'Band of Brothers' co-star James Madio
James Madio co-stars in the upcoming HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers," which is produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Madio's first break came from Spielberg, when Madio, in his first-ever audition, landed a part as one of the Lost Boys in Spielberg's "Hook." Other movie credits include roles in "Hero," "Mac," and "The Basketball Diaries." Madio joined the CNN.com chat room from California.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today, James Madio, and welcome
JAMES MADIO: Thank you! Hello everyone in the room! This is pretty cool.
CNN: From: How did you get cast in "Band of Brothers?"
MADIO: It was like, I went in four different times. The first time was the casting director. Second time was the casting director again. The third time was the casting director and Tom Hanks, and the fourth was with Steven Spielberg. That's pretty much how it happened. I remember the last audition, Steven Spielberg was there, and he had a camera, and there were, like, 40 actors, and they were mixing and matching. And once I got in there, he had the camera on me, and he was looking me up and down and I was like, "Oh, my God, it's Steven Spielberg!" But I worked on the material a lot, and I was working out, and I'd read the book, so I was pretty much ready to rock and roll.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: What character did you play?
MADIO: I played Frank Perconte, an Italian man from Chicago, Illinois. Right now, he's 84 years old. He still lives in Joliet, Illinois. He's Italian, and we look the same, big nose and stuff. He's sharp as a whip. When he was younger, and in E-Company, he was one of the first guys to join, to volunteer. Him and Carlwood Lipton, who is portrayed by Donnie Wahlberg. They were the first two guys in the company.
It's hard to get information about your character from him, because he won't tell you about himself. I had to go to other people to get info about him, because he's so humble. That's just the way they were. He's a morale-booster. Always smiling, when times are hard, you need that kind of guy to keep the company going. When I'd just come back from a long battle, he was always there to give a smile. From what I hear, he was a phenomenal soldier. He was there from beginning to end.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: What kind of research did you do for your role in the mini-series? Did you take sky-diving lessons?
MADIO: That's a good question. Material-wise, yeah.... when we first learned that I got the part, within days HBO and Playtone, Tom Hanks' company, sent me a whole book of material, pictures of the veterans of the company, information on my character, and a little nice story about them. So that's how I got material. Plus the fact that I know Frank Perconte. He's actually a good buddy of mine now, and I spoke to him on the phone all the time while I was out there. I had plenty of material on my character, and on E-Company. As far as sky-diving, no, I didn't sky dive, but I did dive off a mountain! We filmed in Switzerland for about 10 days, and a lot of the kids got to go skydiving, but I had my girlfriend with me, and she refused to let me go. But she did let me jump off a mountain!
CHAT PARTICIPANT: What was it like keeping company with Tom Hanks and Steven?
MADIO: First off, it was hard keeping company with the veterans, because you knew how much they did. That was overwhelming, portraying them. A real-life hero, not Batman or Robin, but Frank Perconte. As far as Tom and Steven, yeah... it was a little intimidating, but Tom Hanks makes you feel comfortable right away. Steven, I knew from when I was 14, I did "Hook," and played a Lost Boy. It's still intimidating to see him 10 years later, and I didn't know if he'd remember me. But he did, so that was encouraging. Both are down to earth. They're welcoming men, so it was pretty easy, at least for me.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Who are some of the other actors in the miniseries?
MADIO: Donny Wahlberg, David Schwimmer, Ron Livingston (from "Office Space" and "Swingers"), Neal McDonough, Rick Gomez, Frank John Hughes.
CNN: What was the most difficult part about training?
MADIO: Probably the long hours in the rain and the mud, and all the gear you had to carry. No one would babysit anything, your helmet, your boot knives, or anything. You had to hold all the gear, and your weapon. And the long hours, we're talking long, like 18 hours. It was filmed in England, at an old air base. We were out there in the woods, it's just insane. There's no trailers to go back to keep warm, but you didn't really want one, because you wanted to have a feeling of what the guys went through. So we stayed in the rain and mud. The filming took nine or ten months. They put us through a two-week boot camp, which was pretty insane, too.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: James you've come a long way since your "Blossom" days. After "Band of Brothers" do you have any other movies coming out?
MADIO: Yeah, I did one episode of "Blossom," many, many years ago. [laughing] Yes, I've come a long way. I did a movie called "If Tomorrow Comes," with James Franco, who played James Dean. Hopefully that will take off.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mr. Madio, what is the time frame in the series? How many years does it cover?
MADIO: It covers from Toccoa, Georgia, the training, to capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest, which is about a 2 1/2 year period.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Did you learn anything from this?
MADIO: Oh wow, that's a long answer. Very much. From the whole experience, seeing these veterans, listening to their stories, you know, you realize how small you are. All you wanted to do was try to be the best soldier you can be, for them. It wasn't about acting anymore. acting went flying out the window the day you showed up on the set. You realized you couldn't do anything without the others. It grew me up real fast. I'm this young kid showing up on the set, all happy and young, and the others had wives and kids. Working so long, we got so much experience, behind the camera and in front.
When it all boils down, after I see what they've done, Tom and Steven and HBO, what they've done for the veterans, that's what teaches me more than anything. If those big guys are doing so much for veterans, you know that there's still a lot to learn from these guys. The bottom line, and I think this is what Tom Hanks and Spielberg and HBO do what they do, and it's so incredible, is that this is for the adults that never forget about the war, and for the young to be taught, so it keeps on going, generation to generation.
You got someone like me who doesn't know about war, I'm from the burgs of New York. But now I know, I've been with the veterans. I'll pass it on to my little brother. I think that's why they do it, to understand and let the whole world know. And I tell ya, the whole world will know after this show. These guys deserve the recognition that they'll get.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today.
MADIO: Goodbye, and thank you for listening to me babble on! This was a lot of fun!
James Madio joined the CNN.com chat room by telephone and CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Friday, September 7, 2001. HBO is a division of AOL Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN.
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