Candice Guardino, entertainer extraordinaire has been impersonating family members ever since she was a child. Luckily for us, that smart-alecky kid turned into the lively, brilliant woman we all have come to know today. Guardino, the creator of Italian Bred, the one-woman show which opens TONIGHT at The Hudson Theatre in California to a sold-out crowd, was raised in an Italian family that can only be described as “crazy.”
The actress/singer/writer (I told you she was extraordinary) not only wrote the show, but stars in it portraying a multitude of familial personalities. The show, which received rave reviews during its first run in New York City, is expected to resonate just as well with the L.A. crowd.
I recently caught up with Guardino during an in-depth interview; one that I can honestly say was one of my favorites to date. We chatted about all things Italian Bred, her self-discipline while writing and a potential sitcom in the works for her hilariously heartfelt production!
MCKENZIE MORRELL: To start off, where did the initial idea for Italian Bred come from?
CANDICE GUARDINO: As I grew up my mom would take me to a lot of theatre, I was a kid- I was like six or seven, and I saw Whoopi Goldberg’s one-woman show, and she was impersonating people, and ever since I saw that, I was like “Oh when I get older that’s what I want to do!” [laughs] I was always inspired to do it, and for me personally, my family members, probably just like everyone else’s, cause I just assume that most people have crazy families, are crazy, and at the same time are really bubbly and unique, and I wanted to be able to tell and show the world that everyone can come from something crazy, but something good comes out of it.
What was the process like writing the show? How long did it take from conception to you actually performing it onstage?
What I decided to do, was my dad is like a fabulous storyteller. I think that’s where I get it from, I swear. So one Sunday, I sat down with him, and I would go over all these things I wanted to put in the show, and I was like, “Dad, remember this time when I went to FAO Schwartz, and Grandma took me,” and he’s like “yeah.” I’m like, “Can you refresh my memory?” and I’d go over it, and he’s like “No. This happened”, and I was like “Okay!” So I had all these stories, and then I would take them and I would perform them, basically in comedy houses throughout New York, to see if they worked, to see if they landed. I would do a lot of stand-up, or story telling slams, and I kind of worked the material and the characters through that. I would say the whole thing took me around six months. I’m a pretty fast writer. I’m the type of person that when I want to write something, and I have a goal in mind, I literally could do it in a weekend. So sometimes when you read an article, and they’re like, they wrote it in a weekend- it’s true! If you have a goal, and an idea of what you want this to be, this project, show, whatever you’re writing, you could literally just do it in a weekend, and that’s kind of how it happened.
That’s awesome. Now you were a huge success here on the East Coast, and now you’re taking on the West Coast. Did you have any reservations that Italian Bred wouldn’t, you know, be as well received to the Hollywood scene?
Well, I’ll tell you, I really hoped that the Hollywood people would love it! I will say that a lot of people here on the West Coast are like, either New Yorkers, from the East Coast, or Italian, or are a part of a big family, so it’s been really easy to kind of talk about the show and people have jumped at the opportunity to come and see it, because they’re like “Oh my god, I’m going to relate to it.” So I think the best part about this show in particular, that I wanted to make sure was evident, was that it’s a universal show. I’m literally your everyday gal, I swear! My family is your normal family, and by normal I mean universal. Everyone that sits and watches the show goes, “Oh my god, I went through that!” or “Oh my god, my grandmother was just like that”, so everyone kind of relates to it, so I’m glad it’s not so much just a New York show, it’s universal, which is exciting.
Yeah, that’s amazing. Not many shows can do that, so I think that’s great. You have some pretty amazing guest cameos in your show. What was it like to find out that iconic celebrities, such as Soprano’s star, Steve Schirripa, wanted to be involved?
It’s so funny. I was totally excited. I think when I first did the show, in New York, and that was like a tryout, just for me personally, seeing how it goes. Vinny (Vincent) Pastore from the Soprano’s approached me, and was like, “I would love to be a part of it”, then it kind of snowballed. People started hearing about it, wanting to read the script, and the best part about this particular show is, you see the title, you laugh, and then they’re like, “Can I read the script?” and they read the script and they’re like, “Can I do this!? Please let me be in it!” So it’s fun- I love that! I love that people are so excited to, not make fun, but kind of join in on the poking fun at a family. Those guys, like Mario Cantone, Steve Schirripa, Leslie Jordan, and they were just all so fabulous and so willing to jump into the comedy, that it made my job easier, especially when I wrote their roles, they were just so funny when they jumped in and actually played it. I was like, “Wow! You make my writing look great!” [laughs] So, it was kind of awesome.
