Mandy: How did I make a leap from law Enforcement to acting?
Michael: Movies have always an “Escape” for me. No matter what was going on in my life, good or bad, when we went to the movies everything was just perfect in my life, at least for those few hours. Watching the “Hero” save the “Damsel in distress” was a rush for me even at the ripe young age of 6. I remember watching Chuck Norris, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Sylvester Stallone and I would just be in awe of the presence that they bring to the screen. Seeing the reaction from the audience, I was hooked and knew I wanted to be an actor. As we get older we realize that sometimes Life doesn’t give you the game plan to achieve your goals, so you have to do what it takes to create your own game plan. Being in Law Enforcement was an Honor and I loved my brothers and sisters that put their life on the line everyday to protect and serve the community that we lived in. To say I had A “game plan” to make the switch from chasing “Real bad guys” to chasing “Fake ones”, Isn’t quite accurate. I sort of just made the jump ( not recommended to do ) because of a promise I made to my Family. I have always wanted to pursue acting but I never really had the ” courage” nor the time to really give it 100%. Until my father became very sick, and not knowing if he would make it through heart Surgery, He pulled me to the side one day in the hospital room, the night before his critical surgery, and not knowing if I would get to talk to my father again, he told me that life is about being happy and I should do what I love, and love what I do. He always told me to Dream Big, Dream Bold, and always Dream Possible. He always knew what my real passion was, but I always had to put it off due to responsibilities, just like most of us. He made me promise to chase my dream and never give up. He told me to never look back and that I was meant to do great things. Here my father was, facing possible Death and he was thinking of me. I swore to him that I would chase my dream and be brave enough to never look back. So my drive in this industry and all my passion to become “successful as a working actor” is actually a promise to my Parents. When it’s all said and done, no matter how big the project or how successful I aim to become, at the end of the day, I’m simply a man that just wants to follow through on a promise I made to my father.
Mandy: Did you know from a young age that was what you wanted to do, was your Family supportive?
Michael: I was very blessed at a very early age, knowing what made me happy and knowing what my passion was, even when you don’t understand why, or what the definition of “Passion” is. All I knew is, I wanted to entertain and make other people feel as good as I felt when I watched a movie. My family always supported my Crazy desire to be center of attention. My parents always encouraged me and nurtured the “Little entertainer in me” that was dying to come out. My goal, even when I was barely walking, was to make other people feel good and try to entertain them in some way. I remember my sisters asking me to “Do The Incredible Hulk”….and I would rip my shirt off like Lou Ferrigno. Mom wasn’t happy of course, but I wanted to be a superhero so bad, I would rip off every shirt I had in the house. The reaction I got from people was what I loved to see, and what I was addicted to. To me, being a “superhero” at 6 years old, ripping off my shirt, and pretending to be the Hulk felt like an Oscar winning performance every time. As I grew up chasing a dream that everyone told me was a “waste of time”, I never quite understood that statement. The reason that never bothered me was because my goal was never fame or money, my goal was to take someone on a Journey with my performance, and help them forget their problems for an hour and a half. No matter what was going on in their lives, I wanted to help them forget any problems or issues , just like my family had, and inspired or motivated them in some way. To me actors were the most powerful people in the world, because they can influence anyone at any age in so many different ways. I wanted to use that power in the best way I could and influence people in the best way I knew how, and that was to tell great stories. I think its our responsibility as entertainers to always put the audience first and always allow them to feel satisfied after investing their time with us . I consider the audience my real Employer.
Mandy: With your Reputation as the Next Big Name, tell us how you choose your next role and about Your experience in the Film Festivals?
Michael: I don’t think it was a particular “Break” in any certain film, as much as it was a break in receiving a good reputation for my work ethic and consistency as a credible actor. I think through the years I’ve been very fortunate to work with some very professional and passionate artist. My rule was to always work with someone willing to give it their all behind the camera, as much as I was willing to give it my all in front of the camera. I think its just as important for us (The actor) to “Qualify” who you’re about to work for, as much as they qualify you through the audition or casting process. I learned that early on and it helped me get ahead of the curve. I knew if I didn’t say yes to “everything” and “everyone” and worked with quality projects, and professional people only, I would be taken serious quicker and that’s exactly what happened. I think being able to recognize that game plan early, it allowed me to be part of many award winning projects and brought quality recognition in Acting. Even Getting feed back from festivals, big or small is the best way to grow as an actor. People are so honest and so willing to share their thoughts on your project and your performance and it’s up to you to take that feedback and apply it to your craft. We are only as good as our work ethic allows us to be. Thank God I’ve been lucky enough to understand that philosophy and apply it to my life. Some festivals can open up great opportunities for you, so make sure you take advantage of them, and meet the right people that can possibly create your “next Big Break”. With strong work ethic you can only hope to create some form of success in one form or another, but Being called the “Next Big Name” in Hollywood, wasn’t something I ever expected. I try not to dwell on titles or nicknames because If you believe the good ones your in trouble and if you get mad at the bad ones it can effect your performance. I try and just do my best and stay grounded on the feedback that comes from it. Thank God It’s been positive thus far. Winning Awards always feels amazing and not one day goes by that I take that for granted, but I always relied on one motto that keeps me grounded, it goes like this, ” You’re never as good as you think, or as bad as people might say”…that always seemed to keep me focused on the most important thing, “The audience”, and realize its never all about “Me”. I’m my own worst critic in a big way and always push myself to be the best I can, and as long as fans want to see me perform again and again, that’s my reward!! Knowing that people genuinely support me and support my career, and to get to do what I absolutely adore for a living, is priceless. That’s my goal every film. To never feel like I took advantage of someone that invested their time and money to see me. I never want to try and fool the audience, because I feel that’s impossible!
