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The Many Faces of Daniel Franzese

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Our friend and one of our favorite entertainers, Daniel Franzese, has been in the news quite a bit lately.

The 10th anniversary of the cult classic film Mean Girls has swept away most of our attention from the day-to-day droll, the ineptitudes of our nation's political system, the best deal someone got on a storage unit on Storage Wars, or whatever other BS that occupies the ranks of the news on a daily basis.

That great film has taken the attention away from a lot of things - especially its stars in the eyes of the press.

It's quite amazing to me when I read about Daniel Franzese, Rachel McAdams, or the great Tina Fey and they get asked what their favorite color or food is, or some other asinine question.

Sometimes these questions propel the belief that these artists, performers, and entertainers are incapable of being anything other than what we perceive them to be - it isn't just driven by all of the publications and questionable titles that refer to a talent via their character name, it's driven by the lack of desire to truly get to know these people that we love and admire so much.

Whatever happened to the art of conversation?

It's fallen prey to pre-arranged questions, answers, and a media world that is no longer committed to asking questions that explore the human condition.

These questions don't have to be hardball questions, offensive, or prying - after all, we are trying to further get to know the public personas that we love in whatever their respective medium is.

So, if you are into getting to know the personality that you love so dearly on the screen and behind the camera - then you've come to the right place.

Daniel and I explored the importance of being one's self and no one else. In that conversational exploration, as you'll shortly see, I learned what is important to Daniel. You'll also learn what his motivations are, and most of all what is important to him and how he plans to share that with the world in a way that we can all appreciate.

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Even though it seems like you've had a little bit of downtime, you really haven't. You've got something on every burner, literally. Do you ever wind down?

I don't really ever wind down. I'm the type of person where I feel I'll sleep when I'm dead. I'll literally take naps. I'm always doing something artistic. I don't know why, but I always have to be working on multiple things at the same time. Right now, I'm working on my documentary while I'm shooting a film, and I'm also writing another project.

I recently caught one of your comedic projects, Shit Italian Moms Say, which has gone viral with over 3 million views, and I am curious, what inspired you to do the series and who inspired the character.

It's my mother and other ladies in my life. There are some things in there that my mom wouldn't say, but that I've heard other moms say. I think it's in part two that she swears on her son's eyes; my mom would never say that. It's things that I thought were just my mom, but fans have even said they heard their moms say the same thing and I think it's so hilarious. That's the main thing that I've done that I can watch over and over again and crack up at my own performance.

For those that haven't seen it, Daniel portrays "Italian mom," from head to toe, down to her "typical Italian stylish" attire. I've noticed that it's also an amalgamation of stereotypes of Italian moms in film and television that always seem to find a way to work food into a conversation.

It is very true. You're always being fed non-stop. I think the Italian culture is untapped in a lot of ways. There's Larry the Cable Guy, everyone can watch him. Even if you're not southern, you understand everything about that kind of a character because of the history of comedy. Italians and southern people are two unique cultures, they are friendly and inviting. When you know them, both Southerners and Italians, make you feel like you are one of them, when you are with them, you are part of their family and they invite you into their culture.

One of my dear friends is Italian and her family always makes me feel welcome by constantly feeding me. Every time I've been over for dinner, I had no idea how to say "no thank you," or tell them I'm full. I was deathly afraid of offending her parents, so I would end up eating until I couldn't breath.

If it was my family, they would be insulted at a no thank you. I remember a time where I had just eaten and I went over to my Grandmama's house. Grandmama asked me if I wanted a pork chop, I told her that I had already eaten - she looked sad and offended and said, "I made these, you don't even wanna try one?" I kept telling her that I just ate. That turned into me having a bite of the pork chop, the whole piece, and then a second piece. Then after all of that, she ends up telling me that I'll never lose weight if I keep eating like that.

