Officially Chris Cardillo stepped into the entertainment industry as a break-dancer as his dance crew quickly made a name for themselves by booking national campaigns, commercials as well as making music video appearances. He quickly evolved into a rapper, recently his debut album J. Fontaine Presents, before naturally making the transition to acting and screenwriting.
Aside from his constant maneuvering in entertainment, the Pennsylvania born/New Jersey born also dabbles as an avid vintage collector. But perhaps dabble is the wrong word, because he’s quite serious about his collection, not to mention it’s quite valuable. We had the opportunity to chop it up with Chris as he blurs the lines between fiction and reality, and his enthusiasm about using all the various mediums available when it comes to providing entertainment.
It seems you’ve been a busy man, in a little under a year, you’ve knocked out 3 feature films. Tell us about the process and the toll it took physically or mentally.
Chris Cardillo: The process was more exciting than anything. Everything from studying the lines to filming them was enjoyable so it didn’t seem like work at all. I feel like I’ve been trying to get to this point for some time and to see it to fruition is an amazing experience. I especially liked being involved in the scenes of the movies that I had written. When everyone delivers exactly what you had in your head, it’s an amazing feeling.
From acting, to writing, to producing, which are you more passionate about?
Chris: Acting is what I enjoy the most. It’s challenging to read a script then deliver the lines in a way that the audience believes that you ARE that character and his world IS real. The excitement is watching the play back and seeing how close you came to doing this. I actually hate the process of writing, but I enjoy the outcome. The writer gets to choose your character’s thoughts and motivation. I like to develop my own character when the director lets me. Writing is the most tedious process, but it’s the only way that you are able to empower your own character. If I could be involved in the writing to a small degree and then act out the scenes, that would be ideal.
You’re also into music. How do you balance that, your film career as well as your initial day job?
Chris: Entertainment these days is a “team sport.” I surround myself with a group of friends and business associates who are forward thinking and share a common vision with myself. As they move forward, I move forward, and vice versa. My advancements wouldn’t be occurring without this team. I also have a family who supports my aspirations, and I am currently with a woman who is understanding of my projects and my scheduling. At my work, I am the boss and my day job comes first and foremost and it’s what I spend most of my time doing. I attempt to lead by example, but again, I have been able to build a great staff were each person understands the mission and has been empowered to move the company forward. It’s an “all hands on deck” philosophy.
What’s the next project you have lined up?
Chris: I have been informed that there will be a Grievance Group Part 3, so I’m really looking forward to that.
There’s The Grievance Group 1 & 2 and The Mint, tell us about the characters you play.
Chris: In the two Grievance Group movies, I play a character named Shackles whose daughter is kidnapped. My character joins a support group of individuals dealing with loss, hence, “the grievance group”. The organizer of the group, Justice, begins selecting various people from the group to actually seek out revenge on the people who have harmed their loved ones. All of the characters have some type of legal enforcement name: Justice, Gavel, Case, Liberty, Warden, Marshall and so forth. My character is the craziest. He suffers from bi-polar disorder and is subject to fly off the handle at any point, or become randomly depressed in the same sentence. You never know what you are going to get, so it keeps the audience guessing, but one thing is for certain, if you see Shackles in the scene, something off the wall is going to happen. Playing him was a lot of fun.
With The Mint I play J. Fontaine, head of once successful Hip Hop and dance music label, Jersey Mint Records, that is on the decline. My character is a know-it-all, stubborn dick who is also dealing with the recent loss of his parents. After pissing off everyone on the record label, his artists leave him. He decides that in order to save the Hip Hop label, he is going to sign a country singer to a record deal. His true friends and ex-girl friend attempt to stick by him, but they are quickly losing faith in him, his attitude and decisions.
Was the transition difficult going from one genre to the next?
Chris: Yes and no. Going from one genre to another was the easy part. The difficulty was developing J. Fontaine as a character. J. Fontaine and Jersey Mint Records both actually exist in real life. As an actor, we ask ourselves, how would this character respond to what another character is saying? This sounds pretty basic considering I’m essentially saying how would ‘Chris’ respond? The problem is that J. Fontaine, the character in The Mint must accentuate certain traits at a given time. For instance, the script may call for him to be unreasonable. Personally, I would have been more reasonable at times, but then you wouldn’t have a movie. So, you can see how it would be a bit confusing.
