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Randy Memoli

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Randy Memoli
Photo Source: Joe Henson, NYC
To hear Randy Memoli tell it, acting saved his life. After graduating from high school in New Jersey, the gregarious and outspoken class clown and self-proclaimed slacker spent most of his time at odd jobs and partying. It wasn't just direction he lacked but passion and the will to commit to something fully. In 2001, Memoli decided to build on his talent for making people laugh and got serious about being a performer—though he cast around haphazardly for instruction. He nearly fell for all sorts of acting scams proffered by nonprofessional, nonlicensed snake-oil salesmen. Today Memoli can laugh at his own naiveté. He would have fallen for those schemes, he says, "but luckily I couldn't afford it. No one would loan me the money!"

With the help of acting teacher John Eyed, Memoli has been diligently chasing his dream of acting in films and television for about five years. Last winter he found a casting notice online at BackStage.com for the thriller Only Go There at Night: Darkness Rising, a sequel. He was drawn to the character of Drake Matthews, a tough, military-minded man out for revenge for the murder of his brother in the first film. The breakdown caught Memoli's eye precisely because it wasn't his type. "When I see [a character] who's very outgoing, comedic, with a lot of energy, I go, 'Oh, that's me,' " Memoli explains. "This guy was obviously not a jokester. I needed to handle intense fight choreography. People know who know me: I'm not a badass. But I love the challenge."

Memoli auditioned Jan. 10; when he arrived he immediately sat down to study the sides in a corner, jacket hood pulled up over his head, not speaking to anyone. The other actors were chatting, telling stories and talking shop. But Memoli finds this casual interaction at auditions distracting; he gets nervous and stays loose yet focused by keeping to himself. As he studied the scene, he realized Drake Matthews was brandishing weapons. "I didn't want to look corny and use my fingers," Memoli recalls. "So I went to my car and got a screwdriver. They loved it."

About 50 actors auditioned for part, says writer-director David Swan. "The role was very physically demanding. Randy captured exactly what I was looking for to bring Drake Matthews to life, and artistically he added new layers to the character that I had never even thought of."

Memoli left the audition feeling good. "Sometimes I'll leave with confidence, and sometimes I'll leave very depressed," he says. "Sometimes when I leave with too much confidence, I'll start thinking about it too much, like I got the part already." But this time, there wasn't even a callback; Swan called and offered Memoli the part just two days later. It was his first lead role in a feature film.

After shooting the film in late April, Memoli continues to navigate the highs and lows of life as a professional performer. He delivers pizzas to pay the bills, auditions as much as he can, and has tested with a few agents. "I've been rejected so many times, but I've also been accepted so many times," he says. "A year ago I wasn't in a film. You have to have trust. I came this far. I know I'm going to make it. I just don't know when I'm going to make it."

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