Exclusive Interview with Damian Muziani, Emmy Nominated Writer
A graduate of William Paterson University in New Jersey, Damian Muziani is a true renaissance man. He has held roles as an acclaimed actor, writer, and broadcaster and has earned high praise for his videography and journalistic skills.
He is known for roles in hit-TV shows, including Blue Bloods, Billions, MTV’s Revenge Prank, Saturday Night Live, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Average Joe, Girls5eva, and many more. As the former spokesmodel for Manhattan Mini Storage, he was featured on 31 large billboards across New York City for three years.
Among his various accolades as an entertainment professional, Damian is the recipient of six Telly Awards (including a Silver Telly) for his political commentary and works in video production and entertainment. His online show, a weekly comic news segment titled Hindsight Tonight, was nominated for an Emmy and won a w3 and Davey Award.
Recently, he appeared in the film Dio: Dreamers Never Die, which premiered at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Muziani is recognized as the last person to conduct an authorized post-show interview with late rocker Ronnie James Dio after his final performance ever in 2009.
When he’s not performing on stage or in front of the camera, Damian Muziani spends his time polishing his craft as a renowned filmmaker. Outside of the spotlight, he enjoys spending quiet time with his wife and Bengal cat, watching football, and taking day trips to exciting places.
Looking over your bio, we can tell you’ve found success in different areas of entertainment. Do these other fields make it easier or harder for you as an actor?
Harder, for the most part, but there are exceptions. From my perspective, anything that takes your time and rhythm away from sticking to your process as an actor has the potential to trip you up.
Hosting and reporting are poison for an actor. Continuously addressing the camera directly with a teleprompter goes completely against how dramatic acting is delivered—unless you’re Hannibal Lecter.
After a while, I think that kind of repetition reduces your effectiveness. That’s why you see so many reporters and anchor roles in movies performed by real-life broadcasters, it’s the one thing they can truly pull off, and no actor dies in the process.
But, and this is relevant, part of preparing for a role as an actor is rooted in your life experiences, so you do get some of that momentum back when you spread out in different fields.
That’s the Meisner way, but it only works if you immerse your brain in variety. With only one experience repeated over and over, the balance gets tougher.
And how does that balance play out in your typical day, trying to be productive as an entertainment professional?
I wish I had the level of success where I could tackle each day on my own terms. But, just like about 99% of all self-described actors in the world, you get your work where you can, when you can.
I’ve been incredibly lucky across the board, and I’m still a nobody. It took me a very long time to realize what I was meant to do with my life, and I’ve learned to apply my skills to my advantage.
Eventually, rejection will kill you off, and the only thing that keeps you alive in the meantime is confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will.
So, confidence is the true measure of an actor’s success?
Well, let’s not get carried away (laughs). You also have to be a realist, and you should possess some skills. Unfortunately, there are rose-colored glasses worn all over the industry, and I think some of these folks just aren’t very good actors.
Maybe they will keep going on auditions until they are 80 years old, always thinking they are the best actor in the room. Honestly, I’m so jealous of that kind of ignorance—naivety sounds like the key to living a very harmonious existence.
No stressing out over failure, you’re right all the time, absolutely no foresight whatsoever, every day you’re Dennis Hopper on a chopper.
Are you saying Dennis Hopper was ignorant?
Oh no, not at all. Hopper, the man, was a visionary, a true artist, and a risk-taker. And maybe that shows up in his character in Easy Rider, but there is something about that happy-go-lucky persona that just seems reserved for people who are unaffected by forces against them.
If you’re not rich or crazy-brave, then you might have to simply be blissfully blind to find that nirvana. I’ve always had issues with my IQ.
Aren’t you a member of American Mensa?
Well, yeah. But you don’t have to say it like I’m a member of the Communist Party, McCarthy. I am a Mensan, but it’s not a status thing, at least not since I first took the test 20 years ago.
I sometimes mention it in auditions when producers are looking for something rare or interesting in the person they cast. It’s probably gotten me on TV a few times.
But I’ve always said that I am probably the dumbest member of Mensa; I make silly mistakes all the time.
What’s a silly mistake you’ve made?
I agreed to help an estranged friend from my college days, which turned into a disaster. He was a big-time telemarketer who wanted someone to take on a title role in one of his companies.
I agreed to do it in exchange for a survival-job salary so I could continue to go on auditions and keep struggling as an actor.
The guy made millions, and I think I was supposed to be his designated fall guy. But luckily, a couple of reporters and investigators connected the dots correctly, and he was exposed.
That was a hard lesson for me: how friendship and greed mix and what that does to people.
Sounds like a hard lesson.
It was scary, but it turned out OK for me, thank God. I walked away with my tail between my legs and haven’t heard from the friend since. It actually ended up much worse for the New York Attorney General who started the whole thing.
While he was busy trying to enlist the FTC to help him eliminate us, an explosive exposé was published about him in the New Yorker, and the guy resigned in less than three hours. He hasn’t been heard from since, either. Looking back on it all, the end result was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I probably owe the New York Attorney General’s office a big thank you because they saw how in the dark I was, and instead, they nailed the guy they wanted. And I came away with so much insane-but-true material for a new screenplay; it’s going to be awesome! I’m trying to think about who we could get to play the Attorney General.
What about Nestor Carbonell?
You mean the guy with the eyeliner? Actually, that sounds pretty dead-on! I was thinking of somebody like Johnny Knoxville.
Hey, it’s your movie. So, until that gets made, what has been the most important part of your professional journey so far?
