TOMMASO BASILI – From Empire to Paradise

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(by Stefania Del Monte)

The name of Tommaso Basili occurs more and more often in the television and cinema panorama, both Italian and international.

The actor was born in Tempio Pausania, Sardinia, in 1980. His father, originally from the Marche, grew up in the United States and his mother was born and raised in the Franco-Portuguese colony of Madagascar. He spent his childhood between Milan and Lake Como, before continuing his higher studies in Switzerland, the United States and Spain, where he graduated.

His approach to acting came late, first training for three years in Milan, at the Michael Rodgers Acting Studio, and then in New York, at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.

His first professional experiences saw him engaged in several commercials directed by excellent directors such as Gabriele Salvatores, Stefano Sollima, Silvio Muccino, Luca Lucini, Fausto Brizzi, Francesco Fei, Sidney Sibilia and Tom Hooper.

His first official role came with 1993, a Sky Atlantic fiction. After that he took part in the film Il Vegetale and in the Rai1 fiction La Strada di Casa 2.

Subsequently he got more and more relevant roles, as in the Canale 5 fiction L’Isola di Pietro, with Gianni Morandi. In January he arrived on Netflix, in the American series Rise of Empires: Ottoman, where he played the role of Constantine Palaeologus XI, the last emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire.

He is currently in the cast of Il Paradiso delle Signore 4, an acclaimed television series broadcast on Rai 1, with the role of Ennio Palazzi, a young entrepreneur from northern Italy, as well as in the fiction Don Matteo 12, where he plays an architect with a very complicated life. We will also see him soon in Medical Report, a new project coming out in March on Rai 1, alongside Luca Argentero and Matilde Gioli.

 

Tommaso, the first part of your life and your studies took place in a multicultural context. Only after graduating in Spain did you approach acting. How did this decision come about?

It was a decision that I tiptoed, almost apologizing to myself. For some reason it was difficult for me to admit that I wanted to take this path. But even before that, there was a lot of confusion about what I really wanted to do in life, and some shy and awkward approaches towards the art of acting. Then there were several clues along the way that gave me the determination to follow my instincts. It is an eternal discovery, a continuous attempt to improve without having future certainties.

What attracted you to this world?

There are many things that have always attracted me to this world. Audiovisual in general has fascinated me since I was a child. The combination of images and music is something with immense power: from cinema to advertising itself. In fact, as a graduation thesis (I don’t know how successful I was, but the attempt was sincere) I focused on the use of music in television advertising in the 1980s. And then cinema, story-telling and the unique ability that cinema has to make the ordinary extraordinary, poetizing every aspect of life. Cinema gives me the same amazement in observing the reality of when I was a child.

Once you embarked on this path you had to start over with your training, which took place between Milan and New York. Was it tiring?

Yes, it was. But mostly because I am my worst enemy, so through the study of acting I had to deal first with myself and then, possibly, with lyrics and characters. In Milan I had an extraordinary teacher: Michael Rodgers (leader in training for actors, ed.). It was first a school of life and then acting. New York, instead, gave me that typical dynamism of Americans, capable of being extremely serious and meticulous through the atmosphere of the game.

On a professional level, you got off to a very good start, with high-level commercials. How did the transition to television and cinema come about?

Advertising gave me a way to understand how a set worked, what it meant to be in front of a camera and observe great professionals at work. In the meantime, I was studying and it was a nice way to go from classroom to work. The transition from advertising to television occurred when Paolo, my agent, decided to believe in me and to help me have my first chance. It is so important that someone believes in you, especially in the beginning, when you are even more fragile. I am eternally grateful to everyone who has given me a chance, and the list is long.

After a series of participations in Italian-based fiction, Costantino’s role in the Netflix series Rise of Empires: Ottoman arrived. An international production, in which you are the only Italian in the cast. How did you prepare for this role and what kind of difficulties did you encounter, during the shooting, compared to your previous experiences?

I have to be honest: I had just over two weeks to prepare for the role of Constantine XI. I was in total panic! For a complex character, really existed but of which there are few historical sources available, and for a story so full of events, I tried to make life as simple as possible and I focused on some basic aspects of the character, first of all the voice. I had to decide his timbre, and his walk: it certainly must not have been that of a modern-day boy. And I was also afraid of ending up representing the archetype of the Emperor and therefore something stereotyped and, consequently, fake. The truth, I hope, I found it in the middle. The difficulties on the set, I must say, have been very few. I felt very comfortable with everyone. A lot of work, but with great enthusiasm, and sometimes many but many laughs: to such an extent that it has often been unnerving to try and get serious again.

Is this the first time you play a historical figure?

Yes, and I couldn’t have wanted more.

Is there much difference in the Italian way of working, compared to an international context?

I didn’t find any particular differences. In Italy, lunch breaks are longer!

At the moment you are also engaged in Il Paradiso delle Signore 4, where you play the role of Ennio. Can you tell us more about this character?

Ennio Palazzi is a determined, romantic man, a dreamer, but also a pragmatic entrepreneur. I really like this duality, especially if immersed in that world, that of Italy in the 50s/60s where being polite was compulsory. I think Il Paradiso delle Signore does a masterful job in representing this aspect of the society of that time, and much more. I am delighted to be part of it. Besides, there is a fantastic working atmosphere and I believe that the results of the series prove it!

Are there other projects in the pipeline?

I have a project in the pipeline but for superstition I prefer not to talk about it.

Do you have a secret dream?

Continue to grow by working.

On the cover: Tommaso Basili
images courtesy of the interviewee

Click here for the interview in Italian

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