I’m sure it’s great anyways! So speaking of celebrities, a lot have come to see your show. Who would you say you were the most excited to be in the audience?
Oh, goodness. It’s hard to say, because every person is different, and every person watches a project, a show, anything and they have their own ideas, but it was so interesting to have Carson Kressley come and see the show because he was so floored, like he was like, “Oh my god. I can’t believe you just played all these characters!” and he was like so mind-boggled. Then there was someone like Big Ang from the Mob Wives, when she came, she was so funny, because she was in the audience the whole time laughing out loud and then tweeting about it, which I kind of love. It didn’t distract me, I thought it was so cool that she was tweeting phrases that I was saying on stage, and she was like, “Love it!” and it was just so great to see everyone’s different reactions. So, it’s kind of cool because everyone again has related something to the show of themselves, something personal, and it’s kind of cool to see what that is.
That’s awesome. I mean in this day in age with Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, and Vine, and all that stuff, you said obviously you didn’t mind it, but if most of the audience was kind of live tweeting, making their little comments, would that overwhelm you, or make you feel like they weren’t paying attention?
No! It’s kind of interesting for me. I think now that we’re in this day and age, I think we’re all multitasking 24/7. Do I think it’s a good idea for the whole audience to take out their phone and start being on it while someone’s on stage? No, but I started to incorporate it in the show, which is exciting. There’s live tweeting right before the show where we have this projector screen, and their tweets are coming up on the screen onstage, so they could be like, “Oh my god, I’m at Italian Bred” and it’s literally showing their tweet. Then, we’ll say politely, “Hey, turn off your cell phones” and stuff like that. I think there’s an element of live performance, theatre, or whatever it is, variety shows, that there is an element of social media involved. I think as a performer, you kind of accept certain things. I am trained a little old-school, where it’s like, please don’t answer your phone while someone’s onstage! [laughs]
You would think that’d be common courtesy! [laughs]
Right! When I first got to L.A., cause I’m brand new. I was like, “Do L.A. people know the rules of theatre?” I had this big joke going on with the theatre and they were like, “What do you mean?” and I’m like, “Well in New York they say turn off your cell phones and you can’t eat in the theatre. Do they know that here?” [laughs] I giggle, but I think there’s an element- there’s a give and take. I think it’s awesome to do it, like right up until curtain. Once curtain starts, depending who you are, turn off those cell phones. Tweeting before or after is a lot of fun. We answered a lot of tweets after, which I thought was amazing.
So now, what did your family members think about the show? Were any of them offended?
[Laughs] It’s funny. My dad gave me this speech, where he was like, “Don’t make any of us look bad!” [laughs] and the other speech was like, “and don’t suck!” ‘cause that’s my dad’s thing, he’s like, “Just be good.” I’m like, “oh, okay! I got it dad. I got it covered.” My mom does the universal, “I don’t sound like that, Candice! I’m really not like that.” And I find it funny, because when she comes to the show, she sits in the back, and she looks down, and she doesn’t really look at the stage, and she’s been doing that since I was three years old. She’d come to watch me perform, no matter what it was, and she sits in the back, she puts her eyes down, and she doesn’t look at the stage, and she whistles- like my mom has the loudest whistle- but she’s not really watching me because she’s so nervous! [laughs] It’s amazing that she still does this after all these years performing, her eyes are at the floor and she’s whistling to the floor because she’s so nervous.
Well it’s almost like a reflection of yourself, so I’m sure she’s like, “Oh no! I want them to like her,” cause it’s kind of a reflection of “me.”
Yeah! Totally, and honestly, they’ve gotten a kick out of it. The first thing my sister said was, “I forgot we went through that!” or she’d would be like, “I totally remember you performing in that horrible pageant when you were thirteen,” and I talk about certain aspects of my life that probably most girls relate to, and even guys- there are certain scenes that a guy would relate to, growing up. My sister was like, “It’s amazing because I remember that!” So they all kind of get a kick out of it.
