Nick Zano

By
Photography Brian Higbee

Published March 11, 2015

ABOVE: NICK ZANO IN LOS ANGELES, FEBRUARY 2015. PHOTOGRAPHY: BRIAN HIGBEE. STYLING: SEAN KNIGHT. GROOMING: JAMAL HAMMADI USING HAMADI ORGANICS FOR WALTER SCHUPFER MANAGEMENT.

On Tuesday night, Nick Zano’s new sitcom One Big Happy will premiere on NBC. Produced by Ellen DeGeneres, the show revolves around the heterosexual Luke (Zano), who decides to have a baby with his homosexual high school BFF Lizzy (Elisha Cuthbert), and then promptly meets, falls in love with, and marries British barmaid Prudence (Kelly Brook).

The sitcom is a genre Zano is very comfortable with. After beginning his career hosting MTV News and MTV’s Movie House in the early 2000s, Zano spent three years as the resident heartthrob in The CW’s (Or WB, as it was back then) Amanda Bynes teen comedy What I Like About You. More recently, the Florida-native has played recurring characters on 2 Broke Girls and the cult hit Happy Endings (which also stars Elisha Cuthbert). Last year, he made a guest appearance on Chuck Lorre’s Mom.

But, at the age of 37, Zano’s career is developing in other ways, too. He currently has a production deal with Warner Brothers as a writer and producer, and their first project together is in development. Last month, he traveled to Afghanistan on a USO tour with a few of his good friends, including Channing Tatum. Zano first met Tatum over a decade ago when they were both just starting out in New York and Tatum was living with one of Zano’s friends from home. Here, they discuss a variety of things—from the benefit of lightsabers to temporary gender reassignment—but mostly, they just have a lot of fun. Their humor—and obvious affection for one another—is infectious.

CHANNING TATUM: Can anyone hear me? Someone validate if I’m here in this world.

NICK ZANO: Chan, you are validated.

TATUM: Okay. Hi Nicky!

ZANO: Hi pal.

TATUM: This is weird. I like it.

ZANO: Before we even go down any roads, I feel you know too much about me from the past decade, and I would like to institute a safety word in case we go down an avenue I don’t want to go down.

TATUM: Are you really this scared right now? You’re going to hit me with a fire word? A safe word?

ZANO: I hear in your voice the enjoyment of power you have now. [laughs]

TATUM: [laughs] Alright. Do you have one picked out or can I pick it?

ZANO: Well, if you’re going to be a gentleman and let me do it, then by all means, you pick it.

TATUM: Okay, thank you. It will be “pink gummy berry.”

ZANO: Pink gummy berry?

TATUM: If I want to override it, I’m going to say, “Pink Halle Berry.”

ZANO: [laughs]

TATUM: I get one override of your fire word.

ZANO: Fair!

TATUM: Let’s start off with setting up a little world in which you asked me to do this, which was really super strange and yet awesome all at the same time. I believe we were somewhere very, very high over Afghanistan in a C-130, which is kind of a warplane. And you go, “Hey, you want to interview me for Interview magazine?” [laughs] I was like, “Really? Right here? Right now?”

ZANO: The best part is that we had to talk in those headphones, ’cause it’s super loud.

TATUM: And I look over and on your headset, it says “easy” with a money sign.

ZANO: That was not my headset that I brought with me to Afghanistan, that was a preexisting headset. [laughs]

TATUM: Let’s just imagine that the rest of this interview is done behind two actual real pilots flying over Afghanistan.

ZANO: So we’re going to have a cock-talk?

TATUM: We’re going to have a little cock-talk. That’s exactly where I was going with that, glad you picked that up. So, cock-talk with Nick Zano. We’re going to do a rapid fire round, since we’re on an airplane. These are one-word answers. I’ll let you know on which other questions you’re allowed to use multiple words to answer. Quickly, where are you from?

ZANO: New Jersey.

TATUM: Jersey. Where’d you grow up?

ZANO: A place called Loxahatchee, Florida.

TATUM: Copy that. Have you ever gotten drunk and gotten a tattoo?

ZANO: Yes…with my friends.

TATUM: These are “yes” or “no” questions—one word answer questions. So, “yes.” Were you upset that it was my face?

ZANO: [laughs] No…

TATUM: It’s one word. One word.

ZANO: [laughs]

TATUM: Do you like shooting guns?

ZANO: Yes.

TATUM: Have you ever shot a gun near a friend as a joke?

ZANO: [long pause] No.

