Brett Donahue Talks About His Role on Bad Blood

While visiting the set of Bad Blood last winter in Sudbury, Ontario, Brett Donahue sat down with me to talk about playing Rizzuto family heir, Nico Jr. We discussed his role, and how a story like this hadn’t been told on TV until this series. Read highlights from our conversation below, and then watch Bad Blood tonight on City.

Donahue didn’t know much about the real life Rizzutos prior to joining this project, but had a neat tale to share. “The interesting thing with the Rizzutos is that I was going to school in Montreal when Nico Sr. was assassinated in his house,” Donahue explained. “I didn’t know much about the Rizzutos or the history of their family, but just hearing about that and the way it happened in his house — apparently that’s a big faux pas. You don’t [execute someone] at their home or in front of their family. That was my first introduction to the real life aspect of this story. When I received the scripts and was reading through them, it took me a moment to remember that this isn’t just fiction. This is based on real things. [Vito] was a real guy, a real mogul if you want to call him that.”

Nico Jr is ambitious, and that was quickly established in the first episode in addition to his rivalry with his father’s right hand, Declan (Kim Coates). “[Nico] is coming into his own. He has a wife and a family and is a provider, but he’s itching for the opportunity to get into the business of his grandfather and his father.” He continued, “What you first see is [Nico] with his father and grandfather on the front porch on the night of Nico Jr’s birthday. It’s a beautiful image of three generations. It could be any family, except for the $2300 birthday cake. It’s simple and not nefarious, but it grows from there.”

Although Nico Jr. wants to be a part of the business, it’s the last thing his father wants. “In this story, Vito doesn’t want Nico involved at all,” said Donahue. “It’s a classic immigrant story where the parents come over and work like dogs so their kids can have a better life. The parents do the menial jobs to support the family in the hopes that there are better opportunities for generations to come.” Donahue elaborated on Vito’s hopes for his son in this series. “Vito built all this with the danger, the death, the blood and the drugs so Nico wouldn’t have to have his hands in that. [Vito wants] Nico to have a clean life and be a free man. When you’re in Vito’s position, you’re always looking over your shoulder. You never know what’s coming. Someone is always coming for the top. It’s out of a place of love that Vito doesn’t want his son and his son’s family involved.”

While Vito may not be a “good guy,” Donahue believes that viewers will be empathetic toward him. “Vito is the sympathetic centre of [Bad Blood]. Although he’s a person who built his empire on blood and drugs, the series shows him as a family man, a caring man, and a good business man who eventually has bad things happening to him. As people are watching, they can’t help but feel for Vito.”

When you think of epic stories about organized crime, Montreal doesn’t instantly come to mind. Donahue thinks that Bad Blood will change that perception. “Montreal was the biggest port for drugs and illegal activity coming into North America. Along with Chicago and New York, Montreal was right up there, and in fact exceeded the other two. It’s so storied in our minds the families of Al Capone in Chicago and the Five Families of New York. The Rizzutos were really the sixth family, and people wanted to take that power.”

From the moment this script came to his attention, Donahue knew he had to play Nico Jr. “I had just started working with this company in LA that also represents Anthony LaPaglia. They knew he was potentially doing this project and sent it to me knowing that [casting] was looking for some Canadians. I was in Montreal at the time they sent me the script, and I’d never seen a story like this told about the streets of Canada. From there, reading into who Nico Jr. is and where I’d get to go with him, I was dying to do it. It had a real substance.”

Photo Courtesy of City

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