Mika Launikari


INTERVIEW PART 1: Italian actor Daniele La Leggia – Roots in Rome, career in Hollywood

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Many of us know Daniele La Leggia (23) from the Italian television series Don Matteo, in which a Catholic priest, Father Matteo, was investigating local crime stories in the town of Gubbio (Perugia). Daniele played the role of Dario in this Rai1 production in 2011-2012.

His big national-level breakthrough in Italy had happened already before Don Matteo in 2010 with the movie Sharm El Sheikh - Un’estate indimenticabile. For two months Daniele was in Egypt together with the leading Italian actors and actresses to shoot this film about an unforgettable summer (trailer).

Path towards movie industry

“I have been very lucky to launch my career as an actor in Italy”, says Daniele, who was born and brought up in Rome. “From an early age I had an urge to express myself and I needed an outlet for that. I knew acting was something for me. There are no actors in our family, but as a young boy already I was fascinated about Cinecittà, the largest film studio in Europe located in the outskirts of Rome.”

In 2008, Daniele at the age of 15 made an advertisement for the car manufacturer Toyota. This was his first professional assignment and it paved his path into the movie industry. The following year he became one of the hosts on the Italian TV programme Up’n Pop targeting children and teenagers (watch Daniele’s audition for the Up’n Pop show).

Hollywood calling

“After the Up’n Pop I started studying acting at Strasberg’s. A great turning point in my life at that time was the opportunity given to me by Manuela Metri, a personal friend of Anna Strasberg. Manuela, by chance, was on the spot watching Sharm El Sheikh being produced and she wanted to meet with me. Manuela then decided to grant me a summer scholarship for her acting school in Hollywood. That was a dream come true for me!”

“Once back in Italy after my short stay in Hollywood, I finally got involved in Don Matteo. Although being part of the cast and crew was great fun, I strongly felt I have a mission elsewhere … I wanted to move on in my professional life so badly that at a certain point I then quite abruptly decided to return to Hollywood and leave Italy behind.”   

Daniele has been living in Hollywood since 2012. “The beginning in Los Angeles was not easy as I did not speak much English, only Italian”, Daniele reveals. “By now I am fluent in English and indeed, I sound pretty American, although I still have a foreign accent of course. Also getting to know the right people and finding sponsors, who believe in what I represent, has been quite demanding and time-consuming. I consider myself fortunate as I have made some really good connections there. All in all, I have managed to establish a solid foundation for my private and professional lives in Hollywood.”

It is probably every actor’s dream to go to Hollywood, get into the movie business there and then overnight become a film star known worldwide. “It is, though, an extremely competitive arena as there are a million other wannabes from all over the world in Hollywood, who desperately look for an opportunity to become famous”, Daniele explains.

Professional aspirations

Daniele, while still waiting for his international breakthrough as an actor, is systematically working on creating a distinctive professional profile and an outstanding reputation for himself in the movie industry.

“I love writing … writing is one of my passions. At the moment I am drafting a screenplay for a movie to be shot in Europe and in the USA. What I have learnt is that writing a movie script is a totally different process than writing a novel. This has been a rewarding learning experience and I am highly optimistic about the film itself.”

Daniele is now actively searching for external funding through various channels for financing the movie. “I am even planning to look into what the European Commission could offer in this respect”, he summarizes his thoughts around his movie production.

Life in the international movie industry offers great opportunities on the one hand, but on the other hand means constant risk taking. “I am not afraid of competition, but in order to stay strong in the business, I will have to continue expanding my social and professional networks, keep constantly developing myself as an actor and a screenplay author, and create a career management strategy that allows me to be adaptable to changes and challenges”, Daniele concludes his views.    

Read also the second part of Daniele’s interview.

Text: Mika Launikari based on an interview with Daniele La Leggia (Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy on 19 December 2015)

Photos: Daniele La Leggia

INTERVIEW PART 2: Italian actor Daniele La Leggia – Roots in Rome, career in Hollywood

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Daniele La LeggiaFor many of us, Rome represents an experience overflowing with historical brilliance, artistic beauty, architectural advancements and military achievement. The Romans are proud of their city’s ancient history, though the contemporary Rome with its corruption, political intrigues, economic problems and chaotic traffic leave them often unhappy.

Old cultural traditions, various age-old customs and norms are still kept alive as part of the every-day life of Rome. “Rome has to change. There are so many things in Rome and in the whole of Italy that I would like to change, if only I could”, Daniele bursts out.

“But one person cannot change the whole society or the mental system of people, the way they think, the way they are and behave. I do respect my countrymen. I only wish they would not resist change so much, but would be more world open and interested in learning from other countries and cultures.”

