Bad Blood: Brett Donahue on Nico Jr.’s dangerous business plans

By the end of Episode 1 of Bad Blood (catch up by watching the debut online), Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto (Anthony LaPaglia) was indicted for murders that occurred early in his career. That left a hole at the top of his crime family. And, despite Vito’s wishes that Declan Gardiner (Kim Coates) take over in his absence, it was Vito’s son, Nico Jr. (Brett Donahue), who stepped into the void.

Nico Jr., not interested is merely sitting back, feels a Rizzuto should be boss, and that means him. But, as viewers will see in this week’s episode, Nico Jr.’s decision has repercussions. In our latest interview—done from the set of Bad Blood in Sudbury, Ont., last year—Winnipeg native Brett Donahue explains his character’s actions and what it could lead to.

Did you know anything about the Rizzuto family before becoming involved in Bad Blood?
Brett Donahue: Not to the extent of what the Rizzuto family meant. We think, living in Canada and growing up in Winnipeg, there is organized crime and gangs and all that. But the Mafia, the iconic mob, was always something in New York or Chicago. But, I was in Montreal, because I was studying in Montreal, and I remember hearing on the news that Nico Sr. had been assassinated in his home and hearing—even for a murder—that it was a faux pas because it had happened in the home, which is something that you don’t do unless you’re trying to send a really strong message out. I was interested in who these people were and I learned a little bit more.

But, when received all of this stuff I read more into Vito’s accomplishments. As nefarious as he might have been, he was a real businessman and really, really built up this empire, first with his father and then with him, into this syndicate in Montreal.

You had this option, you had this path, this possibility of something different, but you’re going to put yourself in danger.

Growing up in southern Ontario, I heard nothing about this at all.
Well, that’s the thing. When things are running well, you don’t hear anything about it. It’s an eye-opener.

Give me the lowdown on your character, Nico Jr. What did you discover in your research and in the scripts?
In the research, I found out a lot more about Vito than Nico Jr., but in our story—which is a lot of fun to play—is this man who is coming into his own and he really wants to be a part of the family business. Like any story in a family business and ownership being passed down the line, he wants his turn to continue the prosperity that his grandfather and now his father built and prove his worth. The actions that he takes in our story is one of that, of wanting to protect his family and hold onto the power and prove himself as a man.

But his dad didn’t want him to continue the business.
That’s the thing. His dad protected him. But this is the classic immigrant story; the first generation works really, really hard so that future generations don’t have to, or have a better opportunity. So, his dad, out of real protection and love, wanted to have Nico Jr. have his hands clean. In this world, you’re always looking over your shoulder and expecting something. You’re never in an even-keeled, tranquil state. He really didn’t want him involved, but when Vito is indicted, Nico sees that as his moment to step in and prove himself. And it’s not just out of an ego-driven place, but it’s one of the only people you can really trust is family. And, the only way the groups that work with us is if a Rizzuto is in power. If there is any doubt in them, everything crumbles.

There is no retirement plan for the mob and yet Nico Jr. wants to do this despite the bloody, violent history.
He’s not an idiot or ignorant to what his family has done. And, I guess growing up in that environment, he’s comfortable with that level of risk. But the beautiful thing that we’ll see in our story is that there will be a sympathetic sense to Vito because, despite everything that has happened, he’s trying to turn things legitimate. If he gets his business out, he might still be in danger for the crimes he’s committed, but his family won’t. They’re out of it. That’s why it’s so disheartening to see Nico Jr. go down that path. You had this option, you had this path, this possibility of something different, but you’re going to put yourself in danger, your wife in danger, your kids and anyone else down the line in danger.

Bad Blood airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on City.

Look for more coverage of Bad Blood from our set visit late last year in the coming days, including exclusive interviews with actor Enrico Colantoni and director Alain Desrochers, and Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War authors Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards.

Image courtesy of Rogers Media.