Meet "My Brilliant Friend" Giovanni Amura

From Napoli to Tv screens across the world. Segmento's Carla Trigilia interviews Giovanni Amura, aka Stefano Carracci, from the hugely popular drama, My Brilliant Friend.

In Italian contemporary literature, Elena Ferrante is a notable figure.  As one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, Ferrante wrote the modern masterpiece My Brilliant friend as four critically celebrated fiction novels that sold over 10 million copies in 40 countries.

My Brilliant Friend Tv drama

In 2018, My Brilliant Friend was adapted into an Italian and Neapolitan-language coming-of-age drama television series created by Saverio Costanzo and produced by HBO with Italian broadcaster RAI. It tells the story of Elena Greco and her best friend/worst enemy Lila Cerullo, whom she met at primary school in 1950. Set in a dangerous and stunning Naples, the story of the two girls spans 60 years.

After the first two successful seasons, the third one, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, was recently broadcast world-wide confirming it as a hugely popular television drama. 

When a film is such a global success, one of the reasons surely is the casting. Segmento met one of the main actors, Giovanni Amura, aka Stefano Carracci, and found out a few things about him, the series, and his future projects.

How did your life as an actor begin?

At 14, I enrolled in a professional academy of performing arts, La Ribalta, in Castellamare di Stabia, Naples, where I studied theatre, diction, and acting. My career as an actor began 1 year later. At 27, I embarked on my biggest project, My Brilliant Friend.

Before that, I did a  television series called Sottocopertura on RAI 2 and I started to work with such big names in Italian television as Guido Caprino and Claudio Gioਠ(in the comedy-drama Mafia only kills in Summer). Between the first and the second seasons of My Brilliant Friend, I participated on another popular  television series in Italy called Rosy Abate, where I played the protagonist's best friend.

What was the audition experience like? 

Thousands of Neapolitan boys were auditioned for My Brilliant Friend. I started auditioning for different characters in the series as Pasquale, Enzo, and Rino. The casting process was involved, as everything was based on a narrative work with very precise characters; even Elena Ferrante was involved with selection. In fact, the actor who was to play Stefano had already been chosen, but Ferrante disagreed as she was looking for "“something particular." After 2 weeks from the close of casting, I was called to do another four auditions and eventually was successfully cast for the role of Stefano.

What was the greatest difficulty in playing your character?

Getting into the male mentality of that period and to understand it.  I was fascinated by Stefano himself and his story. To prepare, I kept asking myself "“why." The more questions you ask yourself, the more answers you find, and the better you get into the heart of the character. Without giving anything away for the readers who have not seen the series, Stefano was a child of his time and he had to do certain questionable things. He was a victim, but he also created victims.

As a person, I am the opposite and I hate that kind of man. I must admit that it was hard assume Stefano's way of thinking.  But I did it and I am satisfied with the result.

Giovanni Amura

What was a highlight of making My Brilliant Friend that you would like to share with Segmento readers?

The best moment for me was when we shot the honeymoon scene in which I drove the car. It took over a week to film. The film director told me that Elena Ferrante felt the performance was "“excellent." And she never gives that score to anyone. I was thrilled! Making the author, Ferrante, happy was extraordinary and gratifying.

What was it like being back on set for Season 3?

It was like being back among family! I worked with a new film director, Daniele Luchetti, but the crew was still the same, so I felt very welcome and happy. The way of working on set was different, but I enjoyed it - it is always important to work with different film directors.

In your opinion, why are Ferrante's four books such a success?

The Ferrante series of books describes life. The series narrates the story of two girls and the world that exists inside them. She describes Elena's inner world thoroughly, authentically including all the mistakes and all the beauty, her exquisite and ugly thoughts.  I bet that every single person, while reading the books, will identify with aspects and find a bit of themselves in the pages. People relate to Elena, the protagonist, or don't agree with what she does, and that's exactly what draws you into the story and makes you love it - the complexity of a person.

Why has the series been so successful in Italy and abroad?

The series is an enigma. You buy the books because you want to read the story, but with a television series, you can decide whether to watch it or not.

I think it was the precision of the staging and the director's narrative that worked perfectly. Italians, from 13 to 80 years old, love it. Non-Italians love the charm and insights it brings into another culture and another era.

Giovanni Amura in the role of Stefano Carracci, My Brilliant Friend

For those who haven't watched the series yet, why should they watch it?

If they don't, they would miss some insights into beauty, poetry, and cruelty. It is worth watching, even to be able to reflect on what they didn't like about it. It is the sort of story that stays with you for a long time.

Let's talk about the future. What are your next projects?

The pandemic has slowed acting work, but I have devoted myself to directing and to dubbing. Recently, I took on a small role for a television series that will be broadcasted on RAI 1, L'ultimo spettacolo, a detective series.

I work also with my partner, Rossella. We do dubbing projects as we both love voice work. We have a small recording studio at home. We keep ourselves busy. We also do commercials. It is all fun!

What is your biggest dream as an actor?

My big dream has been realized: getting the role of Stefano Carracci. I hope to continue my career and maybe one day to win the Davide di Donatello, a film award given out each year by the Academy of Italian Cinema!

If you have not seen My Brilliant Friend, I would suggest doing so. Sit on a couch, take your time, and immerse yourself in a story that will leave you delighted, furious, and aware of what Italy was like from the Fifties onward.