TATUM: [laughs] You lyin’ son of a bitch. Waffles or pancakes?

ZANO: Waffles.

TATUM: Have you ever left the plastic on your car until you sold it, just so it didn’t get scratched? The inside of your car—the plastic from when you buy the car new.

ZANO: [laughs] Can I institute a multiple word answer?

TATUM: You get three words.

ZANO: It was in Magic Mike.

TATUM: [laughs] That’s more than three.

ZANO: I’m using an executive privilege.

TATUM: Abercrombie cologne or Curve?

ZANO: Abercrombie?

TATUM: Really? Wow. I’m disappointed.

ZANO: I don’t know Curve, that’s the only reason.

TATUM: Oh man, you don’t know Curve? Alright, Drakkar.

ZANO: Oh, Drakkar!

TATUM: Now these are two “would you rather” questions, and you can use as many alliterations as you like. Would you rather save the life of a starving child that you’ve never met, or have an actual, real-life working lightsaber that you could use?

ZANO: Save a child! What is wrong with you?

TATUM: Yeah but think about it, how many starving children could you save with an actual lightsaber? That’s a poor decision.

ZANO: I feel as if I’ve entered a corrupt SAT test.

TATUM: If this was an MIB mission test—[the one] that Will Smith did—you’d fail. One more of those questions: would you rather wake up naked and sore and without any memory of the night before next to the Burger King telling you, “You had it your way,” or, wake up naked next to Ronald McDonald telling you, “You were lovin’ it”?

ZANO: Ooh… I’d go Burger King.

TATUM: Burger King? Really? Oh man. This interview has gone way differently than I thought it was going to.  

ZANO: First of all, I just want you to take in what you’re asking—you’re asking if I would wake up sore with Ronald McDonald or the Burger King, and you’re saying that this interview is taking a wrong turn?

TATUM: Look, let’s not get into the semantics of this. I just want a really clear point of view from you. Thank you. What very few people know about you is that you grew up in a house full of women, correct?

ZANO: Correct.

TATUM: And, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of this or not, but I think it’s kind of funny that you’re doing a show now where you’re living with women. Have you ever thought about if the universe is trying to conspire against you, or has something against your manhood?

ZANO: The fact that my job currently is me with women didn’t register until you just said that.

TATUM: I’ve given it a lot of thought, Nicky. I just look at it like you’ve been preparing for this your whole life, and you didn’t even know. How many women were in your house?

ZANO: When I was a child, there were seven. It was my great-grandmother, grandmother, my mom, two aunts, my older sister, and my cousin. The women in my family aren’t necessarily crazy about men; I believe all of them were divorced at the time. [laughs] I was the only male in the house, so they told me everything they didn’t like about men at a very early age. They put pressure on me not to be seven different men that they didn’t like.

TATUM: I think that’s kind of helpful because you learn about all the stuff that they hate first.

ZANO: I knew everything a woman hated even before I remotely knew anything a woman liked.

TATUM: That, oddly, is a beautiful thing, because I don’t know if men actually know what women like, we just know where not to go to piss them off.

ZANO: I remember the early thing was, “Don’t ever be a drunk. Don’t ever be unemployed. Don’t be a mooch.” They’re really big on “don’t be a mooch.” [laughs]

TATUM: [laughs] Your grandmother owned a bar, right?

ZANO: She was a bartender. By the way, I call her and she asks more about you than she does me.

TATUM: Aw, yes!

ZANO: She does it so conversationally—she says, “By the way, what’s Chan up to?” Like she raised you. And I’m like, “Chan’s doing Chan-shit. I’ve got stuff going on!” And she’s like, “Well tell him I said hello and kiss the baby.” Kiss the baby? I’m calling you, lady!

TATUM: [laughs] Let’s get a little bit of setting on who Nan is, because she’s someone that I’ve never personally met in real life. We have had late-night conversations, and you can tell me if this is a pink jelly bear moment, but can we tell the story about you calling Nan at about three o’clock in the morning?

ZANO: We had a very late night. We don’t get to see each other much because of everyone’s schedule, so when we do see each other it’s a massive make-up of time. So we had a pretty long evening-slash-afternoon into evening and we came home, and I was like, “You know who we should call? We should call my grandmother!” I believe at this point in the evening, we ordered $35 of McDonalds, which is so much McDonalds.

TATUM: A gratuitous amount.

