John Turturro on ‘The Night Of’, Almost Quitting Acting and Why He Doesn’t Chase Awards

Actor John Turturro

“Why do I have to pay a publicist? I’d rather save my money so I can go do an Off Broadway play.'” – John Turturro

In what seems like a first, John Turturro stars in the lead role in The Night Of, an HBO limited crime series. Though it isn’t Turturro’s first lead role, the fan-favorite actor doesn’t often get opportunities to star as the lead. In fact, he almost didn’t get the chance in this series either because it was originally developed with Turturro’s friend James Gandolfini in the lead before Gandolfini’s death. Speaking with the New York Times, Turturro talks about upping his “New York” accent for the role and why he isn’t as self-promoting as his fellow actors.

Turturro laid his natural New York accent on even thicker for the role, in part because he wanted him to have that working-class quality that would cause people to underestimate him. He explains, “Matter of fact, the way I talked was more of a guy from the ’70s. If you look at the old The Taking of Pelham One Two Three or look at how Jerry Stiller and Walter Matthau and all those guys talked, they have a New York sound that doesn’t really exist anymore. I knew guys like that from my dad’s generation. Salt of the earth. One of these guys who you’d underestimate.”

Despite being a well-respected character actor, Turturro admits that he nearly quit acting a decade ago. He explains, “You have a moment in your life where you go, is there anything else I want to do? I was telling my doctor about it and said, ‘I’d like to be a doctor.’ He said: ‘John, do you know how long you have to go to school to be a doctor? You do good stuff. What you do counts.”

“What you do counts” for Turturro in other ways too. Aside for a Golden Globe nomination for Quiz Show and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for  Monk, Turturro has not been recognized by many top-tier acting awards. Turturro points out that that he made a personal choice not to chase publicity, saying, “My agents would yell at me and say, ‘You got to have a publicist. I’d say: ‘There’s a publicist for the movie. Why do I have to pay a publicist? I’d rather save my money so I can go do an Off Broadway play.'”

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