The Quest is a reality competition show set in the fantasy world setting of Everealm. Twelve Paladins must endure training to find the one true hero and defeat the enemy, Verlox. One character who we were introduced to very quickly almost had a hand in ending the whole adventure before it started! He has a talent with swishing cloaks and disapproving looks…. the man I speak of is the Grand Vizier! I finally got a chance to ask him a few questions.
The Quest airs on ABC Thursday at 8pm – 10pm ET. Thursday, September 11, is the finale with back-to-back episodes.
A thank you to @ for the pictures!
Tina Degenhart: What previous roles have you played before The Quest? You mentioned theatre; do you sing and/or dance?
Marcello De Nardo: I’ve done pretty much everything. From comedy to drama, from ballet to musical. I produced and directed; I even worked as a stage hand and designed costumes. I more or less soaked up everything in this business that is to discover.
Some of my favorite parts so far were: Macduff in ‘Macbeth’ by Shakespeare and Silva Vaccaro in ‘Baby Doll’ by Tennessee William. On the German part of authors: Puntila in ‘Mr. Puntila and His Man Matt’ by Brecht, ‘The Robers’ by Schiller. I performed plays from authors like Gogol, Molier, and Goldoni.
Musicals: MC in ‘Cabaret’, Simon in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ Paul in ‘A Chorus Line,’ ‘Cats,’ ‘Les Mis’.
I think all in all I did way over a hundred plays and about ten musicals, which I think is a lot. Come to think that I never felt really comfortable with singing. I always felt really free and easy when I could perform as an actor.
TD: How did you find out about The Quest and how did you secure your role as the Grand Vizier?
MDN: I was in the middle of final rehearsals off a heavy classical Swedish drama called ‘Pillars of Society’ by Hendrik Ibsen in one of Austria’s most famous Theater Festivals: The Festival Reichenau (unspeakable name for you guys, I know LOL). But I’m mentioning the festival, because it is one of the highest acclaimed festivals in the country and when you’re about to perform in a venue like this, your head just has no more room left for other stuff. The pressure is enormous. And of course during these last days of rehearsal, the phone rang.
My agent called. She insisted to send me to a casting for a show called ‘The Quest.’ Since she insisted, I went, met one of the producers, Rob Eric, and I auditioned for him. I went home and waited for them to call me to let me know that I was of no use for them.
While waiting I found out it was supposed to be for a ‘reality show.’ When I found out I said to myself, ‘not in a f***ing hundred – No – thousand years am I gonna be in a freaking reality show.’ I make fun of shows like that all the time. Stupid people, doing stupid things and make stupid people look stupidly bad. No heart. No wit. No charm. Stupid.
My career would be over in a heartbeat once my audience in Europe would find out.
Anyway they called me, said they would like to see me again in make-up and costume and that happened two days before the premiere at the festival. I thought all that fuss for ‘A reality show??’ (Major diva fit.)
In a kind of rude way I told the casting director I wasn’t sure if I would find the time for that and hung up the phone.
(Diva fit burst out in private.) I was going in circles in my apartment talking to myself like a lunatic: ‘I have no time!’ ‘I’m a serious actor,’ ‘I showed them what I can do. What else is there to see?!’ ‘Ridiculous! Reality show!’ …blah blah blah ‘not over my dead body’ and I was just about to pick up the phone to call the whole thing off.
In that moment the phone rang and a friend who auditioned a day before and did not get it, said, ‘Listen Marcello!! I met the producer from ‘The Quest,’ it’s an awesome concept! – Scripted and improv, fantasy meets reality! And this producer, what was his name? Eric Robinson! He LIKED you. You HAVE to do it! Think of all the possibilities! America! Think of Christoph Waltz!’ He went on and on.
By the end of the phone call, he got me so hot for the whole thing, I actually was ready to rehearse my Oscar speech. ‘Europe is far away from the US,’ I thought, and the show is partially scripted. So, who knows, maybe things are not as bad as they seem.
I picked up the phone, called the casting agent – all better – fixed the date and went back to the audition in make-up and costume. I did my scene, did the improv and the final interview for ABC, wished a lovely day to my colleagues who where still waiting in line outside and went back to my normal life. Ten days later the phone rang and I got the job.
TD: Social media, Twitter especially, has blown up! You’ve been extremely active on it. How are you handling it all?