ZANO: And we drunk dialed my grandmother. I gave her a panicked call that my friend was hurt—our friend was hurt—and you looked at me, and you mouthed the words, “I don’t like this anymore.” [laughs]

TATUM: [laughs] You were making her panic! You were telling her that we killed our friend and we didn’t know what to do with his body! I was like, “Wait, where are you going with this?” She’s panicking: “Oh, Nicky, what did you do? What have you done, Nicky? What have you done!” and then you’re like, “Don’t snitch, Nan, don’t snitch!” And she’s like, “I’m not a snitch, Nicky!” That was when I turned, and was like, “I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with this,” because the way that she said, “I’m not a snitch,” I knew she’d said it before. But you have an amazing relationship with you grandmother, like I’ve never seen anyone have with their family.

ZANO: My grandmother loved it afterwards. She gets all worked up and she curses at me after it’s been revealed as a joke. But then she starts laughing, and for the next three days, she retells the story to all her friends, and she loves the attention. So I feel like, in an odd way, I’m doing something very good for my grandmother.

TATUM: I love that perspective.

ZANO: That’s how I’m going to spin it when I’m at Heaven’s gate.

TATUM: [laughs] Okay. Did they ever say that they wished you were a girl?

ZANO: That my family wishes I was a girl?

TATUM: Yeah. I know that if I was a girl, they had a girl name picked out for me. Did they have a girl name picked out for you?

ZANO: Their girl threat was—this is mostly my grandmother and a little bit my mom—when I would misbehave or do something wrong, they would threaten me with castration. My grandmother would say to me, “You do this, and I’ll cut your balls off.”

TATUM: That brings me to my next question. If you could, today, grow a vagina, would you do it? Even if it’s just for a limited amount of time to know what it’s like to have one? You can give it back and have your own penis—not a reattached penis.

ZANO: So everything comes back?

TATUM: Yeah, everything’s back to that same old Nicky from the beginning. Would you do it?

ZANO: Sure. How do you not? Let’s do it at the same time.

TATUM: I would totally do that with you. I’d have matching vajays.

ZANO: [laughs] All I’ve got is this visual of you and I standing next to each other, looking down.

TATUM: And comparing. “Wow, yours is bigger than mine!”

ZANO: [laughs] That’s the worst thing you want to hear!

TATUM: [laughs] I think we should take that to [One Big Happy producer] Ellen [DeGeneres] as a weird reccurring dream sequence—just me and you comparing vaginas.

ZANO: All of a sudden you see [my character] Luke sleeping and then a dream sequence happens and it’s Luke and Channing.

TATUM: I will be there any day that you guys want to shoot that, even if you just want to shoot it for fun. If you were born a girl, what would your name be? Would you keep it Nicky?

ZANO: Nicki with an “i”? That’s cute.

TATUM: Nicki with an “i.” Would you condone, as Nicki growing up in Florida, having a tramp stamp for a little while?

ZANO: And then removing it?

TATUM: Removing it or trying to cover it up with something.

ZANO: We have mutual friends who are male that have tramp stamps.

TATUM: That’s what I’m saying! Get out of my head, Nicky. That’s where I’m going with this. God. Stop interviewing yourself! So if we had a friend—I don’t know what their name could possibly be—a male that had a tramp stamp, would you condone that?

ZANO: I wouldn’t condone the male tramp stamp, however, I would address it periodically in a relaxed time where you don’t expect it—like at a nice dinner. I would bring up a tramp stamp that that person has as they’re sitting there.

TATUM: We’ve been talking about nothing over Afghanistan for a little while.

ZANO: Oh yeah, we’re still in the cockpit. This is a cock-talk, man.

TATUM: You remember when we went to that NATO base and we met the Italian general?

ZANO: Oh yeah. I forget his name. I feel like he might want me to mention his name, but I don’t think I should. We were at an undisclosed NATO base somewhere very deep in Afghanistan. The Italians run this base, and the Italians cooked us dinner when we met.

TATUM: There was gnocci!

ZANO: It was amazing.

TATUM: Lasagnas…

ZANO: It was like a wedding reception. It was so much fun and everyone was so full of life. The general and I are talking and he said something to me and I said to him, “stugots,” which is something we say—it’s stupid. So I say, “stugots,” to the general, and he looks and me and he goes, [Italian accent] “Nick, you know what ‘stugots’ means,” and I was like, “Yeah, ‘stugots’ means stupid,” and he was like, “No, ‘stu’ means ‘me, my,’ ‘got’ means ‘dick.’ You’re saying, ‘my dick.’ You’re walking around saying, ‘my dick.'” And I called the guys over, and I go, “General, can you tell my friends what you were telling me?” and he goes “Stugots means ‘my dick.'” And we lost our minds, because it’s sort of an insider term amongst one another that we say to each other affectionately.