I have always associated you with comedic roles and the role that you portrayed in the remake to I Spit On Your Grave was such a drastic departure for you. It showed your range in a way that a lot of other roles haven't. I think many of your fans are used to seeing you play lighthearted characters that make us laugh, what was the reaction like from your role in this film?

That's right. That's exactly why I took the role. I turned down the movie twice; I didn't want people thinking that I was a rapist because there a lot of people out there who sometimes believe that someone is who and what they portray. My agent told me to think about it and told me that if I could play this, then I could play anything. It was true. My fans don't necessarily care about what I do. I have the coolest fans ever! No matter what I'm in, they watch it. They watch it all, big roles and small roles. I love that. I have really cool fans. They understand. It's the people who make the money that have these eternal hang ups. If Hollywood had an HR department, I'd be in the office right now complaining.

Tell me more about Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin' Rock Opera. I know it was a huge success. What was the genesis of that particular project?

Hanna LoPatin had asked me to be in one of her shows. Unfortunately, I wasn't going to be available because the opening night of her show was going to be the same night as the premiere of I Spit On Your Grave. Then I asked Hanna if she'd like to get together and write a show, and she was on board. I just thought of it right there on the spot - we were going to do Jersey Shore as a musical. When the show won an award for best ensemble, I was at this point where I was again realizing that I was capable of all of these things - I wanted to be able to do them all at the same time, create, sing, and perform.

You had another Off-Broadway performance as well, I've Never Really Made the Kinda Money to Become a Mess. I know this one is more personal, tell us why.

This particular show is 10 different stories that I tell from life, it was really successful. I've done some stories on YouTube and I've done some of them live. I've performed these storytelling shows at a bunch of different places, the audience will give me a one word suggestion and I'll go off on a storytelling tangent. I started storytelling because I realized I have all of these really crazy and fun stories to share with my audiences and it's really entertaining. I have a lot of fun and so does my audience, that's what I want.

You seem to connect with your audience and fans in ways that many actors don't. I understand that you go above and beyond in how you connect with your fans. I checked out your social media profiles, specifically Instagram, and the pictures you post are fantastic, each one seems to tell a story.

A lot of the photos that I've done have been with people that I've connected with on Instagram @whatsupdanny. I put out messages on there, that let people know what area I'm in and if they want to do a shoot, they're more than welcome to reach out to me. I've become friends with those photographers on Instagram. I'm actually about to do a shoot with someone here in New Orleans. I love to collaborate artistically with people, I'm pretty accessible. The people I've connected with are fantastic, Instagram allows me to see their work and that furthers the connection.

That's incredible. Your love of art and your passion for photography that you share is what kind of drives that connection.

Absolutely, a lot of my fans that follow me on Instagram follow me because of my photography.

What would you be if you weren't actor?

Around the time that I was doing Party Monster, I was asked, what would you be if you weren't an actor if there was something I could see myself doing - I said that I would be a photographer, and then I was told, "Well, why don't you just take pictures? Then just take pictures." It was a turning point for me. So, I did a variety of different photo projects, a pre-Instagram iPhone photo diary series for the counterculture blogs at World of Wonder for Paper Magazine. I did some shooting at Sundance, I shot Gabrielle Sidibe and Aubrey Plaza before anyone knew who they were. Gabby was actually at the premiere for Precious when I took a couple of photos of her.

I can relate. I do exactly the same thing, plus I have a day job.

I don't really feel complete when I'm working on one thing. I believe that talent is God shining a light on you. When you use your talent you're reflecting that light so that another group of people are allowed to bask in it as well.

Thus ends the first part of getting to know Daniel beyond the role we all know him best for portraying. This should serve as a reminder to everyone that we are all more than the sum of our parts, which includes actors and the roles they portray. Daniel Franzese is not Damien. When the rest of the media community allows us all to accept that fact, we will shortly see many more important reasons that make up all that are the Many Faces of Daniel Franzese.

More to come, stay tuned.

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Images courtesy of Daniel Franzese & Rachel Madison Hill