It sounds so crass to measure your life by just your accomplishments, but I didn’t live that struggling-actor-out-of-high-school cliché. I performed on stage in a play for the first time at age 33, alongside another first-timer named Madeline Brewer.
She was 11, and afterward, she focused on her acting and now is a series regular on The Handmaid’s Tale. I mention her because all of the struggles, pitfalls, and rejection that come with pursuing acting roles are different when you are already in your 30s.
Your window is shorter, your opportunities are lessened right from the jump, and you play catch-up with everything. You have to not only learn how to act, but you also have to learn how to act around actors—you have to master the games involved. When a kid makes a mistake at age 18, they are more likely to be forgiven than a 30-year-old rookie who does the same thing. The 18-year-old might grow out of it, but the 30-year-old gets stigmatized. So, every achievement I have made I now treasure.
I acted for just a little over a year in community theatre before I struck amateur gold: A Leading Actor Perry Award nomination in New Jersey. Not even close to a Tony Award, but hey, it’s an award for theatre performed in the shadow of Broadway, and you are up against about 500 experienced actors. That was huge for me.
One of my first-ever TV auditions took me to California, where I booked a principal role on a prime-time NBC reality show. I know actors who have been rolling the dice for decades without that kind of break.
This is not me bragging—it’s just that I had to play catch-up and fast for me to have any shot at such an advanced age. Luckily those early successes are what gave me the confidence I extolled earlier to you.
So now it’s 20 years later, and you are a veteran of multiple entertainment industries. What’s one trend in the world of entertainment today that excites you?
It has to be the explosion of streaming services. Every channel wants to be a “Plus” or “Max” now, with their own original programming. More shows, more roles, more opportunities.
For now, anyway. It is still a bit unnerving that people can lip-sync on TikTok a few times or dance for 20 seconds and become bankable. So many talented actors out there would just kill to have a top-five agency submitting them for roles, it’s like finding a box of gold, and instead, all the agents are just throwing contracts out to influencers like candy.
But I’m a part of the same hypocrisy. I break my back every weekend to put out a fresh episode of Hindsight Tonight, and in less than a year, I got an Emmy nomination for writing it. I’m an actor first, but if I have to write jokes to get you to look at me, so be it!
What advice would you give your younger self?
The Butterfly Effect. You know this?
Yes. I’ve seen Back to the Future.
OK, so I would have to say absolutely nothing to my younger self. Not a word. I would hide in the bushes somewhere. Because if I had made just one less mistake back then, pissed off one less human being, or did anything differently over the years, there is no way I would have ever met my wife.
And along the way, there was a wide path of interpersonal carnage forged, bridges forever burned, opinions turned into hatred and jealously, and every second of it had to happen for me to reach this level of near self-actualization that I share with my actress-spouse today.
I lost some good friends and made new ones, but it simply had to be that way. Nothing personal.
As you know, it takes drive, tenacity, and determination to work in the entertainment industry. Most working professionals hold several “survival jobs” to make ends meet while they pursue their dreams. What three pieces of advice would you give to individuals who want to pursue a career in entertainment?
Depends on the age and experience of these individuals. Boy, you really lean on trying to get blanket statements out of people, you know that?
You’ve been sitting here jawing away for a half-hour. In a world of blanket statements, you’ve already knitted us a quilt.
(laughs). OK. But it’s filled with down. So, if you are an actor under age 25, I would say you should take a job that allows you bits of time here and there to sneak away to record a self-tape audition if asked.
Since the pandemic hit, nobody goes to the big city in-person to read four words on a page anymore, so you don’t need full-day flexibility now, but you should bring a recording kit with you wherever you go so you can repurpose a closet or bathroom for a few minutes if needed. I know—what happens when you book that big job and have to tell your boss you need a day off? If you honestly think, “what happens if I succeed?” just give up. You clearly don’t get it.
If you are aged 25-50, it gets trickier; you probably need more money to get by, you might have a mortgage now, maybe a love partner, maybe a kid or two. I can’t stress how important it is to be available and flexible at all times. Acting jobs can just happen, out of nowhere, at the worst of times.
Friendly tip: Stay away from telemarketing! And if you are over 50, hey, wait a minute, that means you are my competition—I guess, just hang in there? If you are serious, then you don’t need anyone else to tell you that.
What motivated you to pursue acting, filmmaking, and broadcasting full-time?
As a kid and in high school, this was my only goal. I had no skills outside of projecting myself all over the place. I was a joke machine and a menace to authority—Bart Simpson, pledging allegiance to anarchy with a chip on his shoulder.
Three of my high school teachers retired after spending a semester with me in their homeroom. If I was a harbinger of what the future of education was all about, they wanted nothing more to do with it. Somehow, somewhere, I lost sight of it all. I never got to where I could jump into the acting pool.
A few years after college, I started putting together an annual Super Bowl party and would produce elaborate video invitations for it. I would write comedy sketches and act in them, and it got so that I was working for eleven months on the invitation and one month on the party itself, and then I realized that I was dying inside.
I knew it was probably too late to make an impact, but I decided to go for it anyway and pursue my dreams, and ever since that decision, it has been 100% all I think about.
The fight never stops, you never slow down, you never pass up an opportunity. The only thing you stop is expecting to win. I’m OK with wherever the chips fall, and I’ve been surprisingly effective so far.
How should people connect with you?
I’m all over the place. You can find me on my website, watch Hindsight Tonight or my other videos on my YouTube page and on the DB&A Television Network, or find me on Instagram and Twitter @damianemcee.