TATUM: Little did we know that every person that knows Italian that we’ve ever been around, which is probably a lot of people, thinks we’ve been saying, “my dick” repeatedly to each other in the circle of friends.

ZANO: “This circle of friends keep saying ‘my dick’ to each other!”

TATUM: But the best part about the whole thing is this guy loved you for it.

ZANO: At the end of the night, he called his troops around—his personal security—and the guys put their arms together in this football huddle. I was in the middle of the football huddle, and the general’s like, “One, two, three,” and these soldiers roar at me, “STUGOTS!”

TATUM: These are Italian war machines.

ZANO: And we walked out, and I looked at you, and you said, “I saw it, and I don’t believe it.”

ZANO: That moment was a bizarre out of body experience.

TATUM: And we cut the cake all holding the cake knife.

ZANO: That photo is the weirdest photo of all time.

TATUM: We were all sitting there being like, “Wait a minute, is there something lost in translation here? Are we marrying this general?”

ZANO: Does he own us now? [laughs] Are we property of the Italian army?

TATUM: Then, when we get back in the car to leave, neither of us talk. We’re riding with two other American generals and the Italian general gives you his mixtape.

ZANO: He gave me a CD of the Italian army playing the bugle!

TATUM: While running! He was very adamant about the fact that they’re the only band that can play while running.

ZANO: And then put their musical instruments down to take a sniper shot. So they would run, play the bugle, drop the bugle, pick up their rifle and take a sniper shot. Which is very impressive if you think about it.

TATUM: When we tried to play the CD—’cause we were dying to know what it sounded like—and the car ate the CD. Now I feel like it’s this lost part. I could be rocking that as a ring tone right now. I have one admission before we go. Do you remember the first time that I ever met you? You gave me a DVD—I believe it was Newsradio—and you went on and on about Phil Hartman. I was super impressed by you—you were really well studied and I promised you that I would go home and watch it.

ZANO: Did you watch it? That was 10 years ago.

TATUM: No. I never watched it. So I admitted it in print. I’m sorry, because I lost the DVD a long time ago.

ZANO: That’s an incredible memory. I’m not even mad at you because I forgot it until you brought it up.

TATUM: I felt bad. I really did feel bad about not watching it later, because I didn’t think I was going to run into you—”I’m not going to see that guy.” And now cut to cock-talk and I feel truly bad.

ZANO: I say, shake it off. You’ll be fine. Any young comedic actor who’s trying to start out, Google “Phil Hartman Newsradio The Cane.” It’s the pinnacle of comedic acting on TV. You’ll never see a performer do more than what Phil Hartman does in that episode. It’s mind-blowing. If you’re a performer, you will see what he’s doing and it will rock your nation.

TATUM: At your funeral, because you’re probably going to die way before I am—

ZANO: Why am I dying first?

TATUM: That’s just the way it’s going to happen. You’re way more cautious than I am, and cautious people die first. That’s how it happens.

ZANO: Says who?

TATUM: Statistics.

ZANO: Alright, if I do die first, this interview is going to be on your head. Everybody’s going to think, “He’s in cahoots with the devil.”

TATUM: “He’s smart!” That’s what they’re going to think. They’re going to be like, “He knew! How did he know?” And, if I’m wrong, people are going to be really happy that I was wrong and that you’re alive.

ZANO: I’ll bring it up at your funeral.

TATUM: No, play the [Phil Hartman] scene at my funeral: “Damn, he just missed it. He would have liked this. He would have enjoyed it. Too bad he was too much of an asshole to watch it in real life.”

ZANO: I would never call you an asshole at your funeral. I’d just say “stugots” and then kiss your coffin.

TATUM: Alright, I’m going to kiss your coffin right now, in my mind. I’m going to sign off. 4:41 PM in Los Angeles time, and this was cock-talk with Channing Tatum and Nick Zano. Stugots everyone.

ZANO: Stugots.

ONE BIG HAPPY PREMIERES  THIS TUESDAY, MARCH 17, ON NBC. CHANNING TATUM IS AN ACTOR, PRODUCER, AND WRITER WHOSE RECENT CREDITS INCLUDE FOXCATCHER, 22 JUMP STREET, SIDE EFFECTS, AND MAGIC MIKE. HE CAN NEXT BE SEEN IN MAGIC MIKE XXL, OUT JULY 1.