MDN: The whole social media thing is totally new for me. Plus we in Europe, specially in the German speaking part, always look at self-publishing actors a bit vaguely. Kind of a little shameless thing to do by yourself. We’re a bit hypocrite with that. But the truth is, in this business, most actors are willing to let their pants down just to get the talk going, and at the same time wanting somebody else do the dirty work.
That attitude always got on my nerves. I started to Google around, looked on different social media [sites] how American, French, and Italian actors are handling this and I thought, some of them did it really in a charming, witty and intelligent way.
Besides knowing how hard it is to get the major newspaper working for you, I thought I’d give it try and started loving it.
BUT, not in my wildest dreams had I imagined it would be so time consuming!
Once the whole thing started off and ‘The Quest’ was airing, I found myself sitting in front of the computer and working my ass off – pardon my French.
And as some of you know I can get easily tempted to stay online for quit a while 😉
The thing is this: The people on Twitter and Facebook, (please lets not talk about Instagram and other possibilities, wouldn’t have the time for it), specially from The Quest Army, fans of the Quest, fans of the Fates and on and on… are so much fun to chat with. Time flies by in a heartbeat. There was so much to discover. They showed me how to write messages with just 140 letters and how to use hashtags. I love hastags! I use them whenever I can. I even use hashtags on stage when I’m really not supposed to (I blurt them out loud *HASHTAG!*)
They’re great people. Witty. Fast as hell. Intelligent, really lovely people, who inspire me so much. They inspire me because beside dealing with their every day lives (and not always easy ones, so I have learned from some) they manage to find that time to laugh, geek out, support each other, share their love and adoration for the show with us and with so much fun!!! It’s truly irresistible.
Let me tell you there was more than one night I just could not resist their temptations and finally got off of my computer by sunset. I’m only saying: #waffleknightwar. Or the #grabablanketandstrikeapose like The Grand Vizier, just the other night. I even ended up one morning, literally, walking straight from the computer to the car waiting outside, which was supposed to bring me to the film set – I guess that was episode 2. Ask Stacie Carpenter she holds track of these kind of things. LOL
How am I handling it, besides rehearsing, performing and studying text? Simple. One day in Everealm has 48 hours. *head drops on the keyboard*
TD: It has been mentioned that some of your best lines were improv, such as “Is the woman riding the horse? Or the horse riding the woman?” Did you find yourself improv-ing alot during filming?
MDN: Here is a secret. I HATE IMPROV. Don’t ask me why. It just is. It started at the university. If I knew there was improv on the schedule, I would disappear to the bathroom and would not come back anymore. Like at school. Maths. No way.
Then I found out how to do it, through a very clever teacher who observed me during acting class. He said: ‘Marcello you like to have the last word almost every time you’re arguing with your colleagues. It’s the same mechanism. It’s like you want to survive in an argument. Make your mind work and speak up.’ He was right. I’d rather shoot myself than shut my mouth. However it made things better. Still not very comfortable with it, but I can concentrate and turn it on during the camera work for The Quest, the balance between scripted and improv was kind of ok. Peter and Jan they really had to improvise like hell (they’re my heroes). Plus doing that in a language that is not your own, it is like… well let’s not go there. However, we did it and there where even some shots, where I thought the accent is not tooooo bad.
TD: Were there any moments, improv or otherwise, that didn’t make it on the show that you wish it would have?
MDN: Oh yes! Numerous moments. But you just can’t take them all. An episode has 45 minutes plus commercials. The editor has to think about that and must bring the story forward. But there is a little favorite moment I was hoping it would make it in the show. It was the ‘is-the-woman-riding-the-horse’ day. A mad day. Susanne and I nearly collapsed on the floor laughing, because we were fooling around so much, until every thing, every look or movement in the face became hysterically funny while the camera was on us. (That’s when the ‘is-the-woman-riding etc.’ happened). Anyway, there was this moment, where I said something in her ear and she looked at me and smiled in a particular way. That made Jane Fleming think, the Queen and the Vizier (major ups to the Grand Vizier) had a secret affair going on. She mentioned it after we were done with the scene, but unfortunately it never made it in the show.
TD: Some moments have me cringing in a good way with how acidic you could become. Did you have a hard time being snide to other actors or Paladins when it’s obvious you’re all friends off camera?
