By Sarah Rhodes
photography: Jonny Marlow
“… social media has been a great way to have this amazing point of reference for a call to action. You get all these people to assemble, donate, whatever it is…”
Actor Giacomo Gianniotti doesn’t see his last name as super sexy and I’m here to tell him, “Why yes, it is.“ He appreciates it more but there was a time that was not so. “When I was a young kid having moved from Italy to a small town in Canada, where everyone was like ‘Bill’ and ‘Bob’ and ‘Josh’ and ‘Nathan’, I wasn’t so much a fan of it, but now as an adult, I very much appreciate my name and my culture.”
Gianniotti has a very busy lifestyle. He just got back from Italy, pre-production for a project he’s going to be working on in the fall so he was doing some tests over there. COVID prevented him from seeing his family—two years to be exact—so it was so euphoric to touch roots again and hug his grandmother in the place that he is from. Gianniotti was born in Rome and then his parents split up and they moved to Toronto. He went to high school at Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts and at 18 left that behind to study and work in Rome then moved back to Canada and graduated from Humber College’s Theatre Program and completed an actor’s residency at Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre in Toronto… After a couple of years working as an actor in Canada, he wanted to explore different options so he moved to Los Angeles.
For the past seven seasons, Gianniotti has played Dr. Andrew DeLuca on Grey’s Anatomy. He also voiced the character, Giacomo, in Disney Pixar’s Luca, a film Giannotti is extremely proud of given his Italian heritage. Other voices include comedian/actor Jim Gaffigan and Saturday Night Live alum Maya Rudolph. Luca premiered at the Aquarium of Genoa in June and was released direct-to-streaming on Disney+.
“It’s Pixar’s first sort of attempt at Italian culture and because we had a real Italian director, Enrico Casarosa, it went past the mark. As a true Italian, I am so proud of the film because it could have easily gone into stereotypes and things but it didn’t, it was authentic. I brought some of my oldest Italian friends to go see it and they loved it! They felt at home, they felt like children again. It’s just about being young, being a child, and having an amazing summer where you build great friendships and eat great food and you just start to discover things about yourself. So yeah it was a very, very special film.”
Grey’s has played a really big part in Gianniotti’s life, seven seasons ending for him this year. Once he landed the role, his life immediately changed. It has made him humble wherever he is in his life. He started the show as a guest star and only had two episodes at the end of the 11th season. And it wasn’t until the following year’s next season that he was invited back. Even then he would just do a guest appearance and they kept asking him to come back and then they proposed he be a regular on the show and join the cast full-time. At that moment his life changed. “I’ve never really been on something for so long and I remember very specifically, Debbie Allen [co-star and executive producer on the show] walking up to me and saying, ‘Honey, you’re on the show now, you live here, you have to go get an apartment and I was like oh okay.”
Like any doctor with a good bedside manner, his personality is to always give back, pay it forward. Gianniotti uses his social media presence (2.9 million followers on Instagram alone) to turn fame into charitable dollars. “I think I’ve been doing stuff like this my whole life but when you don’t have a following of a million people and you sort of ring the dinner bell and say ‘Hey can you guys help me out’ it’s like two or three people come. But when you have three million followers, I can actually ring that dinner bell and I can translate that into thousands of dollars of donations to charities and stuff. I mean God if that’s not what it is for then I don’t know what is. For a lot of celebrities and a lot of people, social media has been a great way to have this amazing point of reference for a call to action. You get all these people to assemble, donate, whatever it is.”
Gianniotti works with the organization All Hands And Hearts, and they do disaster relief all over the world. They stay long well after the disaster happens to help that community rebuild.
“What they always tell me is when it happens the media does their job, you get it on every TV, every radio. There’s been a hurricane here and we all know about it, but then after that two to three day period, it is forgotten and we are onto the next thing and those people all still need help. And that’s another thing; I think attention is so hard to gain today.”
What he will miss most about Grey’s is the important storytelling, the one constant thing that Grey’s has done so well since the beginning and that is just giving a voice to the voiceless and shedding light on things that people don’t talk about enough. Grey’s has done a remarkable job at educating people and addressing these issues. One such episode dealt with human trafficking and it absolutely moved Gianniotti.
“That was really powerful for me as an actor to go down that journey and talk about that subject matter. But much more so on a deeper level knowing that we were shedding light on an issue that was very important and that millions of people worldwide were going to see this. It might even have saved a life or prompted a woman who was in danger to seek help, like those are the things that for me are way gratifying and remarkable. Because you know those aren’t things that you think of when you’re like I want to become an actor. Those aren’t the things you’re thinking of that will give you great gratification. You’re thinking of the applause. You know you don’t think the story you’re telling can have an impact on someone’s life and these are things that you find out later. That’s one of the things I am going to miss most about being on Grey’s is being a part of shedding light on all these really important topics.”
For now, Gianniotti has a number of irons in the fire just waiting to be taken out and used. He has a film in the very early stages of production and trying to get made and will actually take place in Italy. “I also have a project which I, unfortunately, can’t talk about but that will also be in Italy as well. It’s going to be an Italian project, where I will be acting in Italian. So that’s something that Italy fans can look forward to.”
A dream project? “[Working with] Clint Eastwood. I could just cry thinking about that because I am just such a fan of his. Not just as a filmmaker but I can only imagine what he gives you as an actor, having been an actor for so long and doing the films that he did as an actor. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be directed by him. What kind of things that he would give you, and conversations he would want to have with you about the character. I’m sad he isn’t going to be making movies anymore.”
“…But when you have three million followers, I can actually ring that dinner bell you can translate that into thousands of dollars of donations to charities and stuff…..”