“That Guy!” Praising the talented Domenick Lombardozzi

Every actor has a signature element: something the viewer will notice or remember no matter the size of the role in the movie or TV show. For longtime actor Domenick Lombardozzi, it’s an unmistakable voice. One that when you hear it anywhere, “AHA! That guy” rings into the head of the watcher. It’s a voice I have come to know and love over the past 20+ years. Let’s take it back a couple decades.

Back in 1999, a movie called “For Love of The Game” was released with Kevin Costner and the late Kelly Preston in the starring slots. Early on in the movie, there’s a scene where Preston’s character is stranded on the highway and Costner’s baseball player stops to help. Before too long, a tow truck guy shows up to help. The sequence turns humorous when Costner asks Preston to go to the game he’s pitching for the Tigers that day at Yankee Stadium.

When she comes up hesitant about accepting the ticket, the tow truck guy offers to take the seat himself, and it gets a laugh every time. The actor who portrayed him was Lombardozzi.

23 years later, more people remember this scene more than the entire movie. If you search Lombardozzi’s name on The Internet Movie Database, this bit role is listed among the roles he is most known for. If you ever needed to understand the “make it or break it” rush of a very small role, Lombardozzi would be a good person to ask.

“For Love of The Game” was his sixth movie role, and showed early on how he could take a little part and make a dent with the audience–one that holds up decades later, even with different generations and age gaps. Along with that movie, Lombardozzi is remembered for being the troublesome Dom who rocks the livelihood of his pals in HBO’s “Entourage.” It was only three years after the tow truck role that he collected his most well-known role to date: “Herc” on the esteemed HBO series, “The Wire.” Sandwiched around roles in “Carlito’s Way” and “The Yards” and “Find Me Guilty,” the role of an undercover cop garnered Lombardozzi critical praise and got more eyes on his work.

However, it’s his recent run of work that both reveals his gift for stealing attention spans with only a fragment of screen time and larger roles coming his way. Last night, Lombardozzi went toe-to-toe with Sylvester Stallone in a heated scene early on in the Paramount Plus series, “Tulsa King.” Playing Chicky, the son and new crime boss of a mafia family in New York, he has to tell Sly’s paroled gangster to raise hell and finances in rural Tulsa. Holding his own with award-winners has become second nature to the 46-year-old New York native, and this scene was no different.

Rocking a hairpiece on his usually shaved dome, Lombardozzi puts on fine display the ferocity he’s shown in various roles. It’s the kind of performance that showrunners and directors can count on in any shape or sized role. Martin Scorsese perhaps got the best work out of him to date in his Oscar-nominated film, “The Irishman.” Fat Tony Salerno showed the world what Lombardozzi could do with a fleshed-out role. The kind of meaty role that gave him not one but several scenes with Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa.

Salerno and Hoffa were like water and oil back in the day, something that Scorsese branches the third act of his packed mob tale on. If there was a single soul who put in motion the demise of Hoffa, it was Salerno, who simply didn’t want to take any of Jimmy’s bullshit. Buried under a good layer of prosthetics, Lombardozzi gave the performance of a lifetime, portraying Tony’s disgust and anger without going over the top. You could feel it. It was easy to understand, and you wanted more of it.

Lombardozzi put off the same effect in HBO’s “We Own This City,” another Baltimore like story with “The Wire” vibes slicing through the plot. Developed from the same minds who created that heralded show, this series gave the actor another juicy scene to make a dent. Playing a representative of the Baltimore Police Department, his suit squares off with a Civil Rights attorney (Wunmi Mosaku) in a tense discussion about police abuse of residents and suspects. What starts as one-sided becomes a dual-sided argument about the future of an embattled city. Lombardozzi, rocking a goatee and authoritative presence, carves out a personality and intent inside a single scene.

It’s something he’s done in “The King of Staten Island,” “Mrs. Fletcher,” “The Deuce,” and at least twenty other HBO shows. I kid on the last part, but when I said the cable giant should erect a statue of the late Michael Kenneth Williams for all his work on their programs, they should also think of the same treatment for Lombardozzi.  A bigger role as a basketball coach in last year’s “Boogie” stuck out as one of the stronger aspects of the film.

It all starts and ends with the voice, one that can be spotted anywhere–especially on social media. Unlike most actors who are on the platforms, Lombardozzi constantly engages his audience and takes them into his life, enhancing his “just like one of us” workmanlike personas he often portrays in roles. He spent the pandemic building a treehouse for his family, and constantly employs an all-day tomato sauce making process. On Instagram, he has marketed “Tulsa King” as much as anyone in the Paramount Plus department. All the while, he gets a Tuesday boxing session in.

Lombardozzi takes zero roles or days off, hosting a lively podcast called “Dom’s Den” that includes fellow entertainers as guests. The product of a hard-working family and environment, he’s someone to follow in real life and in the make believe world.

One last thing before I leave this spotlight post. Along with “The Irishman” and “The Wire,” a big moment in Lombardozzi’s career came with a pivotal role on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.” He played a cop in upstate New York who helps the show’s lead, Liev Schreiber’s Ray, come back from a near-death experience. Instead of a few scenes or lines, he was a part of that season throughout, all the way to a tragic yet soulful end. Prying juice out of a supporting dirty cop role could be described as easy to some people.

For me, it was another sign of talent sticking out in any shape or form. Thanks for doing what you do, Domenick. I’ve been watching and won’t stop any time soon.

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