Born and raised in Suffolk, Virgnia, actor Aaron Dalla Villa has appeared in a variety of projects across feature-length Films, Television series, Video Games and a Documentary. Aside from his acting work, Aaron has also been credited as a writer on two short films.
In 2018, Aaron had a leading role as ‘Max’, a college fraternity leader, in the film Pledge, written by Zack Weiner and directed by Daniel Robbins. Furthermore, the project is now available to stream on Hulu. Additionally, Aaron had a 10-episode role on the series Duels, playing ‘Malcolm’.
Without further ado, read on for Aaron’s Exclusive Interview with Courageous Nerd.
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Aaron Dalla Villa (ADV): Thanks for having me, man. I’m happy to be here.
How did you start your journey in acting – was it a childhood hobby?
ADV: I’ve always been a natural actor, my grandmother used to call me Jim Carrey. It used to annoy me but I’ve kind of embraced it. I’ve always been interested in the arts. It started in music, then I fell into dance and then I fell into acting. I’m excited to branch out my skills and to learn different skillsets as well.
You were born and raised in Suffolk, Virginia and later moved to New York City. Was that to pursue an acting career or for other reasons?
ADV: When I moved from Chicago to New York, it was because a manager found me online. Literally, on my website, scouted me. Those stories you hear of that happening, they rarely happen. He found me and said: “Do you have any pursuit of acting in New York? Any interest in doing that?” I said: “Oh my gosh, absolutely.” I dropped everything I was doing in Chicago and I moved two suitcases to New York, to make it happen. I was in a house with like 10 other guys and him.
How have your learning experiences in early acting jobs shaped who you are, as a professional, today?
ADV: It’s everything. You can try to learn as much as you can in school but it’s nothing like being on a professional set. You really learn the most when you’re on a professional set, working with professionals. From how you behave yourself on set, to how you interact with other people.
One of your recent projects is the film Immortal. What can you tell us about that movie and the character you played?
ADV: I play the class clown. If I’m not playing the villain, a lot of the time I have unique comedy chops so I’ll play the comedic relief. So, I play the comedic relief of that scene in particular. Through my witty banter and dialogue with Dylan Baker’s character, it kind of helps tell the overall philosophy of the film, of what the film is about – immortality.
In the 2018 horror film Pledge, you played Max. How did you become involved with this project?
ADV: I found that project on Casting Networks. No Agent, no manager submission, it was me who submitted for the project. I walk into the room and it’s these two guys in this apartment. We do the scenes that they wanted me to prepare and then we do an improvisation. I let loose – I’m taking water and pouring it on Zachary Weiner’s face. We actually have the footage of my audition which we’re going to show to an audience later on, in this other project we’re working on.
I was told when I walked out of the room, they didn’t see any other people auditioning for my part. They said: “He’s the guy for that role.” I was the first person cast in that movie.
As a character, Max goes to dark places in the film. How was the process of preparing to play that personality type?
ADV: Music. I listen to very dark music to get into that mentality. Heavy metal and stuff, just get into that rage mode. I channeled this specific person, not going to say who, from my life where I said: “I’m going to model it after this person.” That just kind of came up. Being a little method acting in that too, to a certain extent to where it doesn’t help anybody really helped me live and breathe that rage that was going on inside of him.
How different is acting alongside the screenwriter (Zack Weiner) of Pledge compared to other jobs when that isn’t the case?
ADV: To me, it doesn’t matter if I’m acting with the director or if I’m acting with the writer. Obviously, I try to respect the writer’s words but what I’ve found in a lot of films, especially indie films, they’re very cool with improvisation. I’m very comfortable with improvisation.
You wouldn’t dare when doing a stage play to try to improvise Pinter’s words. You get into an indie film scenario and I have found that all the directors I’ve worked with are very cool with me improvising. The most recent one I did, All Those Small Things with James Faulkner, who’s this English actor. The director was basically like: “I want you to be a wildcard and improvise, try and see if you can throw him off.”
