Bobby Cannavale on 'Vinyl' Role: "I’ve Never Gotten to Play a role That's This Dimensional"

"I’ve gotten to play elements of this character in other parts, and I really get to put it all together now and really have fun with it."

“I’ve never gotten to play a role that’s this dimensional,” Bobby Cannavale told THR during the Drama Actors Emmy Roundtable of his leading role on HBO's Vinyl. “I’ve never been the lead in anything before, and that’s what the role calls for. I really can do anything in this part. It was set up that way.”

When asked what he draws from to reach the extremes, Cannavale answered, “Experience. I feel like maybe 20 years ago I wouldn’t have been ready to do this part. I’ve played a lot of different roles in the years leading up to this and I think those roles really sort of prepared me for it.”

“I’ve gotten to play leads on stage before and in the last say, 10 years, I’ve gotten to play bigger roles and more interesting supporting roles, and I think they’ve all kind of led me to this character in a way. I’ve gotten to play elements of this character in other parts, and I really get to put it all together now and really have fun with it.” Cannavale was nominated for a Tony for his leading role on Broadway in The Motherfer With the Hat. He won an Emmy for his supporting role in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire as well as for his guest role on Will & Grace, and has earned two nominations for his guest work on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. He also received acclaim for his supporting role opposite Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s film Blue Jasmine.

With an extensive résumé in television, film and stage, Cannavale has worked with many notable directors in the business. He said the best directors are the ones who ask questions. “I like when a director asks questions, and they may be rhetorical questions that he already has the answer to, but he’s making you feel like you’re coming up with the answer. I find that really good directors do that.” 

Like all actors, Cannavale has to wrestle with being type-cast, and as an Italian American from New York, his agents know what scripts to avoid. Cannavale told THR, “My agents are always afraid to bring me things that are a detective or a mob guy. A couple of pizza guys. I actually got a pizza-mob guy once.”

More roundtables featuring comedy actors and actresses, drama actresses, comedy and drama showrunners, and reality hosts and producers will roll out throughout June in print and online. Tune in to new episodes of Close Up With the Hollywood Reporter starting June 26 on SundanceTV, with the premiere of the Drama Actors Roundtable on Sunday, July 4. And look for clips at with full episodes on after broadcast.