MDN: Yes and no. No, because I have to separate character from real life. No, because I have a sympathy for villains. Simply because nobody is born evil. There is always a story to it, a non scripted story directors usually don’t care or don’t think about. (Plus it’s not really their job.) If not written I always find a reason to why villains became the way they are. Be it a broken heart. A heritage where they have been unjustifiably left out. Maybe they changed to the dark side out of revenge. Because they lost a war, a crown, or because they lost their face in the wrong moment – what ever. That is my secret material to get me going. But boy, once I get going, I love when villains are really bad.
With colleagues I do not really have a hard time. Somewhere in between. I separate myself in the breaks (on set or on stage), just to stay concentrated. If somebody doesn’t know me, he might think I’m an asshole, which I can easily be sometimes, when I think I’m getting disturbed. It’s a self-defense kind of thing.
With Susanne, Jan and Peter it was just a piece of cake. We hooked up very easily (that doesn’t happen with me usually) But you see we became friends and found out pretty soon how each one was ticking. Plus I love them all very dearly. And yes we had moments where we thought this is too funny to keep a straight face and left our concentration where the sun doesn’t shine 😉
And a big, big YES with the Paladins. That was a challenge! I was NOT having them at all. I could NOT allow myself to let, Jasmine, Leticia, Jimmy or Andrew anywhere near my heart, or develop sympathy for Patrick, Katie, or Christian.
Of course we got information about them. What they do, where they come from, personal statements of them.
I did not read one of them. Can you imagine if I would have known Shondo is a martial arts fighter and that he actually could knock me off my socks with a fingertip?! My knees would have been shaking every single time I had to face the Paladins!
Or Bonnie. Help! All you wanna do with Bonnie is take her by the hand, have a ball and make her stop saving other people’s lives. And Adria? With her feet on the ground? You look in her eyes and you know, she has been around. You can’t fool her. And that goes for Lina, as well as for Ashley.
No, no and a no! I did not WANT to like them.
I was (I AAAMMMM), The Grand Vizier and they where my enemies. Intruders. They found a way to get into a castle of a kingdom that is under siege.
So to make a long story short: It was kind of heaven and hell at same time.
TD: All right, I need to know. What do you honestly think about everyone being so angry or outright suspicious of the Grand Vizier?
MDN: What I really think??? That would be a big time spoiler. (Oh my God! This is the shortest answer so far in this entire interview.)
TD: Do you a have a favorite moment that either made it onto the show or not?
Yes I do. My first entrance in episode one. Somebody, I think it was Jasmine, whispered: ‘The Vizier.’
She established my part, my character with one word. If something like this happens, that’s what I call magic. Awesome!
TD: Finally, is there anything you wish someone would ask you about or anything else you’d like to add?
MDN: Yes I want to add something that still impresses me very much. It happened during the table reading three weeks before shooting.
You see I was originally booked for only four episodes. And no matter how much I was going on about – not in a thousand year will I be in a reality show – after I learned what this show is really about and that I was going to be one of the main characters, I felt like a prom queen on wheels.
For an actor like me, who mainly did more theatre work than filming, this simply felt like jackpot.
Anyway, I rehearsed my scenes, said goodbye to the producers and the cast after I was done. I had to leave early because I had to go back to the festival. An afternoon performance (I don’t like the afternoon show. Who wants to be on stage with half of breakfast between your teeth. Not my cup of tea). However 😉
The next day I was supposed to meet all the producers, to go on set for the first time and find out what would be expected of me. I saw the dungeon. First entrance. Cameras. My exit. Where are the lights? (Never forget the lights. No lights – no Grand Vizier.) After we were done, the producers told me that they followed Michael Williams’ suggestion to upgrade me to be in every episode. Now guys! Believe me, I’m not that easily impressed by many things, but THAT truly knocked me of my socks.
Jane, Elise, Bertram, Mark, Rob, and you Michael I can’t even thank you enough for the support you gave, not only me, but to the whole cast.
Your determination and love for what you are doing, truly inspired me and I will never forget.
Thank you, thank you and thank you. That was awesome.
It doesn’t happen very often, that artists are wanted and welcomed like you did. You wanted and welcomed us on this wonderful four weeks of madness called: The Quest.
And it doesn’t happen very often either, that a show gets so much support from fabulous people who watch it and decide to fall in love with it madly. Thank you. You just humble me – me personally as an actor and as normal person.
I thank you for falling in love us.
As the Grand Vizier, I look over my shoulder, straight in to your face with a raised eyebrow and say: