Mr Nick Zano
The actor tries out a few denim looks as he talks about what it’s like to play Ms Kelly Brook’s love interest in One Big Happy
Mr Nick Zano got lost on his way downtown to the Vagabond Inn, a Los Angeles chain motel a stone’s throw from the Staples Center arena. He took a wrong turn off Figueroa and before he knew it he was cruising along West 28th Street – otherwise known as Fraternity Row. It was early Sunday morning and the college kids from the University of Southern California were already starting to spill out onto the lawns fronting their houses. “I’m still trying to figure out where the hell I am when all these Greek letters start popping up,” says Mr Zano, 37. “Then I see these college boys with their shirts off. I look a little closer and they’re playing beer pong – with mimosas. It’s like, 9.45 in the morning.” It’s a heck of a way to come crashing back to earth.
Only a week previously he’d been sat alongside his friend and fellow actor Mr Channing Tatum in a Black Hawk helicopter somewhere in the skies over Afghanistan. The two of them go way back. They’d found a shared gap in their calendars and along with another friend, CSI: Miami’s Mr Adam Rodriguez, they’d decided to fill it by going on tour with the United Services Organization. “It was a trip,” says Mr Zano. “We visited seven military bases, met around 1,500 troops, shook a lot of hands, shared a lot of laughs. A real eye-opener. I for one, feel like I came back a better person.” So, yeah. An eventful 2015 so far.
Back at the Vagabond, Mr Zano has finally arrived for his photoshoot with MR PORTER and is showing a keen interest in the camera equipment of Mr Angelo Pennetta. “Have you got insurance?” he asks, gawping at the array of high-end gear that Mr Pennetta carries around nonchalantly in his backpack. He’s been getting into photography lately after becoming inspired by the work of Mr Sammy Davis Jr, whose personal collection includes playful snaps of friends such as Mr James Dean, Ms Marilyn Monroe and Mr Frank Sinatra.
“Sammy was incredible. He had this unique perspective… almost like a reverse Vivian Maier,” says Mr Zano. “While she’d try to make herself and the camera invisible, he’d use that magnetic personality to draw people towards the lens. It kinda inspired me to start chronicling my own life.” (Ms Maier, who worked as a nanny in the Chicago suburbs and whose street photography was only discovered after her death in 2009 is having a bit of a moment thanks to the documentary, Finding Vivian Maier, and a series of international gallery exhibitions.)
Mr Zano, who probably falls closer to Sammy than Vivian on the outgoing scale, keeps his own personal shots on a Tumblr account called photobynickzano, and it’s possible to spot a fair few celebrity friends as you browse your way through. Mr Tatum makes an appearance, naturally, as do Mses Kelly Brook and Elisha Cuthbert, his co-stars in the soon-to-be-aired TV show, One Big Happy.
Mr Zano seems fired up about the show, which is fast approaching its 17 March debut. He plays Luke, the central character in an unconventional three-way relationship. It’s that classic premise: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy marries girl, boy neglects to inform girl that he’s the surrogate father to his lesbian best friend’s baby. You get the idea. He’s full of praise for Ms Kelly Brook, who plays Luke’s new wife. “She’s way more than a pretty face,” he says, maybe in defence of the fact that she’s better known – in her native UK, at least – for her tabloid appearances than she is for her acting. (Apologies to Piranha 3D fans.) “We’d been casting for that role for a long time before she came on the scene, and it was getting to be an issue that we couldn’t find anyone. After Kelly’s audition, I sat there with Portia de Rossi [the show is executive-produced by Ms de Rossi’s wife, Ms Ellen DeGeneres] and we didn’t even have to say anything. We just looked at each other like, ‘It’s her’.”
We will take his word on it, as he is not a newcomer to Hollywood. He has been beavering away in TV series including Melrose Place and 2 Broke Girls ever since he crossed the continent from the east coast while he was still in his early twenties, just another kid drawn to Hollywood by dreams of stardom. Born in Nutley, New Jersey in 1978, he spent his school years in Florida where he got his first taste of the limelight reading out the Friday morning announcements. “I’d caught the bug in high school and it never went away,” he says. “I moved out here when I was still just oblivious enough to give it a try. And hey, it happened to work out, after a few years.” He has been an actor, host and producer in the intervening years, and now, at the age of 37, he’s as active behind the camera as he is in front of it. He currently has two projects in development – one of which he penned himself. “I’m starting to realise that writing is something that I’ll be doing for the rest of my career,” he says.
So, where to next? His calendar is packed with press duties for his new series, and there’ll be the customary appearance on Ellen. How couldn’t there be? He’ll be in Hollywood for the foreseeable future, and it looks as if the next overseas adventure with “Chan” might have to wait. “But hey, come back some time,” he says. “You, me and Kelly Brook will have a beer.”
The kids are drinking mimosas nowadays, but sure.