That’s hilarious. So… you’ve gotten great reviews so far. Did you expect the show to be so well-liked?
No, and I think the reason I’m saying no, is because it’s about me. If someone else was trying to make their own show, they’re like, “It’s not that interesting.” I did it to basically- I was getting bored not using my own material, so I was like, “I’m just going to do my own stuff,” and I enjoy it. I think that’s maybe why it’s been so well received, is because I get a kick out of it, like I think the most stupidest things are funny. I think that’s a big reason why people have received it so well. I get excited when people say things like, “Oh my god, I could see it as a sitcom.” That’s something that has been approached to me, and I see it too now. I think suddenly the doors start opening and you go, “oh my god, I do see that,” but at first when you start, you’re like, “Absolutely not. Who would find this funny?” I’m also totally fine with making an idiot of myself, so I think I just bit the bullet and said, “Let’s just do it!”
That’s awesome. That kind of segued into my next question, that was any chance Italian Bred will be made into a TV series or a film?
It’s funny because I think that is what’s going to probably be the next evolution of this brand would be a film or a sitcom, because I’ve been approached and I think it’s something that has never been done in some way. I’ve also been approached for a possible Broadway show down the road, so I think it has a big future. I’m excited to see what it brings, I’m interested, and this again all started with me making fun of my family at six years old, so yeah. [laughs]
What are you doing to prepare for Opening Night? Do you have any little rituals that you do before you suit up and get on stage?
Yes. I try to find an outfit that makes me look very general. I play a guy, a woman, a 70 year-old grandmother, and many others. So I try to find a very general outfit, where I look cute, but “Hey, I’m a guy! I want you to forget it’s me for a minute.” My ritual is, there’s this one scene where I play all the characters being stuck in the car, because it’s the first time I’m learning how to drive, and my dad decides to bring the whole family in the car because he feels if he’s gonna die teaching me how to drive, then everyone should die. That’s literally how he did it. So, I have this scene where I play them all, something happens in the car and they all freak out. I play each character, and each character has one word or one line, so I have like a little freak out moment that each is playing to these people, and it’s like my schizophrenic moment in the show. I literally will do that scene about three or four times before the show starts, because it kind of gets me in the place of where I’m playing all these characters really, really, fast for a minute long. It’s definitely a little ritual of mine.
Right? It has to be kind of hard to keep everything straight, I mean, I don’t think I could do it.
Yeah, my mom always says to me, “I’m nervous you’re playing all these characters at one time, really fast.” and I was like, “Why?” and she’s like, “What if you have a stroke?” I was like, “Oh, okay, good Ma! Thanks!” [laughs]
[laughs] That’s such an Italian mother thing to say
Yes. She goes, “I’m nervous that the right side of your face is going to look funny cause you’re doing all these faces.” I’m like, “Oh good. That’s great. Thanks.” [laughs]
Other than impersonating your family members, what else do you do for fun?
Oh, goodness. I do a lot of things for fun! I absolutely love working out and I say that with a smirk on my face, because I’m so sarcastic. I don’t love working out, but I do teach core fusion at Exhale, it’s a really cool place, and I actually enjoy it- it’s like a Cardio Barre and I’ve been teaching it for quite some time. So I get out as well, and that keeps me in shape, and I’m not miserable doing it, so that’s a goal for me! [laughs] I also love to cook, I’m a big cooker. Any chance I can get, I will be in the kitchen cooking. Something else I really like to do is I like watching old 80s/90s movies. It’s so stupid to say, but like, oh my god, Steel Magnolias and My Best Friend’s Wedding is literally on my Netflix and I just put it on repeat- Oh! And Speed. I could watch Speed every day.
Three amazing movies. I mean, come on, you have to love those!
It’s pretty sad! And I’ll do it as I’m cleaning my apartment. I actually know each word- oh! And The Goonies!
Awwww The Goonies! That is the best.
And at this point if I watch anymore Friends reruns… They literally should’ve just cast me when I was younger on it. [laughs] I wouldn’t have fit the cast, I was too young. It doesn’t matter! I should’ve just been on the show because I know every line.
[laughs] Oh my gosh! So switching gears, now, you’re talking to a stranger- describe yourself with three words.
