Graceland Q&A: Manny Montana on the Importance of Being Johnny

Of all the very different—and sometimes conflicting—personalities in the FBI's best/worst undercover idea ever on Graceland, Manny Montana's Agent Johnny Tuturro has quickly defined himself as the nicest guy in the house, friend to all, and a fan favorite with his easy humor and sunny personality. Well, he's my favorite; didn't you know we're running a dictatorship here? 

Montana was awesome enough to set aside a few minutes recently to talk about what it means to be Johnny—both on screen and off—and what the obvious storms on Graceland's horizon mean for Johnny and his housemates.  

This is your first regular role on a TV series. Is the experience everything that you hoped that it would be, or wanted it to be? 

Yes. Yeah, it’s exactly what I thought it would be and what I wanted it to be. It could have been really different. You know, all I did was guest-star stuff before this and I was trying to get that first series regular role, and I think with most actors, the fear is that you could be locked into a show that you don’t care about because you need the paycheck. I wasn’t going to turn down a series regular job.

But, you know, most actors get involved with a regular procedural show and everything is wrapped up at the end of the episode and you’re not really challenged as an actor. So when I got this and I read the script and I found out who was involved, I was excited to be a regular on this because you can expand and you can play around as an actor and work with other good actors. So it was just a blessing and it’s exactly where I want to be and I’m happy.

Actually, I’m always kind of surprised by how funny Graceland can be at times, because the show was really played up as USA being darker and, sure, it is very dark at times, but it’s still also very funny.

Yeah, no, I really like that about it and we always knew that it was gonna be like that because yeah, we have the darker stuff happening here and there, but when you have the personalities that we have in the house, it’s bound to be funny. I mean, we’re just funny together.

Did you audition for Johnny off the bat or was there another character you had considered?

No, as soon as I got the breakdown for Johnny, he was so similar to me in a lot of ways, and as an actor you’re always looking for that part that you can relate to. So when it’s really close to you personally, it makes the role much more fun and easy to get to that place. So I went in and auditioned for it and everything slid right into place. You know, it rarely happens like that for most actors, and especially for me. So I’m in with Jeff [Eastin] and I’m in there with all the network people and it just clicked.

Last week's “O-Mouth” was a really big episode for Johnny; he’s kind of involved with everyone in some way. Do you think it’ll be harder for him, as the secrets in the house start to come out, to continue to fill that role?

You’ll see as the show progresses, Johnny will remain—that’s just his personality. He wants to help everybody, and that’s who he is on the show and I love that about him. But as it progresses, being that he helps everybody, he’s also going to be involved with everybody, so he’s gonna have to decide who’s lying and who’s telling the truth and whose side he’s gonna be on, and that’s when things get tough for him because he’s so sensitive—so sensitive—and he wants everybody to get along, so when the friction starts occurring in the house, he really hates it. He hates it because he doesn’t just see it as a house, he sees it as we’re all family. And you’re gonna see that a lot of people in the house feel the exact opposite. You’ll see that it’s gonna get hard for him, but he’s still gonna be Johnny and he’s still gonna be there for everyone. He’s just gonna have a hard time knowing which side to pick.

It was mentioned in an earlier episode, “Pizza Box,” that Johnny has issues with his own family, his blood family, specifically with his brother being involved with gangs in the past. I think “vendetta” is too strong of a word, but he was definitely driven to make that particular case very personal.

Right, yeah, he gets involved. I think everybody falls into their profession for one reason or another, and for Johnny, it was definitely that. He wanted to do the complete opposite of what his brother did.

And with that in mind, do you think we’ll be seeing a little bit more darkness coming out of him as the season progresses? Given how personally he takes things, and with the way everything in the house is starting to go down?

You know, I can’t give it away. If I answer that question, it actually gives away a couple episodes. 

Can you tell us whether Johnny will get any of his own cases this season?

Actually, we joke, and I don’t know if it’s the last episode or the second-to-last, but one of my favorite writers on the show, his name is Dan Shattuck, and he was just hanging out on the set and he was like, just jokingly, ‘Dude, are you ever gonna get your own cases?’ and we, both at the same time, realized that Johnny has no cases of his own and that was a complete accident, but I’m also very happy about that because I think that’s just Johnny. He wants to help everyone else out and I like that about him. I don’t even mind that I have no cases of my own. There’s no ego on set or in the house. We all know that the show is about the house and about us and I love it that way.

It actually makes him a very versatile character, not to be stuck doing any one thing.  

Right, and I love that. That’s Johnny and I love that.

How much of your own personality and insight do you think goes into making Johnny who he is?

A good amount. People always ask me how close we are and it’s yes and no. Johnny is always trying to be involved with somebody’s stuff. I’m more quiet, but I also have my days where I wanna be involved with people. So we’re similar, but we’re still different. Still, with that said, when I’m watching the show I see a lot of myself in a lot of what he does and his actions. It’s close but not exact.

There’s a lot of pranking in the house on Graceland. Does that translate to the set?

Oh yeah, yeah. We genuinely like each other and you know, there certain days we just can’t get anything done because we’re all laughing and joking and the directors are trying to tell us, nicely, to shut the hell up. It came together very organically at the table readings. We all met each other and it’s that weird thing, you worry about that, if there are going to be any egos, or if an actor is a douche. But we all just like each other. We exchanged numbers and we kept texting each other. By the time we got on set we already liked each other. For us, after lunch especially, trying to do a scene after lunch is impossible because we’re just like kids goofing off in class after lunchtime.

I had the thought last week, after Charlie shot up the first time, when it was a joke, that Graceland must truly be the weirdest house to live in.

Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a fun thing to be a part of. Whenever we’re reading the scripts we’re like ‘Oh shit, did you see what happened?’ to each other.

And you’re shooting on the beach, so that’s awesome.

Oh, it is. It’s a good show to be a part of.

Is there anything else coming up we should be excited about?

I really like the way USA set it up. I don’t think the first three episodes were as dark as people were expecting. I think they were still pretty cute. From Episode 4 on, I think the show becomes what it’s going to be in the future and that’s what I’m most proud of. There are so many twists and turns and I can’t wait for the audience to see it. I think everyone is pretty locked in on who we all are, but that’s all gonna change, and I can’t wait for the audience to see it. The show keeps getting better.

Graceland airs Thursdays at 10pm on USA.

Comments (10)
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Sep 09, 2013
I LOVE this show. But the actor that plays Johnny looks exactly like my ex & his character acts like him too. Ugh it's like being slapped in the face by nostalgia every time he appears on screen lol
Jul 19, 2013
I love his character - and this show as a whole is amazing - and this interview just confirms it. Thank you for that! It's always funny and interesting to see how an actor is when he's not playing.
Jul 18, 2013
I love the Johnny character. He's my fav of the lot on the show. Mind you the show itself is awesome ....well written thoughtfully cast (Mike is just spot on, square and not very likeable) great location and multitude of intruging walkons and side stories.
Jul 18, 2013
Excellent. Johnny is a favorite of mine, Paige will always be #1 haha.
Jul 18, 2013
Wow, great job getting an interview! This is something which is very appealing to read; getting an insider's perspective on a show is great! Thanks!

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