With The Mint, you’ve had the opportunity to star opposite JWoww, how was it working with her?
Chris: Jenni is actually an amazing businesswoman and she handles her products and interests like a boss! During set break she spent some time negotiating various deals that she had been working on. The scale of the deal didn’t matter. If there were three tanning salons that wanted her products, she would work just as hard when dealing with a large chain. She came on as an executive producer as well and made sure that her team was figured into the mix. As far as her personally, we hit it off very well. We have a lot in common. We are both straight forward, business oriented people with young kids. She was extremely friendly with the cast and very approachable. She admits that she was a bit nervous in her acting debut (not that I had much more experience), so we gave each other advice and worked through the project.
Who haven’t you worked with that you would love to work with? And what would that project look like?
Chris: I would like to work with Bradley Cooper and Michelle Rodriguez. Both of those individuals have been very open about the fact that they are looking to take an artistic approach to films. With Bradley, I would like to do something that is more of a period piece. Something set in the 1920s or 1890s based off a real life individual. I would say something grainy and maybe a bit gritty. Maybe we would both play Robber Barons or maybe on one of us is a businessman and the other is the antagonist, maybe a government agency, or loosely ran criminal enterprise. The movie would need some sort of rise and ultimately demise of power for one of the characters.
With Michelle, I would like to do a movie based off of a social cause. She has mentioned in several interviews that she is disenfranchised by the fact that woman are not portrayed as a strong leading character in movies, but rather femme fatales, or an object of men’s desires. I would like to do something with her that would achieve her goals, but at the same time be a movie based on a cultural or social struggle. Boyz in the Hood and The Godfather both took a social subculture, defined rules to live by and the characters made their decisions within those set of rules. The movie doesn’t have to be negative or criminal in nature, but the characters have to operate under their own intrinsic set of rules or a set of ethically guided principles that are above or outside the general population.
Who inspires you in the entertainment industry?
Chris: I don’t know if you would consider him in the entertainment industry, but Mike Tyson has been a large inspiration for me. As a child I played Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, and in the box you got a motivational letter from Mike. I framed the letter and hung it on my wall. As I studied the man more, it was apparent that he had this unmatched internal self-motivation and an ability to control his mind and body in a way that made him unstoppable. In interviews, he would talk about how he watched the greatest fights over and over again to where he could choreograph every move. Imagine stepping into a ring watching your opponent’s moves and have an arsenal of choices based on real life fights and you knew exactly in that moment what the result would be with each punch. He talks about the value of visualization, humbling one’s self, and never underestimating your opponent. He mentioned that during training, he would consistently tell himself that this guy is the one that can take his belt and he would visualize himself being beaten time and time again, but when he stepped into the ring he would look the man in the eyes and know that he “was going to punch a hole through his fucking head.” He said that the night before he lost to Buster Douglass, he was out fucking around with Geisha Girls. If this doesn’t tell you about the power of mind set, then I don’t know what does.
How do you eclipse a career such as that?
Chris: You have to push in the direction of your role model until you can no longer learn any more from them. If you have truly studied this individual to your greatest ability, then you should have enough insight to divert that direction and make your own path.
You’re also an avid G.I. Joe and Nintendo collector with an already published G.I. Joe collector’s book and a soon-to-be Nintendo collector’s book, which collection are you more passionate about?
Chris: Definitely G.I. Joe. I’ve always been fascinated by the military and military strategy. I am an American pride type of guy and I love to study American History. I guess that G.I. Joe in some way is an extension of all that.
Going back to music, Jay Z just launched the music streaming service Tidal. Do you have any wants to combine technology and entertainment?
Chris: I am usually a laggard on technology in entertainment. If I can get all the songs I bought on all my devices and organize a play list, then I am happy. I’m sure that some of this already exists, but it would be nice to be able to listen to music in the car and click on a button on the display, buy the song and have it automatically added to my phone and iPads. Also, a widely used platform that serves up independent films where people can go and rate them, and ultimately purchase them at some point would be nice.
When it’s all said and done, what will your legacy look?
Chris: I am more interested in being remembered for character traits rather than accomplishments. I would like to be remembered as someone who always kept their word and operated from his own set of ethical rules where the bar was set higher than the norm. Most importantly, I want to be remembered as a nurturing father who helped his kids develop their confidence through their own achievements.