From high profile marketing with New York City firms, Gus Zucco, 46, left corporate life to pursue his dream – acting.
When Zucco began playing guitar, he dreamed of becoming a rock star. Then, as he neared his 40th birthday, he decided to pursue an acting career. A transplant to Gettysburg, Zucco has social and professional ties with Dark Ronin Films, in Hanover, and with Hagerstown-based Infinity 9 films.
Zucco has appeared in off-Broadway productions, has appeared in movies and was cast as “wiseguy, Albert Anastasia,” in the 2015 mini-series AMC docudrama, “The Making of the Mob: New York.”
A collector of historical and pop culture memorabilia, Zucco operates the Inn at Lincoln Square, with his wife, Hillary, an actor, whom he met on a set; and, the rest, as they say, is history.
How did you end up in Gettysburg? I’d been coming here to Gettysburg for many years as a tourist, since 2002. I loved the town and made it a ritual to come down every year. I’d gotten the collecting bug and became friends with Erik Dorr, who had the Gettysburg Museum of History. He knew I was an actor so he asked me if I would be interested in helping produce a reality show about his museum and all the visitors he got. I agreed to do it. While I was working on the show, I met my current wife, Hillary Styer; she was the production manager. She’s an actor also. We hit it off and a couple of months after that we started dating and in the summer of 2012, I moved down here. We were married in 2014. I have two stepchildren, Alicia and Ethan.
When growing up, what did you dream of doing? As a teenager, I gravitated toward music. I’ve actually been playing the guitar since I was 13. I initially wanted to be a rock star. I’ve always had this natural instinct to go on stage to act up for people, whether it was to sing, play guitar, do skits, and throughout high school, I did that. I used to always entertain my classmates and I was known as a character, always class clown. I was in a couple of bands. Then in my early 20s, I really got the acting bug and I seriously thought of pursuing it. In fact, I even moved out to L.A., briefly, for a few months with my brother and two friends with the intention of trying to break into acting. I finally decided I didn’t have the make-up to be a struggling artist…and hope I got the big break. I put everything aside and I got into the marketing business where I was pretty successful for many years – about 15 or 16 years, I worked with three companies.
How did you become an actor? When I was approaching my 40th birthday, I kept on saying to myself, I really ought to try acting. I’d made some money, (in marketing), and I was established and I was not poor or struggling. When I was 39, I enrolled in an acting class in West Chester County, New York. The guy who taught it was Howard Myer, a New York City trained actor. The classes were terrific. I studied with Howard for four years, and in seven years, I was lucky enough to do a couple of gigs – three off-Broadway plays; one for the Looking Glass Theatre; the Robert Moss Theater; and I forget the other one.
What do you consider to be your first big break? When I was in New York, my first TV gig was a show called: “Mobster Confessions.” I got cast as Mickey Cohen, a Philadelphia mobster. We filmed that in Brooklyn in 2011. I get whacked at point blank range on the street. Two years earlier, in the fall of 2009, I had done an independent movie…unfortunately that never got finished. A few months after “Mobster Confessions,” I was in “Scorned: Love Kills” cast as a detective, on Investigation Discovery. In January of 2012, I got my first very good role, a character named Smith, an alien bad guy, on a pilot “Alien Dawn” on Nickelodeon.
To date, what do you consider to be your biggest role? In 2014, I got cast as Albert Anastasia in “The Making of the Mob” on AMC. It filmed in the fall, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. It is kind of interesting how I got the part. I had done background work for one day a week earlier for another show called “American Genius” for the same production company. While I was on that set I heard they were casting another show about the mob. They had an open casting call for background people. I asked if they were still casting for main roles. I was introduced to the head casting director. I read for a role. About a week later, they said they were considering me for a bigger role and had me read for the character of Albert Anastasia and a couple of weeks later…the casting director called me and said I got the role. That was on a Friday evening and the production started on Monday morning. I had a nice death scene; Anastasia gets whacked – gets shot in a barber chair.
What type of acting opportunities are there in this region? While I was here in Gettysburg, I started working on local productions. In the Silver Spring-Washington, D.C., area, there are several production companies – Sirens Media and Story House Productions. I did shows for both of them. I did “Nightmare Next Door” for Investigation Discovery and “Deadly Affairs.” I also worked on some independent projects and at the same time I got a gig in New York, on the (Investigation Discovery) show: “Redrum” as a detective. Later, Hillary and I met Darren and Kat Archer who had started a production company in Hagerstown – Infinity 9 Films. We have since teamed up with them and became partners.
How do you pay the bills? Acting for me does not pay the bills, right now. It’s something I am passionate about. It’s tough. My wife and I own a couple of rental properties; and, we also own the Inn at Lincoln Square. We’re now trying to buy a restaurant.
Are you working on any TV or film projects now? (With Infinity 9 Flims), we have several projects on the bill: a web series called “Bulletproof Cowboys,” which is going to be filmed in Gettysburg and Hagerstown. We have another project called “The Last Stop,” a short Western movie. We just finished another short film called “The Bad Job,” a comedy about two idiot bank robbers.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors? It’s important today if you want to try to make it as an actor, you shouldn’t throw yourself into that Hollywood system and move to New York or move to L.A., and hope you get that big break. It’s about doing your own projects and showcasing what you can do by yourself. That’s how a lot of actors have become big names.