Joe Iacovino has shared the stage with Al Pacino, Dianne Wiest, David Stratharin, Christopher Walken and Estelle Parsons. He has scouted film locations in London and starred in an Italian feature film.
But he never strays far from home because he's a Haddon Township guy at heart.
"Everyone draws on childhood in their acting," said Iacovino, 34, who now lives in New York City. "I can’t separate Haddon Township from that. I went to Haddon Township High School. I still stay in contact with my three best friends growing up. I can’t separate from Haddon Township. It's a great place to grow up."
He just returned from London this month after scouting locations for a film project. He recently released a stylistic, film-noir short, And if Tomorrow..., which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in. But Iacovino has a simple reason why his head is not in the clouds.
"What keeps me grounded is that I’m a Philly guy," he said. "It symbolizes the best of everything, down to earth, no pretension at all."
In fact, being a "Philly guy" helped him land his breakout role, as Jonny in the Italian feature film The Eternal City.
"When Jonny arrives in Rome from Philadelphia his destiny becomes intertwined with a filmmaker from New York, a pianist obsessed with her dreams and a nine-fingered piano tuner," according to the IMDb, Internet Movie Database website, where Iacovino has a filmography listing.
It didn't happen over night for Iacovino. He paid his dues by riding four hours round trip by bus daily to New York to take acting lessons at The Actor's Studio. He worked as an usher at the Metropolitan Opera, a place he felt right at home after being raised in a family of artists, including his father Joseph Iacovino, who sang opera in his spare time.
And, of course, like just about any actor, Joe Iacovino waited tables in a restaurant. The twist was it was his family restaurant, Graziella's, in the Westmont section of Haddon Township, while he was growing up, where opera was always on the menu.
Opera for dinner
"We called it an opera-lovers restaurant," said Joseph Iacovino, 78, Joe's dad. "I know the travails of trying to get a job in singing or acting. I think he's waiting for his moment. I think he's reconciled that this can be a difficult career. If he keeps going, keeps doing, keeps praying, things will happen."
The family owned Graziella's, named after Joe's mom, for 14 years until 2003. Graziella's is now known as Keg & Kitchen. The family also owns a restaurant in Stone Harbor, Ristorante Luciano, which it operates seasonally.
Joe still works in the family restaurant from time to time, but mostly just to help out when he's visiting, when he's not on a stage.
He wasn't active in the arts when he attended Haddon Township High School and graduated in 1995. But he made up for it later, studying acting in Philadelphia and New York.
Now crafting his acting is also a full-time job.
"You're body is an instrument and you have to learn how to play it," he said. "If you had a trumpet out on street and asked 10 out of 10 people who didn't know how to play it, they'd tell you they couldn't play. But I think 10 out of 10 think they can act. It's the same thing. You have to learn how to do it."