Going from the battlefields of Iraq to our living rooms isn’t easy. Rather, it’s hard. But Kevin Interdonato is admirably doing it.
His break came when he landed the role of Tony Suferin — a hard-nosed cop from Boston — in Showtime’s second season of “City on a Hill.” The show stars Kevin Bacon (who also directed a few episodes) and is produced and created by Ben Affleck.
Needless to say, for Interdonato, it felt like he scored the entertainment industry lottery upon landing this part.
Before Interdonato joined this series, his star glimmered in indie films, even as he made small appearances on popular shows “The Sopranos,” “Law and Order” and “CSI: NY.” But this is his first time working with a major network as an important and memorable character.
However, there’s a lot of trauma in his past. Interdonato is a New Jersey-based combat veteran who served in Iraq after 9-11. Once home, he suffered from PTSD. Then he found a psychologist at a Veterans Affairs (or VA) medical center who helped him see himself again.
He’s devoted to trying to inspire others — showing them it’s possible to reintegrate into society and overcome the stress accompanying hard times.
For Interdonato, war in Iraq wasn’t the end of the darkness. He’s also in remission from cancer. His journey encouraged him to live a healthier lifestyle — both mentally and physically.
Kevin Interdonato may be a man of few words, but what he says is meaningful.
The below interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
The News Station: Were you a fan of Showtime’s “City on a Hill” series before you landed a role in season two?
Kevin Interdonato: Yes, mostly because my wife is an actress on the show. She plays the character Cathy Ryan, and she was also in the first season. So I was a fan of the show then, too. I actually dipped in a couple of little small speaking parts in the first season myself, and I was lucky enough to be written in as a major character in the second season.
TNS: That is so cool that you and your wife act in the same show.
Kevin Interdonato: Yeah, you rarely see a husband and wife in the same film or television series, so it’s great. She and I don’t live too far from where the filming is shot.
We have a 15-month-old daughter, and when she’s shooting — since we’re not in the same scenes — I watch the baby and then vice versa.
TNS: What did you initially feel like when you found out you scored the role?
Kevin Interdonato: I felt great, so great. Most of my career has been independent film. I’ve dipped in television here and there, but this is the first time I have actually felt like I had a home on a TV show. So it has been a wonderful feeling.
TNS: I’m sure your wife was excited, too.
Kevin Interdonato: Of course, the two of us knew how wild our situation is. This kind of stuff never happens, you know? I got the call, and she was already on the show, and I’m pretty sure we had half a bottle of wine to kick back to celebrate.
TNS: Do you resonate with your character in any way?
Kevin Interdonato: Somewhat, maybe…but my character, Tony Suferin, is a bit of a controversial figure this season, and you will see that unfold. He is a fiery, hard-nosed cop, and I do identify with certain aspects. He is from Boston and goes by the book no matter what, which means that there’s no leeway on his end, ever. He only sees situations and people in black and white.
TNS: Can you identify with any of those attributes?
Kevin Interdonato: No, not for the most part. I always see the gray areas in everything, and I think his personality has an interesting aspect to add to the show because there’s some heavy subject matter we’re dealing with this season.
Like I said, he’s a bit controversial. When you play a character like that, you have to love them as an actor — you can’t find faults or flaws within them. So I went full steam ahead, knowing that whatever will unfold will unfold, you know?
TNS: What are Kevin Bacon and Ben Affleck like behind the scenes?
Kevin Interdonato: I never met Ben. He hasn’t been on set. Kevin’s cool, Kevin’s really cool. He’s a chill guy who also directed the first episode that I acted in, and he is an actors’ director, too. He really lets us do our thing and rock and roll — without holding the reins back too much. I find that this type of direction is very freeing for an actor.
In between takes, he’s calm, relaxed and quiet. And all of a sudden there is action, and he’s like: bam!
It’s cool to observe on set. You know, just getting the opportunity to be directed by him and having him give me a confidence boost to go forward and do my thing. I had an overall wonderful experience working with him.
TNS: You were in the military prior to acting, right?
Kevin Interdonato: Yeah. I had been acting before becoming a combat veteran, though. I was a part of the Army National Guard in Baghdad 2004, and meanwhile, I had some things going on in my acting career that seemed pretty promising.
