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Sebastian Maniscalco during is Stay Hungry 2018 Tour at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, March 1, 2018.Johany Jutras

The comedian Sebastian Maniscalco is a standup superstar, but as an actor he’s a raw novice. His big-screen profile is rising, though, with supporting roles in coming dramas Green Book (starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali) and Martin Scorsese’s mob pic The Irishman, set for an early 2019 release and stacked with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Working with his Italian-American heroes on The Irishman was intimidating enough, but walking the red carpet for Green Book at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was even more unnerving for the 45-year-old Chicagoan, who spoke to The Globe and Mail recently about his transition from the big stage to the big screen.


I’ve been to the Toronto International Film Festival once before, about 10 years ago. But it’s new to me, really. I get a little uncomfortable with red carpets. I’d rather be on stage.

Green Book is a drama, but there is a lot of comedy in it. My stage mannerisms weren’t going to work in this kind of film. I wasn’t going to come in with big eyes and big gestures. With film, it’s small. You have to fit into the box.

Standup comedy is all about momentum. It’s much different making a film, with the starting and stopping and setting up the lights. But I didn’t care. I was excited to be doing it.

The roles I’ve been fortunate to be cast in haven’t been a huge departure for me. I’m playing an Italian American in Green Book. It’s not like I’m turning into Rain Man. My other movie, The Irishman, is coming out next year. It’s mobbed-up, and Martin Scorsese is directing. I’m not playing the lead. Like, I’m so Irish ...

I play Crazy Joe Gallo, based on a true character. There’s a not a lot of information on him online. I was looking for video. I wanted to see how the guy moved and what he did physically. There’s a clip of him wearing sunglasses at a Senate hearing. So, he was a ballsy guy.

Working with Scorsese and Al Pacino and Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, for a guy like me, growing up watching these guys, and now I’m in a film with them? It was an intense experience.

Pesci was really personable. After a scene he talked to me for a half hour about acting and taking risks and being confident in your choices. He didn’t have to do that, but I’m very grateful that he did. He’s a sweet man.

Scorsese has a vision of what he wants out of an actor. The way he conveys that for you is very matter of fact and simple. I learned a lot watching how all those guys work, especially with Scorsese. He’s nice man, but, really, I don’t have a lot to compare it to. This is all new. I wasn’t on the Batman movies, you know?

Sebastian Maniscalco plays Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre, Oct. 12; Casino Rama, Orillia, Ont., Oct. 13 and 14; Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Nov. 30; Calgary’s Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Dec. 1; Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Dec. 2.

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