Son of the City: Steven Strait



Raymond De Felitta’s City Island, which came out last week, is a family comedy about the Rizzos, a New York clan that hides everything from their smoking habits to their career aspirations (patriarch Vince, played by Andy Garcia, is a corrections officer secretly taking acting classes) and careers–daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) lives a double life as a stripper–from each other. Set on the little-known Bronx enclave of City Island, the family’s relatively peaceful existence is disturbed when Vince’s estranged son, ex-con Tony (Steven Strait) comes into the picture. We spoke with Strait about shooting, the film’s unique location, and quitting smoking.

INTERVIEW: How did you end up doing City Island?

STEVEN STRAIT: I was sent the script and I remember reading it for the first time and just laughing my ass off reading it to myself–laughing out loud to myself–and that is kind of a really rare thing. And I really loved the role, loved the script. I’ve been a big fan of Raymond’s movies and I met with him and we talked about how he saw the film and how he saw Tony, and then I met Andy, and that was kind of it

INTERVIEW: What was it like working with Andy?

STRAIT: It was amazing. Andy, he’s obviously so talented–he’s such an icon in many ways–and such a great guy. And to be able to work with him as not only an actor, but also a producer, it was really great. It was like taking a master class, just watching him work and go through the process.

INTERVIEW: You grew up in New York. Had you ever been to City Island?

STRAIT: No, I hadn’t, and I’d actually never heard of City Island before, which is kind of cool– the character I was playing had never been there either. That’s such a great thing about New York, after growing up in a place and being there for twenty plus years, there’s still a whole island to discover.

INTERVIEW: What’s it like out there?

STRAIT: It’s really charming. It’s like a little New England fishing village in the Bronx. It’s very, very cool. And New York is mostly associated with how it’s changing and how fast that happens, and City Island seems to have pretty much remained the way they wanted it to for however long it’s been. The place really runs on its own terms

INTERVIEW: This is a movie with a lot of family secrets. Did you keep anything from your family growing up?

STRAIT: Not really. I mean, you know, I didn’t really have anything along the lines of what’s going on in City Island. To be honest, I am a pretty awful liar, and just getting everything out in the beginning is kind of the policy. I guess I smoked, and I didn’t share that with them. I wasn’t really hiding it per se, I just wasn’t really talking about it! I’ve quit now, anyway.

INTERVIEW: How’d you quit?

STRAIT: Just cold turkey. I just stopped. I just figured I’d get it done with, you know.