Richard Brancatisano is the charming and talented Australian actor currently playing Dominic Russo on ABC Family’s Chasing Life. After a game changing episode last week, Talk Nerdy With Us had a chance to catch up with Richie and hear his thoughts on Dominic’s journey and where his relationship with April is headed. Read on to hear what he had to say.
When the show first started, Dominic was the main focus of April’s love life. Did you notice a shift in the way fans related to you before Leo was in the picture and after?
“Yeah. Absolutely. The first seven or so episodes I think a lot of people really liked Dominic and liked the relationship. I think there were two things, well probably three things, that shifted the fans. Number one was Leo. Just Leo and Scott [Michael Foster] and having a competition in terms of “Team Lapril” or “Team Dapril.” But I think the main thing in terms of character, when Dominic came back when he found out April had cancer and then he found out she’d slept with Leo, I think a lot of fans were maybe put off by Dominic’s reaction. And then what may have put the icing on the cake was when Dominic ended up sleeping with April’s sister.”
About that, how did you feel about Dominic’s relationship with Natalie? Was there anything real there or did that have more to do with April?
“For Dominic, I don’t think he ever did it out of malice toward April at all. It started off as an accident and then I think he found an attraction to Natalie that subconsciously stemmed from an attraction to April. But Dominic has always kinda been attracted, in his past, to the bad girl, the danger zone, something that’s a bit dangerous. I think Natalie represented that and he didn’t really think through what he was doing. He thought it was final with April at this point, he saw how serious her relationship with Leo was getting and he thought “you know what? If it’s okay for her to move on, why can’t I?” Like anyone does, he kinda justified it by any way possible. Would I do that? No. But, this is an ABC drama, so we give the characters a little bit of leeway in terms of how dramatic their choices are.
Dominic kinda hides the way he feels by doing this and that’s not the path forward here and it never is. I think Dominic comes to realize that there’s no hiding. You have to be honest with yourself first, and then with the person you love, if you think it’s going to be the right thing. That’s what we see Dominic going through now that Leo’s gone. He was open enough to tell Leo that he loved April, and that he was going to fight for her…but now Leo’s dead.”
Clearly Dominic and Leo had some issues and April knew that. Is that going to make it difficult for Dominic to be there as a friend during this grief period?
“Have you read the script? Yeah it is. It’s really tough. You’ll literally see this scene that you just described in the next episode, where Dominic lends his hand and tells her he’s there, and he knows the situation, he knows he can’t push it. It’s new territory for both of them. You’re going to see April struggle with Dominic coming and talking about Leo. What’s he gonna say? He’s not going to say he was an asshole, he’s gonna say he was a good guy and he’s gonna try and make April feel better. But April knows that Dom never liked Leo. The last thing she’s gonna want to deal with is these lies. Her favorite person in the world is dead, she doesn’t need someone sitting there bullshitting to her. So you’re gonna see that, you’re going to see her reacting to that. But it’s one of those situations where it’s just like what can you do? Dom’s doing the right thing, April’s reacting the way anyone would react.”
Obvioulsy this isn’t how Dominic wanted things to turn out, but do you think there’s any guilt he has associated with wishing Leo was out of the picture and then having it play out this way?
“Oh yeah. He definitely feels some guilt there. I think for anyone, if two people want something and then one of them dies, that’s not how you want to win. That’s not how you want to get the girl. You know what I mean? And if anything, this just puts him back. There’s no way he can tell April how he feels about her after Leo dies. She has a whole process she has to go through on the path of getting better and Dominic really loves April, he doesn’t want to set her back. He doesn’t want to complicate things even more. And apart from that, you’re right, that guilt is something that Dom’s going to have to deal with the rest of the season. It’s really interesting to see their dynamic and how it changes and the dance they do and where they end up by the finale.”
I’m very excited to see it! Aside from Dominic’s relationship with April, we’ve also gotten to see a little bit more of Dominic – his relationship with his mother, his writing career. Will we be seeing any more of that?
“I think they explored it quite a bit in the beginning of the season. I think it was really nice to see. It all kind of stems from Dom and April’s newfound friendship and newfound respect for each other. April really helped Dom repair himself so he could repair his relationship with his mum, and I think from what he went through with April and learning to see the bigger context and forgive her for what he thought was a wrongdoing to him when she didn’t tell him about the cancer and about Leo, instead he now understands why she did that and he understands the context surrounding that. And I think what he ended up doing is translating that to his relationship with his mum, which is where the issue started and why he took it so personally when April did it, because he was hurt the same way from his mum.
It’s really nice to see April help Dom in that regard, and likewise with the house and going for his dreams and really making bold choices because that’s what April starts doing, she starts making bolder choices. Instead of shying away from life she starts chasing it, without sounding corny, but that’s just what it’s about. That rubs off on Dom and he also helps her with her book, he’s got a lot of experience there, so it’s give and take and this sharing of knowledge and insight really helps their relationship. But now, with Leo’s dying, the second half of the season starts really concentrating on April and Dom’s relationship in the wake of that and its future trajectory. You’ll still see bits and pieces of Dom’s life outside of April but it’s very focused on her dealing with this and his role in that and how their relationship grows into something totally different without Leo than it ever could have been.”
A fan on twitter (@DawnCondos) asked if you have any input with the writers as far as Dominic’s storyline goes?
“Oh that’s a good question. I personally don’t try and have input, I let them do their job. I try and really concentrate on being a yes man mostly as an actor. It’s their story, it’s their creation. I always when I get a script go “how can I make this work and do the best that I can?” And I really enjoy that. When I write my own stuff, that’s when I do that, but I try and separate the two a little bit, just so I’m doing my job as an actor and doing the best I can. If I was writing something, I’d want my actors to trust where the story was coming from.
That being said, the writers and everyone are very open to discussing things. As an actor, playing someone like Dominic who’s pretty dynamic in terms of doing things and people liking him or not liking him, I do have conversations with the creator and the writing staff about how we can make it work and getting the tone right. You’re walking a tightrope with some of the well-written scripts because if you play it wrong as an actor, it can go against you. You’ve got to really know the tone the writers and creators wanted for that scene and you have to implement that tone. Most scenes you kinda get it straight up, but whenever I’ve felt like it can go either way, I have discussed that with the writers and they’ve been really great.
But they’ve also written things in for Dominic that I have as Richard. For instance, I think it’s episode 11, Dominic gets up and plays a song, he sings and plays guitar, in this really touching scene and April’s there and she’s watching, and I’ve seen a cut of it and it’s really well put together and it’s just a great song and that’s something that obviously wouldn’t be in the script if they didn’t know who I was and what I do outside of acting.”
You’re a musician! Do you have any music out that we can download?
“Not at the moment. I’m working on that at the moment. I used to play a lot in Sydney. I’ve been in a few bands, but in terms of my own stuff, I’m trying to get something out of my own, with me singing, because with the other bands I’m just playing guitar. So that’s exciting.”
That is exciting. If they had you play guitar on the show earlier, I’m sure there would have been more people on Team Dominic.
“[Laughs] Well, hopefully I’ll get it in just in time.”