Mandy: Can you tell us a bit about your forthcoming big roles?
Michael: I’m so excited about the future that I have to sometimes just stop and look in the mirror and say..”wow, I’m actually living my dream”. With some projects in development and planned for late 2013 and early 2014, I can talk about some huge opportunities that I’m excited to be a part of. In just a few weeks I start the filming of “Dutch Book” with Award winning Director / Writer James Repici. James and I worked on the award winning film “Subprime”, and its a great honor to be asked to join his already talented cast for his next film. Dutch Book is about An ex-baseball hero (Richard Edson known for his role Platoon) offers his son (Lopez) to work off a gambling debt for a local bookie named Joe (Played by Burt Young of the iconic Rocky Franchise ). With the help of his best friend Cal (Monzon) and some insider information, Will places a few no-risk bets to pay his father’s debt off. All goes as planned until a dangerous bookie named Mel (Federico Castelluccio of the world famous Sopranos series ) catches on to their scheme. This is a great project and one that I cant wait to get started on.Not to mention we just got word that Mr. Roger Guenveur known for his many great performances, one being American Gangster with the great Denzel Washington will join the cast as well. After that amazing production, there’s no time for rest just yet. We are in the funding phases for my next incredible project that I’m up for the Lead role in a true crime story and Trilogy Franchise called “The Preyers” , written by the very well know Mr.Ernie Lijoi Sr.. A True Crime Story of an Undercover Detective who infiltrated an Organized Mafia Family. They are calling this film an amalgamation of the well known movies: “The French Connection” and “Goodfellas” . That says it all! It’s already getting great press and expectations of the film are right up there next to the Godfather. Visit ” The Preyers.com for all the incredible updates and news. The production is still in development so I cant say to much, but what I can say is that on this production, I get to share the set with some of the BIGGEST MOVIE STARS on the planet, both in front and behind the camera. I’m just blown away with the level trust and faith that I’m receiving in my career right now. I went from pursuing a dream alone to now possibly sharing that dream with Millions of people worldwide! To say that I’m in a position to exchange dialogue and share the silver screen with some of my childhood Idols growing up, just proves that anything is possible and really makes a man become extremely grateful! I’m literally speechless, and believe me, being Italian, that’s almost impossible!! To be able to wake up every morning with an attitude of gratitude, and say I’m an actor, is the biggest blessing in the world for me. I’m excited and ready for this next chapter in my life to begin. I’m a very Blessed man.
Mandy: You have a Loyal following called “The Santourage” , What inspires you?
Michael: My family is the most motivating factor in my life. My parents have always been my inspiration. No matter what I needed to do, or how much the odds were against me, my family would always get me through it. I’m inspired by the amount of unbelievable support I receive through my fans who I consider my family. The Santourage ( Santi’s Entourage of fan support) are the best fans a guy can have. They inspire me with amazing comments, e-mails, and dedication in my career and in me as a human being. I realize it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about the people that believe in me as well. I think in some way, people can relate to me because I say it like it is and keep it very real, and only speak from the heart. I don’t keep secrets and talk about how easy things are, and they go through the struggles and triumphs along side of me. At the end of the day, they know if I can make it, someone that had every reason not too, they know they can as well. So, in reality we all inspire each other.
Mandy: What’s your Dream role?
Michael: Wow, great question! You’re going to laugh, but after all, acting is playing make believe whether we are bringing back to life a factual person, or creating a new one. I’ve actually always wanted to play a Super Hero. I think My personality has always been one to want to change the world, ( I know my mother would agree lol). I think Playing a Super Hero, would be the closest role to my personality. I just love to tell great stories. My dream role would be one that years from now, people would still love to watch and say its one of the best films of all time. I would love to play an Iconic Character that you grow up watching. Like Christopher Reeves as Superman, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky and Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The God-Father. To be an character that you couldn’t Imagine anyone else playing is a Big Goal, and one I hope to fulfill. One I hope the world allows me to achieve one day.
