Having worked with names such as Steven Spielberg and Aaron Sorkin, and holding nearly 30 years of industry experience at the age of 35, you may think actor Joe Mazzello has seen it all—but you’d be wrong. His most recent role as famed bass guitarist John Deacon in “Bohemian Rhapsody” posed new challenges. He recently sat down with Backstage to talk about the responsibility of playing a real-life figure and his experience on set in the hit Queen biopic.
The role required extreme specificity.
“They did throw us a little curveball and said that we were going to [film] Live Aid first, and they wanted it to be exact because it’s such a famous concert. They wanted us to go beat for beat. So it was literally like—there’s a point where John just kind of takes his hand off his bass and goes like that [makes hand movement]. I had to know to do that at that exact moment. When he turns his head to the left and kind of goes up, I had to know all of those things. And I was doing actual eight counts like I was a dancer to know all of the steps when he turns around and when he does everything. We had to rehearse it in that much detail.”
There were multiple levels of preparation.
“I think that this job was four times more difficult in terms of preparation than almost any other job I’ve done. I have to know how to get my face like John and do the squint, and I have to get my lip out there and sort of look like him. And then I have to know how he moves onstage. I have to learn how to play the bass; I’ve got to learn how to play about 30 Queen songs. Now I have this dialect—it’s an East Midlands English accent that I’ve never heard before, and I need to feel comfortable enough not just to say my lines but also to ad-lib doing that. Now I’ve got to learn not only how to play the bass but how to play it like John Deacon did—and I haven’t even gotten to acting yet.”
Sometimes the best learning happens on the job.
“The best education I got was movie sets. I’ve gotten to work on amazing films with incredible directors, and I’ve tried to take a piece of everything that I felt was valuable that they did or something that they brought for me as an actor that I thought, Wow that was really helpful. So I tried to watch the way that they commanded the set, or watch the way that they vibe from the set.”
It’s important to have faith in yourself when auditioning.
“I’m a heart-first actor. I just try to take that in, take that emotion in and feel those things and see how I respond to that, and that will kind of dictate how I will say the lines…. In an audition, you sort of have to not be influenced by the reader; you have to know the way that you feel it should be done and stick with that.”
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