Dave Vescio: military, ex-con and actor
Behind actors there are histories that we all could never imagine. One of them is Dave Vescio. He was raised into a military family and became a soldier when he was 18. After that, due to drugs and alcohol he made some bad choices and was sent to a hard labor maximum federal prison.
But he could move on, and after spending two and a half years in prison and two and a half years on federal parole, he decided to start his career as an actor.
Dave can play the most terrified villains because he has lived with them and knows everything about their lives. But he also wants to teach the right morals to the audience and make them know that bad people always receive what they deserve.
In an intense and interesting conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Dave spoke about his past, his career’s beginning and his villains’ roles.
Which is your story before acting?
Wow, that’s a lot of stuff. First off, I was born into a military family. My father was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, and ever since I can remember I wanted to be G.I. Joe. So, I used my childhood to get ready for that; hunting, camping, hiking, wilderness survival, first aid, and etc. etc. And at the age of 18, I finally became G.I. Joe when I joined the United States Army and served in the 25th Infantry Division as a combat light infantry soldier (specializing in jungle warfare). And a few years later, I really got into drugs and alcohol real bad, and that drug abuse led me to dealing drugs as a middle man in a drug cartel, and I almost got caught by an undercover agent, and then, I was on the run for year and a half before I finally did get caught in the state of Virginia at the age of 23. I then got sentenced to ten years at Fort Leavenworth Prison, which is a hard labor maximum federal prison for the Department of Defense members; and did five years in total: two and a half years in prison, and two and a half years on federal parole. And after that, I worked for CBS News as a TV photojournalist (specializing in natural disasters and man-made disasters). And in 2002 I started my career as an actor by studying at David Mamet’s acting conservatory in NYC, and I have been acting ever since.
Why do you think that prison was good for your acting career?
It actually taught me what criminals are really like; from rapists to child molesters to arsonists to hackers to killers to armed robbers to you name it. I just saw it all at Fort Leavenworth. Plus, the Army taught me physical warfare, but, prison taught me psychological warfare. So, I’m able to bring a truth to my acting that most actors can never imagine. I just have a real life authenticity; because I actually experienced it for real (meaning, being a criminal/prisoner), or I had lived with it instead, meaning all the other prisoners that I saw or got to know and listening to how or why they did what they did.
Why did you want to become an actor?
Ever since I started to do LSD in the Army, I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. LSD just opened up my mind to what art actually is; because before that time period, I just hated art, and never really understood it. But, and I do say but, I would NEVER recommend this action of doing drugs to any artist alive; because I haven’t done LSD since that time period. And over the years I just tried out different art forms, and I finally landed on doing TV photojournalism for CBS News covering man-made and natural disasters, and while doing that, I realized that I wanted to be a an actor instead of a TV photojournalist. I just wanted to feel life, and feel what the characters in my news stories were all feeling, versus just watching them with my camera instead. I just wanted to go through what they all went through: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the only job like that on the planet was acting. So, I became an actor.
Do you think that people judge your past or do they think that is a good tool you have to perform your characters? Why?
Yes, some people definitely do judge me for my past, but, at the same time, some people don’t even care. And even some people find it to be very cool, which bewilders me to be honest. But, I speak about it, because it’s the truth, and I am the only ex-con method actor in the world, so, it feels good to be one of a kind on this planet of ours. So, I share my truths with the world through my art or through these interviews, and whoever wants to see it or listen to it, then that’s totally fine with me. I’m not here to get everyone to love me. I’m here to evoke emotions; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When you play some villain in a movie, do you get inspire in your real life?
No, not at all. My goal is to just bring honesty to the role and that’s it. That way, it will really impact the audience in the end. I just enjoy getting underneath the skin of the audience and tweaking with it. Because that’s what a real life villain will do to you in real life. But, at the same time, I do want the right morals to be taught as well, so, my movie villains always do lose in the end (either death or prison or badly beaten).
Does your military education have any influence on your acting career? In which way?
Yeah, definitely! That’s where my own morality code comes from. I’m not a real life villain anymore, because it’s a dangerous game to play. Meaning, people tend to get hurt for real, and you either die or get put into prison again and again. So, my military education definitely does keep everything in check for me. I’m here to help the world become a better place, just like I did when I first joined the military; and not make it a worse place like I did in my early twenties. So, I use my military education to help tell these moralistic stories. Plus, my military education comes in handy when it comes to using weapons on set, or knives, or doing my own stunt work, or hunting humans in any of my crime scenes.
Which character do you enjoy the most? Why?
Actually don’t have a favorite character at all. I just enjoy playing different characters each and every year, and learning from all of that. Learning what works (continue to do that), and learning what doesn’t work (stop doing that), and learning how to make it all work the next time around with the next character or the next scene. I just love acting, and performing for the world’s audience, and making it more and more honest & real in each and every new project. And my end goal is to make it so real that you don’t know who Dave Vescio or who his character is. It’s the same exact thing. And then, I can say that I did my job as an actor. That’s the goal!
Would you ever consider be other character than a villain?
Yeah, definitely, I always play offbeat types in TV commercials each and every year, and once in a while I’ll play a detective role, which is pretty interesting as well. But, that’s about it. And maybe in the near future, I’ll start to play around with the anti-hero role as well. That would be different. But, I don’t think I would ever want to play a romantic role or anything like that. And I really don’t want to do comedy, besides commercials or dark comedy films. I rather just impact the audience with my drama roles, or just make you laugh in my TV commercials instead. That’s enough for me.
What do you expect the audience to feel about your characters?
That’s a good question. Hopefully, for the villain roles, fear for sure, and then wishing them dead or hurt in the end. Just like they would react if they found out that their own next door neighbor was a serial killer or a child rapist. I’m not a big fan to just entertain you. I want to bring the real life humanity of these criminal types on the big screen or on the little screen. And the truth will do the job. It will either frighten you, and/or it will get you to wish that my character would cease to exist or go away for good. But, if it’s a TV commercial, then laughter for sure!
With your past situation, did you ever think achieving this moment in your life?
No, never. But, I always knew while I was in prison that there were famous people who did serve in prison as well. Such as Tim Allen, Charles S. Dutton, Danny Trejo, and I also heard that Rob Lowe got into trouble with the law as well. So, I guess I always knew that there can always be life after prison. And I never really allowed my prison record to get in the way. Shoot, I worked for CBS News, and now, I’m a movie / TV commercial actor. And now I use my past to teach the world the truth of these worlds, and I have over 100,000 followers on my main Twitter page @DaveVescio. So, no, I never imagined that this would ever happen. I’m definitely shocked.
Which are your projects for this year?
I actually have six movies coming out this year. ‘The Trials of Cate McCall’ with Kate Beckinsale & Nick Nolte; ‘The Odd Way Home’ with Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce Willis & Demi Moore); ‘Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire’ with Eric Roberts, Brian Bosworth, and Sting the wrestler; ‘Gemini Rising’ with Lance Henriksen, John Savage, & Brian Krause; ‘Lost Soul’ with Nick Mancuso’; and ‘The Price of Success’. And my movie ‘The Custom Mary’ with the late Bill McKinney and Janina Gavankar just came out on DVD and VOD on New Year’s Day. So, a lot of stuff this year!