Mandy: Can you tell us about about growing up in Orlando?
Michael: Being born in Brooklyn N.Y, moving to Orlando Fla , was quite the “culture Shock” at first. Growing up here, I have grown to absolutely love Orlando, for all the amazing people, places and opportunities that brought me to where I am today. The schools are big on sports and the weather allows you to enjoy the out doors all year round. I believe those two reason alone allowed me to take interest in being active and fit, something that has sort of been a character trait in most of my film work. Besides, living right next door the “Happiest Place On Earth” how could you ever take that for granted! Orlando is not the “film capital” of the world, so it definitely allowed me to appreciate and respect any level of success I saw in film. I think living in Orlando, forced me to work that much harder to get the recognition that you need to succeed as a “working actor”. Just like many other states, Orlando is know for being a place where “Stars” come to retire or to vacation, not a place where they start out, so it really forces you to create and develop a strong work ethic so you can stand out. I thank God everyday that I come from a place that made me want it more and work even harder. I have a lot to be thankful, and grateful of, because of the great city of Orlando.
Mandy: You still live there, right? Why do you live there as opposed to LA?
Michael: Ever since I can remember, my father has always had health issues. In fact, I’m use to all the trips to the hospital on a regular basis to make sure he gets the proper care and attention he deserves. My father is a veteran and 100 % disabled, so being close to my parents is the most important thing in the world to me. My father gets the best care he can get right here in Orlando and I won’t jeopardize that care by relocating him right now. I have heard it time and time again…you have to be in LA if you want to make it big. My reply is, “Well, I would rather never make it, if it meant not being there when my parents needed me the most”..and believe me, there were plenty of close calls. The great news is that sticking to my guns, and never questioning that decision nor my integrity, was the best decision I could of ever made. I proved to the “masses”, that you don’t have to do what people expect you to do to make it in “Show business”. I always felt that If I’m being cast for a certain project, and people really think that I’m the right person for the job, then distance should never be an issue over success. If I’m going to bring any sort of success, or contribute to their project the way they feel I can, then I’m sure, there is always a way to make it happen, and thank God it always worked out. Know what your real priorities are in life and never sell your soul, and you can still be recognized and become successful. My family will always come first.
Mandy: You are heavily involved in charities, can you tell us a bit about them?
Michael: To say that I’m Affiliated with one ‘Particular’ charity wouldn’t be accurate. I’ve always been the type to “want to save the world”. From Heart foundations to cancer, to the bravest kids in the world fighting for their lives, I’m always going to be there. When ever I can contribute to a cause in any capacity, I will. How can you choose who gets help, I know I can’t. Food drives, telethons, walks, and runs for charities, if I’m free and if my name can be affiliated with finding some help for people in need….I’m ready to lend a hand for the less fortunate and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves! I feel that with any spotlight you receive as an artist in any form of art, it’s your duty and your responsibility to take that spotlight and shine it on those that are in need of light.
Mandy: What message do you want to get out there, to other actors who are trying to get there first break?
Michael: It really comes down to that old cliche’, Believe in yourself, not what people tell you to believe in. I’m the poster child for a person who had every reason to give up a long time ago. The circumstances and situations in my life said I wasn’t suppose to win. I never gave into that belief. Just like many people reading this, doubt what their really meant to do with their lives. We all have a thousand reasons why we can’t win, and one reason why we should. The key is to focus on the one reason, a thousand percent of the time. The reason I see some light at the end of the tunnel now, is because the loudest voice in my head “Was Me”. I never allowed anyone to steal my dream. Is it easy? No, but I knew I would rather sacrifice and struggle in a career that I loved with a small chance to achieve my dreams, then to sacrifice and struggle in a career that I hated with ‘No Chance” of achieving my Dreams. My point is, I never thought for a second that I couldn’t reach my goal …nobody could convince me other wise. To me, it was never a matter of “If “, it was only a matter of “When”. If it’s that important to you, you will find a way! Dreams really do come true. Believe in your Dream, believe it’s possible and believe you’re worth it. I don’t care what your Dream is, if you want to be a Doctor, a lawyer, police officer, or President of the United States…it all starts with 100% belief! Make sure your “Passion” is always Bigger then your “Problem”. At the end of the day, we are all little kids ripping our shirts off playing “Super Hero” and chasing a dream.
Thank you Michael!
Be sure to check out Michael Santi, the founder & president of Archangel Entertainment, online..