Exploring the world

“As I myself did not want to get stuck with this stagnant way of life in Italy, I decided to move to Hollywood and make a living there. The American lifestyle is much more easygoing, relaxed and less controlled … at least this is my experience.”

“When I am in Los Angeles, I do not miss Rome as such, but I do miss my family here a lot. I am always happy to come for a visit to Italy to see my mother, sister and nephew. They mean the world to me. We are extremely close with one another, and my greatest wish is to find a way for us all living together in Los Angeles in the future.”

Daniele himself loves exploring different countries and he is well travelled for his young age. He speaks proudly of the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers in front of us at the Piazza Navona. The fountain designed by Bernini (1651) features four figures, each representing a river from a different continent - the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata. This strong symbolism of water, the fluid and liquid world of the unconscious, the supernatural, means a constant rebirth and awakening for Daniele.

Life is a journey

“Movement, flow and change are important for me. I am open to life and to constantly learning new things through personal exposure and experience. I am not afraid of throwing myself into new adventures all the time as that is the only way to learn and grow as a human,” Daniele describes his approach to living and co-existing with other people. “I’m my own worst enemy, he declares and explains himself by saying that for him everything is possible, and the only thing that can stop him from being successful is he himself.  

Altogether Daniele makes a modern and mature, yet modest impression on other people. His absolute strength is that he is very likeable and has excellent manners. He does not only sound smart and sensible, but as somebody who is fully in charge of his own life and definitely knows what to do with it. Meditation and spirituality provide him inner stability and calmness and that helps him achieve his goals in life.

Reflections on free will

“Free will is a deceptive image” reads in a tattoo on Daniele’s body. The meaning of this statement for Daniele is that ultimately he knows he has no choice other than to watch the choices he thinks he is making, but he is merely a watcher, a witness of what is happening in front of him.

“Whether it is a matter of a deceptive image or not, one day soon I would love to see the Northern Lights in Finland”, Daniele says and brings the interview towards an end by asking: “By the way, did you know that the effect known as the Aurora Borealis is named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas?”

Read also the first part of Daniele’s interview.

Text: Mika Launikari based on an interview with Daniele La Leggia (Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy on 19 December 2015)

Photos: Daniele La Leggia


We stand for unity in diversity

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Let’s imagine for a moment that D.I.V.E.R.S.I.T.Y stands for Dignity, Inclusiveness, Variety, Equality, Recognition, Self-awareness, Identification, Tolerance and Yourselves. What kind of mental images do we associate with these words in the context of diversity?  

D Dignity can be defined as an individual’s quality of being worthy of esteem or honour. It means showing respect for oneself as well as for all the others. It helps us to see and treat other human beings as unique and equal to us regardless of their background and personal history.

I – Inclusiveness is an ambience of letting people in, making them feel genuinely welcome and helping them create a sense of belonging within the given environment. Maybe there is a way to make our countries a more inclusive place for all the refugees that have been arriving in the European Union member states in the past months.

V – Variety means an absence of sameness and monotony. It is the state of having many different things together at the same time. The harmonious coexistence and wonderful blend of various groups of people are considered as an important condition for a society to thrive.

E – Equality is when things are the same in some particular way. It is the condition of being equal in quality and esteem. Equality means that individuals or groups of individuals are to be treated fairly and equally on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or worldview, sexual orientation and age.

R – Recognition can be understood as the act of acknowledging someone for his/her knowledge, skills or competences. For instance, in relation to arriving migrants, many countries have already procedures in place for the assessment, verification and recognition of their professional qualifications obtained abroad.

S – Self-awareness is an individual’s conscious knowledge of themselves and their worth as a human being. It means having a clear perception of one’s personality (e.g. strengths, weaknesses, values, beliefs, attitudes). Intercultural encounters are often useful mirrors for us to realize, who we actually are and what we stand for.  

I – Identification is defined as the act of finding out, who someone or what something is. It is also a matter of identifying with someone and feeling that one eventually shares and understands the situation or experience of another person (e.g. a newly arrived migrant who does not yet speak the language of the host country).

T – Tolerance is being understanding of anything different and respecting the beliefs, values and worldviews of others. Yet, tolerance does not mean that one should automatically accept everything that is different; especially not, if it is something morally or ethically ambiguous, inappropriate or wrong.

Y – Yourselves refer to those ones identical with you. Knowing who you are makes it much easier to understand who the others are. That way meaningful, supportive and empowering relationships with other human beings from across the globe can be established and fully enjoyed.  

Photo: thefederalist.com