One day, I got a call, and all of us were activated out of nowhere. I had to drop everything and go. At first, I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to act when I came back home — I had some things to work through, but slowly but surely I found my way back in.
TNS: Did you experience PTSD symptoms that affected your life?
Kevin Interdonato: Man, oh geez. Take your pick [laughs], No, I’m just kidding. How can I put this into words — I became a recluse. I didn’t want to be near anyone ever, at all. This ended up being hard to snap out of but not impossible. I felt fortunate when I found a psychologist to speak to that the VA provided.
He helped me work through some issues, but recovery is an ongoing thing. Sometimes there are triggers, and I have to learn how to deal with them. For me, I have a creative outlet in my life that I chose as my career, so whenever I feel the weight of PTSD coming on, I now know how to channel it.
TNS: How are you feeling now?
Kevin Interdonato: Oh God, I have a completely healthy mindset. When I went to war, especially because I was in combat, and then came home, it was a bad dream, you know?
Healing takes some time, though I was lucky to not only have a great mental health professional, but also awesome friends and family around who supported me when I needed help, encouraging me to pull through.
TNS: In what ways do you believe acting eases PTSD, while inspiring others in the process?
Kevin Interdonato: I can only hope my acting and experiences inspire people. I mean that’s a wonderful thing if it does.
When you’re playing a part in any kind of role, whether it’s TV or film, you have to personalize everything you do. You’re breaking down a scene or a script and making it your own, using parts from your own personal life to get your character to where he needs to be.
Much like therapy — seeing a psychologist — the dipping in and going to those certain places and opening up those doors, however dark they may be, tends to lessen the impact of PTSD a little bit. It’s kind of like talking about a problem over and over again until you’re OK with it, you know what I mean? I should add, my career has been therapeutic as well.
TNS: Talking about the problem more and more helps me, too. I’ve suffered from PTSD since age 13 after a sexual assault.
Kevin Interdonato: Yeah, very much so. And not just talking about it but also using it, because it’s on the top of my mind when I’m working. You keep using what gets you cooking sometimes, and you got to go to those places, you know. I’m sorry you went through that. That’s so horrible to hear. I’m glad you’re now on the better side of things.
TNS: Thanks, Kevin. What advice would you give to people who have PTSD?
Kevin Interdonato: I would say be real with yourself and identify the problem first. Then seek help however you can, because you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but you are inadvertently affecting the people around you. You’re not giving them your best self.
TNS: Absolutely. You had cancer, too, is that right?
Kevin Interdonato: Yeah, I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I didn’t know what the hell it was when I got diagnosed with that shit! The type of cancer is in the bone marrow of the femur bone. I was in a lot of pain for a couple of years, toughed through it, never wanted to go to a doctor, and then I went a little too late.
I wanted to handle the symptoms holistically and not have to go through chemotherapy when I found out. But the progression was too far along, so I had to go through the proper treatments, and, knock on wood, I’m still here in remission since 2018.
Now I feel great, like I never had it, you know? I’m very well aware of having had cancer, and it changed my perspective about a lot of things in life. I wouldn’t say that I was fearful or scared — if anything, the diagnosis drove me to maintain the healthiest mindset and body I possibly could moving forward.
When I first found out, though, I felt pissed, to be honest with you. I was mad. I didn’t experience depression, I didn’t get down, I was just fuckin’ mad and said, “I’m not ready yet,” to myself. I’m not done. The desire to live drove me to push harder, and once I finished chemo, I said ‘that’s it, all bets are off. I’m going to give my life, career, wife and kid everything I can.’ I have continued to do so ever since.
TNS: You’re a survivor, truly, an inspiration!
Kevin Interdonato: Aw, thanks, thanks, Meg.
TNS: Which actors and actresses do you hope to work with in the future?
Kevin Interdonato: Well in this one obviously, Kevin Bacon. So who knows what’s up for the next season? I have no idea. Who would I love to work with? The old greats are my favorites. Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman. It would be a dream to work with one of those guys before they hang the boots up. Vera Farmiga, too, I am a big fan of hers.
TNS: Do you have any final words you would like to share with our audience?
Kevin Interdonato: That’s a really open-ended question there, Megan [laughs.] I want to say, for anyone who isn’t doing their best every day, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. In life, strive to be your best self and never quit.