Literally, the director will say, we’re working the scene and it’s me telling James: “Hey, this is my place. You’re okay to stay here. If I can get you anything, let me know.” But then he says: “I want you to improvise down this whole long hallway and the first line at this mark. So, play.” I’m very comfortable with playing so when I’m working alongside the writer-director specifically, try to honour their words and we make that agreement beforehand. Pledge, they were very cool with improv. Zack was totally cool with taking his script and playing with it. That’s where I let all that go away and I just do moment to moment. Whatever’s happening in the scene, I just live and breathe it, best I can.
In 2019, you starred opposite Jamie Kennedy, in Trick. In your opinion, did Scream (Kennedy played Randy) and similar films influence Trick?
ADV: Oh, 100%. Patrick Lussier is the director of Trick and he [edited the films and directed the Scream TV series], that’s how he has this relationship with Jamie Kennedy and Omar Epps. It was a pleasure working on that film and it was sort of a similar… much less calculated than Max. Much more: “Let’s go along with the fun of things.”
I imagine him like a Mid-West, bread and butter Frat Guy. Whereas Maxwell Peterson III was skull and bones, this one was University of Kansas, or something like that. Or even a community college. I don’t even know if there is a University of Kansas, but that’s my point.
You appeared in the film Alpha Rift opposite Lance Henriksen. How was the experience of working on that project?
ADV: One of my favourite projects working on so far. I’ve been really fortunate, really blessed, to work on some amazing projects. That one, being able to work opposite Lance, who’s a sci-fi genre legend, you know? He just had a film with Viggo Mortensen go to Sundance, where he’s acting opposite Viggo Mortensen. I’m very excited for the success of that film and what he may achieve because of that.
To work opposite this guy who’s got this huge career yet he’s so humble and so funny. So, imagine me the night before. We’re staying at the same Bed & Breakfast and it’s me and him. Literally going over the script. I’m just pinching myself like: “Wow, this is really cool.” A lot of the times, you don’t get that sort of attention. You’re in a hotel room, you barely have talks with them. Literally, it was me and him chilling in this Bed & Breakfast. Talking about the script and then having breakfast with each other in the morning.
Additionally, you have worked on television (‘Gotham’), theatre (‘Orphans’) and in short films (‘The Fold’). Do you have a preference between these different forms of acting?
ADV: I love Film. Film is by far my favourite thing. Or television. The time I did a project called Duels where I was the lead of the show. That was a short, scripted television series. I loved that, I really got to develop an arc with the character. Any project where I get to develop an arc with the character, a larger role, I love it. I think that’s so much fun.
Recently, you have dropped two singles on Spotify. With so much acting work under your belt, is music something you’d like to pursue more?
ADV: Music came as a result of… I dropped my third [single] on Friday… music came as a result of COVID and only getting voiceover auditions. On camera was slow for a minute, it’s back now. I actually booked something for Netflix that I’m shooting next month. That’s a new show that’s going to be on Netflix.
I wanted to put out it there. I had these raps in my computer for so long and I just wanted to finally put it out there. The beautiful thing that’s happening is I’m finding a way to marry both the music and the acting together. I’m getting people to ask me questions, like you for example, about both the acting and music, tying them together. Getting people who’s seen my acting to listen to my music, listened to my music to see my acting.
And for projects I have coming out, the one with James Faulkner, I wrote lyrics for two songs in the film, as of right now. I have rights to those two songs as well so I’ll be able to share that with the world when the time is right. This other project, they’re asking me to write a song for and put it into the film. That’s what I was working on before I linked up with you today.
If you could share a message or sentiment to fans of your work during these times, what would it be?
ADV: First off, I just want to say thank you. For the support, the encouragement. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. It’s hard for me to keep going and continue the fight. It means so much to me, for people to support me. I hope to inspire and motivate people by my grind, my hustle and my grit to pursue their own dreams. No matter what the circumstances around us, which, a lot of it, we cannot control. I can only control what I can control and what I can control is the content I put out there. So, I’m hoping it’s well received and it’s inspiring people to go out there and create their own stuff.
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