Holy God. Just three. Okay. Nice! I think I’m nice. I’m a really nice person- at least I try to be. My mom raised me to be nice. [laughs] Oh god. I saw this- Barbara Walters did this to people and I don’t know how they did it. Sometimes, I think I’m funny.
Definitely, that’s a given.
Okay, I’m nice. I’m funny. I’m very loyal which is probably, not the best quality being in this business.
No, right? [laughs] So, if you could guest star on any show, what would it be?
Holy! I have several things I need to do, like, I need to be on The Soup with Joel McHale, because he makes me pee my pants and I have the same humor so I love it. I need to cohost The View, just because I want to. I want to sit on the panel. I believe that I need to sit on that panel. [laughs] I also would love to be a guest star- I have some shows that I’m obsessed with. I absolutely love Modern Family, I think they’re awesome. I think Mike & Molly are really funny. I can’t get over Melissa McCarthy! She just makes me laugh.
Oh my god, she’s hilarious.
Yeah! There’s a lot. And anything Seth MacFarlane does, I kind of just want to get him coffee. So, if anyone can find out how I can get him coffee, that’d be great.
Right? That’s a message to anybody who has the hookup! If you were a beverage, what would you be and why? It can be like, an alcoholic beverage, it could be just a summertime drink beverage.
I would totally be- watch this! Ready? On the weekdays I would be ice water with lemon. On the weekends, I would be Midori sour.
Ooh! Look at you!
Ha! That would be me!
So now what would you say is the most embarrassing thing you talk about on your show?
Oh dear God. What’s embarrassing is I have many.
[laughs] Right- the whole show!
Actually… the one that I talk about and reenact. It’s kind of a surprise moment, but I’ll give it away. In the sense that, it is the time that I become a woman. All I’m going to say with that, is, basically how it happened to me. It does not happen to most girls this way. This is the only story that I would say, the only scene in the show, where I’m like, “Guys! This is true!” because everything is true in the show, but I’m always approaching it, going, “I can’t believe that this is true!” [laughs]
Oh boy. I think that alone will get the butts in the seats.
[laughs] I know. It’s pretty embarrassing.
But that’s good. It’s great that you can talk about things and see the humor in it, because if you can’t, then, you know, what would you be?
Oh my god, no you have to, I try to find humor in almost anything, which is pretty sad. I mean, even like really tragic things, I’m like, “Alright, there’s gotta be a silver lining, otherwise we’re all just gonna go crazy!” It’s just the best way to do it.
It is. Humor is the best medicine. So, are you working on any projects other than Italian Bred?
The show has definitely kept me crazy busy, but since I’m new to L.A., I would say, I’ve been approached already about some writing and I’ve had some really successful auditions, so it’s kind of, I can just say, a really cool time to see what’s next. I think that’s gonna be a good thing. I’m excited.
So now, the show is only going to be running for about a month in L.A. Is that correct?
Yeah, right now we’re running until the end of June. We’re trying to keep it a very limited run. Who knows what the future will bring. We’ve already gotten approached to bring it to New York, possibly in December. We’re kind of seeing what that brings, and now that I’m in L.A., I ‘d love to see what opportunities open up, once people get to see the show here.
Definitely, you want to keep ‘em wanting more! So to lure us to the theatre, can you tell us why we cannot miss out on seeing Italian Bred?
I can tell you that something that I strive to do is, when you see a show, or you watch something on TV, I always try to strive for something that you’re sitting and you’re completely laughing and crying from top to bottom and you’re enjoying it and relating to it, leaving that show feeling good about yourself and just having an overall good time. I can also tell you it is not your typical one-woman show. I don’t, very rarely, just stand there and talk. I’m becoming these people without putting on costumes and putting on hats and wigs, and I’m just me, but I become them physically and vocally, and I think it’s really cool to see a female go from looking like a female to becoming a man and I don’t care how square-chested I look, or how weird I look. I think it’s cool to see that transformation. So, as well as funny, and crying, and all that great stuff you want in a show, you also see and forget that it’s just a little girl up there, so to speak, becoming all these people and that’s what I strive to do.
And that is what is going to get all these people coming to your show and it’s going to be a huge hit! I can already tell. We are all looking forward to it.
Oh, you’re so sweet. As my mother would say, “From your mouth, to God’s ears!”
Get tickets to see Candice in Italian Bred at The Hudson Theatre in L.A., California. BUY TICKETS HERE