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Photo courtesy of Domenick Lombardozzi.

‘Reacher’ Star Domenick Lombardozzi on the Moment He Knew ‘The Wire’ Was Different

Domenick Lombardozzi’s first time acting was in Robert De Niro’s 1993 drama A Bronx Tale. He later landed a role on HBO’s The Wire, which is considered one of the greatest shows in TV history.

As Thomas “Herc” Hauk, a tough, coarse, streetwise detective. The actor was an indelible part of a fabulous cast that included Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Seth Gilliam (who played Ellis Carver, Herc’s partner), Sonja Sohn and the late Michael Kenneth Williams and Lance Reddick.

In the 20 years since the show first premiered, Lombardozzi has played a series of tough guys but always seemed to bring another layer to them.

In Amazon’s new season of Reacher, adapted from Lee Child’s best-selling book series, Lombardozzi plays Detective Guy Russo, who has more going on than meets the eye. The same can be said of Lombardozzi, who talked to us from his home in New York City.

What first got you into acting?

I got an open call for A Bronx Tale, got a part and joined the union. It wasn’t ’till later on that I did a small independent movie, Kiss Me Guido; and completely fell in love with acting and the whole independent scene that was happening during the 90s when independent movies were independent movies.

Then it was just the grind, for about 10 or 11 years until I got The Wire. I don’t want to say that made it easier to get work, but it opened more doors for me. I still had to sing and dance for my food, you know what I mean?

That first job, you’ve never acted before…

I know what you’re gonna ask. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t think I was going to be an actor, it was just a cool thing to do. I was still preoccupied with wanting to play baseball and all that kind of stuff because I was 14 or 15 years old.

I knew who De Niro was. In retrospect, it was huge for me, but at that time, it was just something to do.

It’s an interesting thing, that your big break came on what many consider the greatest TV show in history.

I think what was great about The Wire and what sets it apart is that the star of that show could be any small American city. In this case, Baltimore.

You know when I knew the show was different? Funny story. There’s a scene in the first season where my character and [Carver] take money in a drug bust. Normally, if you’re doing a network show, if you’re taking money, there are repercussions for that. Maybe they’re writing the character off. Maybe they’re just going another way and killing the storyline and starting something else. Who knows? So I said to Gilliam, “It’s over.”

Seth and I lived together the first season just to build up our relationship. We’re home and we requested a meeting with David Simon, who is in a cave writing. We told him what we were worried about and he said, “What are you guys talking about?” He goes, “You build a deck in the back of the house and you go buy a new Ford F-150 because this shit happens every day in Baltimore.” (Laughs) That’s how I knew we were doing a different type of show. True story.

That’s fantastic. You tend to play tough guys, or at least ones who are tough on the outside, even if they’re teddy bears underneath.

I think things are starting to change where people are realizing there’s a different side to me. Honestly, I never think that anybody who makes these decisions or anybody who I’ve never worked with before really understands who I am.

I think the first role that [I] was able to show a completely different color was Ray Donovan, where I’m this 225-pound guy —maybe the physically strongest guy in the room, but emotionally the weakest. I think that was a big springboard reset for other people.

Tulsa King, too, where it’s a multi-dimensional character. I hate using the term, but the heavy. I’m always the heavy and [I’m] kind of breaking away from that.

I think your role in Reacher qualifies. That guy comes across initially one way, but then you see how many layers he’s got and how deep he goes.

Well, this is what’s great about [Reacher showrunner] Nick Santora, because Nick gets it.

I’m also friends with Nick. We know each other’s families. We know when things are bad. We know when things are good. He knows me a lot better than a lot of other people, so he knows the vulnerabilities. When he wrote this guy, he’s tough, but he’s also holding on to something.

I loved it. I just loved playing this character. The production, everyone involved, working with Alan [Ritchson, playing Jack Reacher], it was just a great experience for me, from the top to the bottom.

Do you feel like your career is progressing now that you’re starting to play parts that are more emotionally evolved?

I would hope so. I want that. Sometimes it’s the cards that you’re dealt and you hope that someone thinks outside of the box.

Luckily, I’ve had casting directors who have thought outside the box. Meredith Tucker. Sherry Thomas. These are people who believe in me. Until those people get you in the door, my team, my manager, my agent, they know it, but there’s only so much they can do. I hope it’s moving in that direction.

You’ve said before that people don’t really know you. Who are you and how do you want to be perceived?

My reputation speaks for itself, as far as the business is concerned. I’m a person who shows up on time, who’s prepared and… I kind of don’t want people to know me too much, that’s the whole point. (Laughs) But really, I want a swing. I want a swing at the plate.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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