From Bensonhurst to the big screen.
Forty-three-year-old Dyker Heights resident Al Linea has always been fascinated by the world of acting. Although he started to hone his skills later on in his life, the Bensonhurst native has already landed roles in several hit television shows and films — most recently, he was selected to perform alongside Academy Award-winning actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro as well as legendary director Martin Scorsese in the upcoming drama “The Irishman.”
“Acting was something I always wanted to do, but I didn’t get started until I was about 25 years old,” Linea said. “That’s basically when I really started going to lessons and took it really seriously because that’s what my passion was.”
Although he says he hasn’t had a big break just yet, one of his first roles came in “We Own The Night,” a crime drama starring Joaquin Phoenix and Eva Mendes in 2007 in which he played a cop.
Most would come to know him in the hit HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” a show that took place in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era. Linea played the character Matteo D’Allessio in several episodes during the series’ run in 2010.
“‘Boardwalk Empire’ was huge,” he said. “It was one of the best shows on television. It was historic and nostalgic and working with Steve Buscemi and that group of people was phenomenal.”
Following his stint on “Boardwalk Empire,” Linea, a father of two, performed in the film “Night and Day,” the television film “Over/Under” in 2013, “The Immigrant,” which also starred Phoenix and in which he also played a cop, and several others.
“Anything I could get for me is great work,” he said. “I love everything I do.”
He’s currently working on a fantasy show “Happy!” starring Chris Meloni that will premiere in January of next year on Syfy.
“I got cast for this show, which was really cool,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to get much from it, but I’m in a few episodes and working with Chris Meloni and Ritchie Coster was great. I’m blessed to be on it. It’s a terrific show.”
Linea’s biggest role to date is the one he has just been cast to play in “The Irishman,” which will premiere on Netflix. Although he can’t give many details about his involvement yet as production has just started, he’s playing a significant historical character role. Linea was thrilled when he got the news.
“When I got the call, I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “I actually called my manager twice and asked him, ‘Are you sure I got this?’ I worked so hard on that audition. I put everything I had into it. It’s a dream come true.”
Although he doesn’t know how much screen time he’ll receive, Linea considers working with his idols an honor.
“I’m a kid from Brooklyn who wanted to make movies with either Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino or Pesci, and to be in a movie with all of them is just amazing,” he said. “I don’t know how big my role is. I’m just there to do my job and give them the best performance I can. Even if it’s two scenes, I just want the opportunity to work with them. If I never make another movie again, I accomplished my goal. I got to work in the same film as them.”
Nonetheless, there have been and continue to be obstacles in his career. “It was tough and it’s still difficult to this day because being an Italian American, we’re kind of typecast,” he explained. “The way I look and speak and where I’m from, I’m really a New York character. It’s hard for me.”
However, the future looks bright for Linea and he attributes it to his Brooklyn roots. “I’m a kid from Bensonhurst that maybe did something that felt impossible,” he said. “For me to come from this neighborhood and do what I’m doing, I hope it gives other people some kind of hope. I’m not a star. I’ll never be a star or change who I am but I think it doesn’t matter where you’re from. I had a dream and I’m living it right now. If I can do it, anyone can. Nothing is impossible.”