Actor Greg Canestrari on how a family tragedy lead him to his lead role in ‘Lilyhammer’

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Greg Canestrari played Jerry Delucci in the popular TV series ‘Lilyhammer’, and he’s recently finished portraying two very different roles in his new films. He talks about his big break, what he enjoyed about playing a Catholic priest in ‘Angels Fallen 2: Warriors of Peace’, and his musical talents. 

How did you start working in the film industry?

“My first career, besides music, was in musical theatre, performing in West End and touring shows. I was rehearsing for ‘Latin Fever’, a musical extravaganza in collaboration with ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, when my mother tragically passed away in the US, so I had to leave quickly. Upon my return to the West End the emotions I felt during my first show were intense. After the run finished I did some soul-searching and came to realise that I needed more. So I focused on a shift into TV and film. It was soon after that that I was offered the role of Jerry Delucci in ‘Lilyhammer’, Netflix’s first original programme and the first to stream internationally. It was a big break and started the ball rolling for me.”

Photo credit: Diego Indraccolo

What was your experience working on the TV series ‘Lilyhammer?

“My experience in ‘Lilyhammer’ was special. I’m Italian-American, so I couldn’t have been more suited for the role. Fans often say that ‘Lilyhammer’ is a spin-off of ‘The Sopranos’. I do love that idea, although it’s probably not entirely accurate. Every day filming in Norway was amazing – it’s such a stunning country. I worked closely with Steve Van Zandt, known of course as Silvio in ‘The Sopranos’. It goes without saying about the impact he made as Bruce Springsteen’s main man in the E Street Band. I grew up idolising them. I still slip in a Springsteen song or two during my UK gigs. I’ve been a professional vocalist and musician my entire life. This all added extra meaning to my ‘Lilyhammer’ experience. Working with that wonderful cast, some of them very well-known in Norway, was a real treat. Stevie was always so generous and kind to everyone both on- and off-set, which helped set the tone for everyone and made it the amazing experience it was.”

Why was Jerry Delucci such a great character to play?

“Jerry Delucci’s story alone could be a blockbuster film. He grew up in a family steeped in crime, so inevitably became a criminal too. However the kind of emotional trauma he suffered as a child turned him into the man he became in ‘Lilyhammer’. It was so much fun, but sometimes disturbing to explore this role despite the fact it’s a dark comedy. I never dreamed I would be part of a series that would become such a hit, and in some parts of the world a cult classic, as ‘Lilyhammer’ is. In Norway the people are still crazy in love with it. That’s why Jerry Delucci is probably my favourite role to date.”

Photo credit: Jason Stuart Mitchell

What’s the most physical role you’ve taken on?

“I recently finished filming a supporting lead role as Padre in ‘Angels Fallen 2: Warriors of Peace’. It was fun playing such a strong, devoted Catholic priest who can also kick some serious evil ass when required. It was my first time playing such a fantasy role, but also a Catholic role, which tapped into my US upbringing. I loved all the physical work in these beautiful, exotic places. Though I can’t deny that such physical fighting on an ancient mountain at 3am, absolutely freezing, yet still learning new fight choreography with real swords in your hands, can take focus! But I loved the degrees we went to to get the right intensity and element for every scene. That’s why I think this film will be a big success.”

And you’ve just wrapped on another film?

“Yes, I also recently finished filming my role as Tim Kingsley in ‘The King of Sunflower’. Tim is the lead investor of Sunflower, and he’s not always a faithful colleague. This film was intriguing because it brings to light Rob Ryan, who was responsible in the 80s for making the internet globally accessible. I loved playing Tim because he eventually becomes anything but straight-forward.”

Fetured photo credit: Rubicon TV