The Charm of Bobby Cannavale

Emmy Award Winner for His Role as Gyp Rossetti in Boardwalk Empire

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By Luis Reyes

Bobby Cannavale’s television Emmy Award win on September 22nd went relatively unheralded for the milestone it represented.  Cannavale’s Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a drama series, for his role of violent psychotic gangster Gyp Rossetti on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire represented his second Emmy win.  The 43-year-old actor was also nominated this year in the Guest Actor category for his role as Dr. Mike Cruz on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.

A versatile actor, Cannavale also does comedy well, as was proven when he took home the Emmy in 2005 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy for his sensitive portrayal of a gay cop in Will and Grace making him a four-time Emmy nomine

In an interview with Lindsay Champion of Broadway.Com on October 22, 2013, Cannavale remarked that his recent Emmy statuette was given to his mother who proudly displays it in her home. Bobby participated in school plays as a kid at the insistence of his mother in order to keep him off the streets and out of trouble. Once he got a taste of theater, he was hooked.  He was born Roberto Cannavale to a Cuban mother and Italian father in Union City, New Jersey on May 3, 1970. When his parents divorced at an early age, Bobby and his mother moved to Puerto Rico and then Florida, later returning to New Jersey.

Beginning his career on stage Cannavale soon landed film roles in Night Falls (1997) and The Bone Collector (1999).  It was about this time when writer producer John Wells (The West Wing) caught one of Bobby’s stage performances and offered him a role on his short lived series Trinity and following that with a regular role as a paramedic on the popular NBC series Third Watch.

Cannavale has gone back on stage to much acclaim and a Tony Award nomination for The Motherfucker with The Hat with Chris Rock and Yul Vasquez.  He also appeared on Glengarry Glen Ross with Al Pacino. Most recently he played the movie star with a dark secret in the Broadway revival of Clifford Odets’ The Big Knife.

In August Cannavale starred in Master Director Woody Allen’s latest feature film Blue Jasmine as Chili, the brash new boyfriend of Sally Hawkins’s character Ginger, who clashes with Jasmine played by Cate Blanchett. This much talked about film is sure to be nominated in the upcoming Oscar race this year, especially Blanchett in the leading actress category. This marks another high profile project for the actor whose role choices have been most unusual and startling in their diversity managing to largely avoid ethnic stereotyping and typecasting.

Cannavale has become so well known in recent years that well-wishing fans on the streets of New York’s Spanish Harlem mobbed him recently while filming scenes for the new film version of the musical play Annie.  He plays a political advisor to Jamie Foxx’s mayor in this contemporary take on the classic musical and comic characters.

It seems that Cannavale’s talent was meant to be discovered.  With no formal theater training, upon graduation from high school he joined New York City’s prestigious Circle Repertory Theater and was mentored by non-other than Lanford Wilson.  The rest as they say is now history.