It is something of a testament to Debi Mazar’s talent as an actor that she has been typecast as the tough Italian chick, because in truth she is neither tough nor Italian. She is genial and Latvian. But she has no complaints. “Being typecast is a great thing for an actor,” she says, because then “you work. I was considered one of the New York actors . . . one of the New York mob actors,” after her role in Scorsese’s GoodFellas as Ray Liotta’s gorgeous, coke-vacuuming girlfriend. “But I did get tired of the way people would think of me,” she says. “My heart was deeper.”
The way people are thought of and, more interesting, the way they think of themselves and their positions in the Hollywood economy are the central obsessions of Entourage, which starts its second season this Sunday night on HBO. On it, Mazar plays a publicist—tough, but not Italian—whose life’s work is the accumulation of fame through the manipulation of the press, a project Mazar clearly finds repellent. “I’m not in the business to make people aware of me. And publicists are very expensive—they’re $3,500 a month! I don’t want to spend that kind of money so I can get a stupid article in Interview magazine; I don’t give a shit,” she says and shrugs. “I sort of despise that part of my business. Press has become about tabloids, and I’m very private and I don’t like to talk about my love life.”
But then, I am the press. And it isn’t long before she pulls out beautiful black-and-white photos she’s taken of her husband, an extremely handsome guy in a tank top. (“He drives a motorcycle, he cooks . . . It’s almost like he’s gay.”) What are we talking about if not her love life?
This is part of what makes Entourage such a good show: the fact that what can seem ugly or pathetic in the abstract—the confessional conversation with a reporter, the slick, subverted aggression of an agent, the existence of a posse that lives off the income and ego of one famous friend—can be human and compelling in its exercise. Everybody on Entourage has a narrative they tell themselves about their role in Hollywood: Turtle, the chunkiest and most underemployed character on the show, thinks that he is taken for granted and that the whole operation would crumble without his enthusiasm and attention to detail; Johnny Drama, the half-brother of movie star Vince (Johnny is played by Kevin Dillon, the brother of movie star Matt Dillon), tells himself that he is a real actor, whose time will come imminently; and so on.
Debi Mazar’s story—and it sounds like a true story—about her relationship to fame is that it’s incidental. And it’s true that her own fame began sideways, when she was an intimidatingly stylish member of that famous entourage of the eighties: Friends of Madonna.
“Acting for me is not the end of the road,” Mazar says, and talks about how she might do some textile design, and describes an autobiographical novel she’s writing, and the editing she’s doing on her husband’s cookbook. “I’m passionate about life in general,” she says. “I don’t want to be 45 competing with 20-year-olds, running to go get Botox. I want to be an expressive actor hired for the age that I am, portraying women who are my age: 40. I’m just hoping I can find some of those roles to play. Otherwise I have to find something else.”
The place to which she is turning for these roles is, with a certain poetic justice, Italy. “I just got a great Roman agent,” says Mazar, who has been taking Italian lessons since she married her Florentine husband, a conga player, four years ago. “I spoke some Italian even before I met him, but since we got married I’ve gone back to school. I really got nervous because my daughter—at, like, 2—started to pass me by; she was conjugating verbs in the past tense.” Mazar declares herself “fluent enough.” At the very least, she has a nice accent as she orders off the menu at Bar Pitti.
Mazar and family divide their time between their home in Los Angeles and a fourteenth-century house outside of Florence that was given to them as a wedding present by Mazar’s in-laws. (She points out her town on a panoramic photograph hanging on the restaurant wall.) Mazar and her husband were married by Ellen Burstyn, Mazar’s co-star from the short-lived CBS series That’s Life, who is an ordained Sufi high priest. “She read passages about love from the seven holy books—the Koran, the Torah, the Bible—and the whole thing took twenty minutes. It was the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever been to, and not just because it was mine.”