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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

Resume Pic 2011

Our good friend Sal Viscuso is in this week’s season premiere of the hit ABC drama “Scandal.” He plays a lawyer named Clark Garrett, which I find infinitely amusing, and proof positive of what a fine actor he is. Sal is most definitely a Sal, maybe a Tony, he could even pull off a Vinnie . . . but a Clark? Now that takes acting!

Seriously though, I’m thrilled for him. Viscuso moved to California in 1975 to be part of a short-lived sitcom entitled “The Montefucsco’s.” That particular show didn’t take but in short order he found work on TV staples such as “Mary Hartman,” “M*A*S*H” and “Barney Miller” before landing as a series regular on the controversial ABC hit sitcom, “Soap” as the wayward priest, Father Timothy Flotsky. By Season 3 of “Soap” his role dried up. The show was burdened with too many characters and storylines. He went on to other things. Sal likes to work and he worked a lot on both TV and in films throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Unfortunately, the new millennium has been more challenging for Viscuso. The roles, representation and opportunities just haven’t been the same. In addition to his acting, Viscuso’s also a talented painter and a caring and involved human being. He has devoted his time not only to political causes but also to underprivileged and at-risk youth. But for Sal, it’s not enough – he loves to act, he wants to act, he truly needs to act.

I “met” Sal Viscuso via the telephone over two and a half years ago. I interviewed him for an article I wrote about him in “Fra Noi,” an Italian American magazine published in Chicago, Illinois. We immediately “clicked” over the phone. We liked one another, we respected one another and it felt as if we’d been friends for many years. Since that time, we’ve kept in close touch.

This past winter he had the opportunity to perform in a two man play in Los Angeles entitled “A Steady Rain,” written by Keith Huff and directed by his friend and fellow actor Jeff Perry. The opportunity offered little in remuneration but plenty in exposure and possibility. I encouraged him to pursue it. He certainly didn’t need my advice because he was smart enough to know that it was a terrific role. But for whatever reason, he has actually sought my opinion on certain questions and issues over the last couple of years, which is amazing to me. I’ve always been a show biz junkie but to have a man of his experience and talent ask me “what I think” is truly astonishing. Long story short, the play received great reviews and Sal received phenomenal reviews! In fact, it was so well received that it’s going on the road and will play in October at the legendary Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Sal Viscuso and his co-star Thomas Vincent Kelly reprising their roles.

In addition, Shonda Rhimes, arguably the hottest and most important producer in television at the moment, saw the play and was impressed with Viscuso. She and casting director Linda Lowy (Jeff Perry’s wife) remembered him when it came time to fill the role of Clark Garrett on “Scandal.”

He filmed Episode 1, which premieres tomorrow night (Thursday September 25th) on ABC, and had a ball. When I spoke with him he was effusive in his praise for the cast and crew with whom he worked and described it as a “dream set.” Even better, he was asked back for Episode 5 and the possibility that he will appear multiple times this season look promising.

Sal absolutely loves Jeff Perry. It’s not hard to see why. He’s a tremendously talented actor and, in the right role, immensely likeable. I used to enjoy him very much as Harvey Leek in syndication on “Nash Bridges.” Viscuso also had nothing but high praise for Josh Malina (another favorite of mine from “Sports Night” and “The West Wing”) and Tony Goldwyn. Mr. Goldwyn’s grandfather was the great Hollywood producer and mogul Sam Goldwyn who was one of my first movie heroes. Sam Goldwyn’s life story is more amazing and inspiring than any spectacle he ever produced onscreen.

As for Kerry Washington, Sal had little to say about her except she was incredibly talented, unbelievably beautiful and delightfully down-to-earth. Besides that – nothing. Ha, ha, ha.

The person that Sal really was excited to tell me about was a gentleman named Tom Verica, a big-hearted paisan from South Philly. I immediately “googled” him as I always do and instantly recognized him. He’s an actor but he’s also a director as well. He is, in fact, the director of “Scandal’s” season premiere in addition to being a co-executive producer of the series. Sal couldn’t say enough good things about him. Not only does Verica direct and co-produce “Scandal” but he’s also a co-star in Shonda Rhimes’ new ABC show “How To Get Away With Murder” starring Viola Davis. Sal saw a preview of the show last week and he told me not to miss it. Apparently, Verica plays Davis’ husband on the show and Sal said they are both just terrific in it!

Sal Viscuso has a number of good friends because he is, quite simply, a really good guy. A sweetheart, actually. But no matter how many friends he has, I can guarantee you that no one is happier for him or will take more joy in watching him shine in “Scandal” on Thursday night than I will.

“Sempre avanti, Sal . . . sempre avanti!”

 

 

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