Chicago Bulls halftime show. It was this kids’ talent show that my mom found on Facebook and I did it for the free tickets and I thought that was going to be it. Then, when I was 10, they brought me back.”

And as it turns out, that was only the beginning. Says Mazza, “The next place I played was the Toronto Rising Stars halftime show. And after that, music totally took off. I played and performed at about 20 different arenas, 100 different halftime shows,” including multiple NBA All-Star games. “I think when I was really young, everyone thought it was so cute,” he muses of his surprise success in this area. “Like, ‘Oh, look at this little nine-year-old who’s playing hip hop on the violin.’ ”

Along the way, the self-proclaimed “huge basketball fan” had many memorable encounters with players he looks up to, including NBA legend Lebron James. “Last year, I was playing for the [L.A.] Lakers and Lebron was watching my sound check and he started recording me on his phone, filming me and bobbing his head along and dancing to the music, and he said something like, ‘Hey, this kid’s tough!’ ” (Check him out in action in the video below.)

 

While he cherishes these gigs (and is by no means retired), he reports that he’s “talking with the teams and trying to make sure that we can get all the scheduling right” for future gigs), Mazza also had other artistic ambitions starting at a young age. “When I was about 6 or 7, I really had a desire to become an actor,” he notes. “I saw my uncle,” Brian Chesters, “as a guest star on Grey’s Anatomy and I was like, ‘I want to be an actor, Mom.’ She was like, ‘Well, it’s pretty hard.’ But thank God, she was always so supportive of me and she got me started very early with that. I did a big national Walmart commercial and I was always auditioning,” but with the demand for his violin skills so high, “I didn’t focus on acting as much as I wanted to.”

That changed when he was 16. “It was during Covid, and I was kind of like, ‘I want to [pursue] acting. So I really took a turn and started taking acting very seriously, as seriously as I was taking the violin.” A few years of training later, Mazza headed out to L.A., arriving in March of this year. “I said to myself, ‘I’m gonna commit to this dream. I’m gonna go out there for two months, and if nothing happens, I’ll reconsider [pursuing acting as a career]. But I was very committed to making something happen.”

His timing was impeccable, as GH had just begun its hunt for a new member of its younger crew of characters. “My second week of living in L.A., I get this audition for General Hospital,” he recalls. “I put myself on tape, submitted it, and then I literally moved on. Then I was on hold for another project at the time, this Amazon pilot, and I was thinking, ‘Okay, that’s probably the one I’m gonna get.’ Then I got a call that the [GH] producers wanted to see me.” When he got the call that the show wanted to ink him to a long-term contract, “It felt like the Twilight Zone. It didn’t feel real.”

Mazza’sexcitement was only heightened when he learned GH wanted to incorporate his violin-playing into his character. “I was so excited when I found out that my character is also a violinist,” he enthuses. “I was like ‘Gosh, this is perfect! I get to continue to play violin and also act!’ It truly couldn’t have been a better combo. I’m very hopeful to play more violin on the show. I hope the fans like it as much as I like playing because it’s so much fun to bring the violin on set and play and especially to play in the dressing rooms.”

giovannni mazza

INSTAGRAM/Giovannni Mazza

Lifetime Achievement: Mazza has been honing his violin skills since he was 3 years old.

The actor’s first day on set, for the cast-heavy filming of Chase and Brook Lynn’s wedding, was “completely overwhelming in the best way possible,” he grins. “My first scene was with Eden [McCoy, Josslyn], and before we filmed it, we had maybe 20 minutes to just talk and get to know each other. She introduced me to pretty much everybody after that, and especially when I played the violin on my first day, I just, I felt like I won everybody [over]. It just felt like everybody wanted me to succeed.”

Prior to being cast as Gio, Mazza had auditioned for the show once before. “I auditioned for this role on Days of Our Lives, I think six different times throughout a year-long period,” he reveals. “And I actually got an audition for General Hospital maybe six months ago.” To prep for that, “I watched the show — I watched so many scenes, so many episodes. Then nothing ever happened [from that audition]. But it’s so funny because I did all that research and now I get to act with all the people that I watched!”

That first day on the job, “I didn’t know any of their actual names, I just knew them by their character names. It was such a fun experience because all these people never get to be together [as a big group], and I got to meet so many people that I never would have met, like Kate Mansi [Kristina], who I don’t really have scenes with and don’t really see throughout the day. But she almost became like my big sister, almost a mentor figure, kind of showing me where to go, how the process works, giving me tips and tricks and advice.”

When his first episode aired, “I was working that day, so I was on set,” he recounts. “One of the wardrobe people, Alice, she was like, ‘You gotta come watch yourself!” I was like, ‘Okay….’ I was so nervous.” In the wardrobe room, he watched his GH debut on the live air show on a monitor. “Josh Kelly [Cody] was there, and he was watching me watch myself, and he thought it was the coolest thing ever just to see my reaction. I kind of left my body for a second!”

Mazza describes his new GH alter ego as “such a sweet guy. He’s very appreciative of everything, very grateful for everything that his family and extended family does and for the people he surrounds himself with. He’s a hard-working kid. He always keeps his head down, but he’s always looking out for ways to grow next. And he doesn’t really take a compliment too well! He’s very humble.”

tabayana ali, eden mccoy, giovanni mazza

CHRISTINE BARTOLUCCI/ABC

Meet And Greet: Josslyn (Eden McCoy, second from l.) introduces Trina (Tabyana Ali) to Gio.

This week, Gio settles deeper into Port Charles life when he begins his summer job at the Metro Court pool. And for the (many) Trina fans wondering if the show’s new addition might wind up being the beloved young heroine’s post-Spencer love interest, the two will share their first scenes at the pool. “My first encounter with Trina is when Josslyn introduces Gio to her,” Mazza previews. “She is interested in who Gio is and wants to know more about him, just as he wants to know about her, and I think we’ll develop a great connection on the show. I feel like there’s so much that could happen and could blossom out of our relationship, and I’m excited to know where the story goes. As a fan of the show, I also want to know what’s going to happen next!” As for working with Tabyana Ali (Trina), Mazza says, “It is just so much fun. We just clicked as friends and as people. She’s such a cool person and so, so funny.”

The actor couldn’t be more delighted with his GH experience thus far, declaring that landing the job “means everything to me. I mean, my first few days on set were truly the greatest three days of my life. After I went on set and met everybody, I was like, ‘I feel like I’m joining this new family!’ It meant a lot to my mom, too, that I had this [steady job], because she was scared about letting me go off on my own. To have been given this opportunity … I’m just so incredibly grateful.”

To the viewers, he says, “I’d just like to say that I am so, so excited to be on the show and I hope to bring you all the best story, the best acting, and hopefully the best character that everyone falls in love with and can cheer on and support through his journey.”

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