Manny Montana plays Joe ‘Johnny’ Tuturro in USA Network’s latest hit Graceland, which follows the relationships and work of a group of undercover agents living in a California beach house. Montana said something special happened when he walked on to the set of Graceland and he hopes the audience keeps watching because things are only going to get more intense.
Q: How did you get involved with Graceland?
Montana: I got the breakdown from my manager. Usually he will have the secretary call and send me the audition and I will look at it. For whatever reason, he emailed me first and was like “Dude, look at this. Read it and tell me what you think.” I said okay. I read the breakdown which said Latino, surfer, 20-something street kid. I’m like, okay this is all me. I read the script, and certain scripts, man, when you read them and for whatever reason, you have a picture of the character, you know exactly how you would do it, you see the scene—and it just came together perfectly. When I auditioned it just was perfect. It rarely happens that way, but when it does you know it’s something special, it’s right.
Q: What drew you to playing Johnny?
Montana: I don’t know, it sounds like such an easy answer, but he is just fun. I love everything about him. I love that he is sensitive. I love that he just tries to be involved in everybody’s cases, he just wants to help out. It’s a fun character to play and it’s different from everything else I have ever done. In the past, I have only ever played cops, like regular cops that are straightforward and serious. To do something like this is just fun, it makes my days go by just so much faster. But you know, he is going to grow. I kept saying Johnny is slowly becoming a man. After that last episode, when he went undercover as a Mexican gangster, he learned a valuable lesson, from here on he will still be lighthearted, but he goes up and knows the job needs to be taken seriously sometimes.
Q: Half the time Johnny is serious, chasing down people and going undercover, and the other half he is fun. What is that like as an actor to play those duel emotions?
Montana: You know, that is such a really good question because as an actor one of the biggest fears is to be on a show that is a regular, procedural, mundane show with everything wrapped up at the end of the episode and you don’t really get to challenge yourself. So when I got on this show, it was everything that I wanted. I get to play different characters, I get to go undercover. It’s fun to be that guy. I have been on so many ride alongs in my life and I have dealt with so many cops. One of my best friends is a cop in Chicago. [I know they] can arrive at a murder scene and they can just talk and laugh. That’s how a lot of cops are. That’s what I like about our show—it’s authentic. We spend a lot of time with consultants and other people that are on SWAT teams and do undercover work, and that’s how all of them are. I love that about Johnny and the other characters.
Q: How is it working with the other actors?
Montana: I love this cast. We get along so well. It’s a treat and a blessing because it never happens that way. We all like each other and I respect everyone as an actor. We all have different dynamics.
Listen to more of our interview with Manny Montana below and tune in to Graceland on the USA Network every Thursday at 10 p.m. EST.