Chazz Palminteri may be best known for his roles in “The Bronx Tale,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” and “The Usual Suspects,” but Baltimoreans will soon know him as the owner of Harbor East’s new restaurant, Chazz: A Bronx Original. In town to promote this new authentic Italian restaurant, Palminteri recently sat down with Gay Life restaurant reviewers John Cullen and Marty Shayt, and opened up about acting and playing gay characters, like Shorty, Jay’s golfing buddy in the hit gay-friendly sitcom, “Modern Family.”
GL: You’re far more known for your serious roles. How did you get involved in the “Modern Family” episode?
CP: Well they called me, Ed O’Neill, who I know, and he spoke to the producers and they were looking for a guy to play a gay guy that wasn’t overtly gay… I loved that I said because not every gay man is effeminate like people think. I didn’t want to play effeminate because I just thought it was a stereotype, you know? … So I said great. I said but we have this thing where we’re not sure he’s gay, but is he gay? But he’s not—but is he? I said we can have a running gag with that throughout the whole piece and it might be funny. They liked that idea, and it was just great.
GL: It worked fantastically, and it was the ambiguity—
CP: The ambiguity that made it so great. And then he went: “Hey where’d you get that haircut? Hey I like that…” You know what I mean? I always wanted to play a gay guy who wasn’t overtly gay, because I knew those guys from my neighborhood in the Bronx. A couple of guys were gay and when I heard I was like, “He’s gay? No kidding!” I didn’t know he was gay because he was a tough guy. The guy was a legitimate tough guy and I couldn’t get over it, and I always found that fascinating. So when I see a movie or something when they play someone who’s overtly gay, I go: Play it more real, you know? Be honest… I did an episode of “The Fanelli Boys” years ago and I play this guy—not a similar character but he was on the football team, he was a tough guy and he was gay… I just knew when you play against that and you play it real, it can be very, very funny.
GL: Is there any chance that character will make a reappearance at some point?
CP: I would love to. And we talked about it and they said if they could, they’ll find a way they could bring him back. But you know I would love to go back and do it because I would love to do that character… I thought it’s a very well-written show. … I love comedy, but I get cast in a lot of these heavy roles, which is fine too. But I love when I get the chance to do comedy. …I’ve done a lot of movies—55 or 60 movies—but I did that “Married with Children” and just everybody saw it and everybody loves it and I like that, you know? I like that.
DETAILS: Chazz: A Bronx Original.1415 Aliceanna St. 410.522.5511. ChazzBronxOriginal.com. Check back with Gay Life for a Dining Out review!