An area man who has made his mark as a professional actor and director is coming home to share his insights on the entertainment industry with interested local talent.
Fresh from filming his recurring role in the new Jennifer Lopez series “Shades of Blue,” former North Belle Vernon native Gino Anthony Pesi is returning to Fayette County to provide advice and guidance to aspiring actors and actresses.
“I want to make myself available, share my experiences and offer any knowledge I can to those who have an interest in the entertainment industry.” Pesi said.
Pesi will appear 6-8 p.m. Monday in the Connellsville Canteen, where he plans to weave his personal story through topics such as how to get started in the entertainment industry, find representation and how to continuously evolve in an ever-changing medium.
Pesi said he has wanted to be an actor since the age of 6.
“I remember watching a VHS of ‘The Goonies’ over and over again on my grandparent’s television with their now, pretty much nonexistent VCR. It wasn’t uncommon for me to watch the same movie several times if I loved it. ‘Stand By Me,’ ‘Bad News Bears,’ and ‘The Sandlot,’ were other coming-of-age films that I had seen numerous times,” he said. “Throughout my youth, there were only two things I wanted to do with my life — acting and baseball. I’m glad one of those things actually happened.”
Pesi attended Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School in Connellsville before transferring to Charleroi High School, where he graduated in 1999.
“I think fondly of my years at Geibel and probably spent more time in Connellsville even after I transferred high schools. It was a great school, and I did not know enough to appreciate it for all it had to offer at the time. I met friends there that became more like family. Friends that I remain close with even to this day, 18 years later,” Pesi said.
However, Pesi said transferring to Charleroi reignited his passion for acting at a time when he had begun to give up on the idea that acting was a possibility for a kid growing up in Western Pennsylvania, with no ties to anyone in the entertainment industry.
“Charleroi offered a drama class at the time, taught by Miss Van Arsdale. I took the class, and just like that, I was hooked on acting again,” Pesi said. “In fact, I owe a lot of thanks to Miss Van Arsdale. She gave me an opportunity to perform the lead in the school play that year — ‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Tennessee Williams.
“She gave me guidance when I decided I wanted to go to college for acting, and even helped me with my audition monologues,” he continued. “And now that I think of it, she may have actually been the first person to encourage me to pursue this as a career if it was something I wanted to do. Believe me, there was no shortage of people telling me it was impossible, but sometimes all it takes is one person believing in you. She might have been the first. And that made all the difference. Good teachers are too often under-appreciated.”
Pesi’s first professional acting job came while he was in college at Point Park University, where he studied acting. He booked a commercial in Pittsburgh that got him into the Screen Actors Guild.
“Having that union status proved invaluable when it became time to move to Los Angeles,” Pesi said.
Since then, Pesi, who resides in both New York City and Los Angeles, has become an accomplished actor and director. He has had recurring roles on prime-time hit shows such as “Dallas” and “The Vampire Diaries.” He also has appeared in numerous other series, such as “CSI: NY,” “CSI: Miami,” “Chuck,” “Cold Case,” “The Mentalist,” “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “The Closer,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Franklin & Bash.”
Pesi’s talents have translated well to the big screen, where he has appeared in blockbusters such as “42,” “Battle: Los Angeles,” and “Takers.” A passionate advocate of independent films, he also had roles in movies such as “X’s and O’s,” “Game of Life,” and “Construction.”
His special appearance in Connellsville comes just weeks before he debuts in the role of Assistant District Attorney James Nava in “Shades of Blue,” a new police drama starring Lopez and Ray Liotta, produced by Ryan Seacrest. The show premieres 10 p.m. Jan. 7 on NBC.
Pesi said he is looking forward to the event.
“I always feel a bit nostalgic when visiting home, so I imagine those feelings will come up again, seeing both new and familiar faces,” he said. “Last time I was in town, I passed through Connellsville and it was nice to see how things have evolved. I feel grateful to the Fayette County Cultural Trust for inviting me to share what I’ve learned.”
Michael Edwards, FCCT president, said he and others in his organization were aware of Pesi’s accomplishments and invited him to share his knowledge with those in the community who are interested in the entertainment field.
“We thought this would be a good way for him to give back to the community he had been involved with and inspire the local youth who might be interested in going into acting as a career,” Edwards said.
Pesi said high school and college-age students and their parents are invited to attend the free event.
“Ultimately, whoever has an interest in learning more about the industry. I walked into most of my experiences blindly. And while there may be more information and resources available now then when I was in my early pursuit, I’d like to share my experiences with those who care to hear it, and hopefully they’ll gain some clarity,” Pesi said.
He would like participants to take away a better understanding of the professional entertainment world than when they walked in the door.
“I imagine much of what I have to offer will be new information, and information I did not have when I was beginning. So, I hope they’ll be a step ahead of where I was,” Pesi said.
Pesi’s appearance is free, but registration is required; contact the Connellsville Canteen at 724-603-2093 or by visit the Fayette County Cultural Trust website at www.fayettetrust.org .
Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.