A Slice of Derby Life

A periodic Derby vignette

The Making of a Soap Opera Star

                                                     Markanthony Izzo

Derby is not generally known as a hotbed for thespians, but at least one former resident has gone on to win a Tony Award, and some day in the future we hope that Markanthony Izzo is added to the list. Izzo, a graduate of Derby High School and a former member of the Board of Aldermen, is busy pursuing his dream of becoming a professional actor and has taken some big steps recently culminating with a speaking role on the CBS soap opera the Guiding Light - but more on that later.

Markanthony displayed his artistic talents while a student at the Derby Middle School and the Derby High School from which he graduated in 1976. He participated in the Drama Club and many of their productions. He was in the pageant that commemorated Derby's 300th anniversary. During his senior year, he represented the City of Derby as King of the Barnum Festival. He also caught the photography bug while at the high school from the late Gene Biondi that  also developed into a lifetime passion. Over the years, he and his camera have been spotted covering one of the Pope's visits, the Yale/Harvard football game and the Miss America Pageant. Many of his pictures have also been featured on Derby web site.

He worked at Norden Systems in Norwalk for 11 years and developed his photographic skills and his interest in community service. He celebrated the 100th anniversary of Derby's incorporation as a city by being elected to the Board of Aldermen and he chaired its Recreation Committee. He also served as Derby's representative to the area tourism districts and was appointed to the Road Bond Commission.

Mark also became involved with grass roots organizations like P.R.I.D.E. (People Really Interested in Derby’s Excellence), and the Olde Birmingham Business Association (OBBA) and its’ off shoots, Save Our Sterling (SOS) and The Derby Garden Society.

In 1997, Markanthony was laid off from Norden Systems in Norwalk after 11 years.  At that point he realized that no job is secure and decided to try something he always wanted to do - pursue an acting career. Izzo asked another local actor Pat DeNegris if he wouldn’t mind pointing him in the right direction and he did. Izzo had taken some local acting classes as well as classes at Stage One Theater at Sonalyst Studios in Waterford and currently there are classes being offered free of charge at the Ansonia Public Library.

Markanthony has worked on many films and some TV shows as an “extra”. He also has had some principle parts in student and independent films but unless you are into the world of film festivals, you likely would not see them. Izzo has had some of these projects shown on Tele-Media's public access station.

One film in which you can see and hear him is Woody Allen’s film, “Celebrity”.  He was asked by Allen to say a line but was waved off by an assistant. However, if you watch the film you will hear the line was added in post-production. Izzo worked two very cold days last year on the War of the Worlds set in Naugatuck. 

Always loyal to his Derby roots, Izzo has also encouraged some of the independent filmmakers to shoot some of their scenes in the Valley.  In one movie, antique car dealer the late Paul Lane, loaned several antique cars to give an added 1940’s flavor to a scene shot on Main Street Derby.

Markanthony also combines his love of history with acting by playing Lieutenant John Bassett in the Derby Historical Society's "A Day in 1762" program fifth grade students. He has also worked on a variety of TV commercials.

Now back to the Guiding Light. This past year Izzo career pursuit took an interesting and exciting turn. In September, 2004 his sister Jenniegrace Finch who lives in Wyoming with her husband Ed and their son Mark, wrote a letter to CBS’ Early Show in response to a segment called “Week of Wishes”.  Finch’s wish for her brother was to have a speaking role on a TV Show and the wish was granted!

Izzo was "conned" into going to the CBS studios in New York under the ruse of being a spokesperson for the "A Day in 1762" program. CBS Producer Joe Long contacted Derby Historical Society Executive Director Robert Novak and explained the plan.  Izzo who dresses in Colonial garb during his tours was told he would be the spokesperson for the group on a segment on “period actors” since he had “on camera experience”.  After the segment was shot on location at the Humphreys House in Ansonia, Long suggested that Izzo come to New York when it was to be aired. 

On May 18th  “a car” was sent for Izzo and he was put up in a hotel not knowing at the same time, his sister’s family was being flown in from Wyoming.  The following morning CBS insisted he take the car provided to the studio - they didn't want to take a chance that he would run into his sister who was walking to the studio a block away. 

The segment began with a quick talk with Hannah Storm and then the BIG SURPRISE.  His sister was led into the studio where her wish for him was read on National TV.  Not only was Izzo getting  a small part on the soap opera, Guiding Light, but he was also given the opportunity to advance his acting skills by taking classes at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting.  Izzo completed his class over the summer and recently shot the scenes on the Guiding Light. You can view the segment on-line at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/05/19/earlyshow/series/week_of_wishes/main696425.shtml.

Markanthony appears in two episodes of Guiding Light. The first one was shown on December 7th and the second will be seen on the 12th  on CBS at 3pm. Izzo’s character’s name is Mr. Pine and he sells Christmas trees. You can catch him on the CBS web site by clicking here.

Izzo said he was extremely grateful to his sister for helping to push his career forward because as he says, “ It’s a, 'you never know' kind of business, you never know who’s watching and thinking they may be able to use you in their project." As for what’s next, Izzo plans to keep marketing himself until he can get an agent, because as with any job, you have to let people know you want work.  Izzo is very grateful to his employers who let him pursue his career. He said, "It’s not easy for someone to hire a person knowing they may get that call that will take them away. That’s probably why you hear people thank so many during awards shows because in the entertainment business although yes, you need talent to succeed, in most cases  there are so many people that help you along.”

Well, here's wishing that Markanthony Izzo ends up as derby's next Tony Award winning actor!


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