On Acting Interview with Santino Fontana
Ted Sod, Roundabout’s Education Dramaturg, interviewed actor Santino Fontana to discuss the play.
Ted Sod: Why did you choose to play the role of Joseph in Sons of the Prophet? Santino Fontana: I think there have been a few times in my life where the role and my life have intersected. Although Joseph is very different from me in a lot of ways, we have had very similar experiences. He keeps trying to play by the rules and keeps getting screwed over and I can connect with that. I’m sure everyone connects with that. You feel like you keep trying to do the right thing but you keep getting slammed by some force and you have no idea what’s happening. Also, I haven’t done a contemporary play in New York, I haven’t been in a new contemporary play at all in New York—or spoken without an accent.
TS: What kind of preparation or research will you have to do in order to play Joseph? SF: Luckily, I feel like a lot of my research is done. I worked on this play a year ago in different workshop settings. The family dynamic is very similar to my family dynamic. The only difference is my parents are still alive, thank God. I get Uncle Bill saying “Don’t forget where you come from.” I too was raised Catholic. I’m from a working class family, so there are very similar socioeconomic issues. There is a quote in the play where Joseph says: “Our family was only allowed to watch ‘Little House on the Prairie’ because people get screwed over every week.” My grandma would say when we would laugh too much, “Laughing leads to crying.” There is a DNA structure about how these characters view the world that I recognize.
TS: Do you want to go to Nazareth, Pennsylvania where the play takes place? SF: I do! Definitely. And Stephen Karam, the playwright, has sent me pictures. It’s the only play that I’ve been in recently that I have been able to travel to where it takes place.
TS: Can we talk about your relationship to Gloria, your employer, and to your brother, Charles, in the play? SF: What I love about the play is that Joseph is in a great state of need. Actually all the characters are, which is one thing that makes great plays. Joseph needs health insurance. I work for Gloria, who is of a completely different socioeconomic background; she’s had a completely different life than Joseph has had and I have to put up with her. She’s very funny, she’s hilarious, but she’s crazy. But there are a lot of similarities between Joseph and Gloria. She’s afraid to acknowledge what’s actually going on with and around her. She needs someone to take care of her and to tell her it’s going to be okay; which is what Joseph wants. But Gloria can’t be that for Joseph. It’s just not in her nature; they don’t connect on that level. Even if she tried, he wouldn’t allow that to happen. I think he recognizes her need but
Charles Socarides and Santino Fontana in Sons of the Prophet.
also thinks her problems are small compared to his. Of course, she thinks his problems are small compared to hers. The difference is that she will win, because she has the money and the power. She gets rewarded for her bad behavior, she gets a book deal. There’s a line in the play: “In order to make it in this world, you have to be either an extraordinary human being, or make an series of extraordinarily bad life decisions.”
TS: Joseph seems to be a surrogate parent to his brother, Charles. He becomes parental with Uncle Bill. Would you define that as co- dependent? SF: It’s very emotional. There’s a void. There’s a vacuum when you are faced with huge odds, huge responsibility and pressure. You can either face those pressures or avoid them and say I’m going to take care of you, and you, and you, and you and that happens with Joseph. Jumping into the parent role helps him not deal with what’s going on. He never asks for help, he never says I need help. He never tells Bill this is too much for me, help me. He never lets someone else take care of him, even though that’s what he wants. In order to avoid that, he jumps into the parental role.
TS: What about the Kahlil Gibran connection in the play? What do you make of it? SF: Joseph doesn’t necessarily buy the Gibran connection and it doesn’t mean anything to him. Gloria wants to write a book about Joseph’s connections to Gibran. She wants the money and the success
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12