Born in Wilmington Delaware, James Rizzo has now been living in New York City for just over 9 years now, working as a model, actor and fitness scientist. We had the amazing opportunity to interview James about the struggles and rewards of working in all three industries.

1. What was your first ever modelling gig? What was it like, How did you feel?
My first modeling gig was a catalog cover for SAKS Fifth Avenue. Another model and I had to hold up a female European model in a throne. The initial feeling after looking at it felt fantastic. I was more proud than anything that my hard work and persistence in a very competitive industry paid off. I still keep the tear sheet in my portfolio.

2. What has been your favourite shoot to work on? and why?
My favorite shoot to work on was for a Nike national commercial, which enabled me to be eligible for my SAG card (Screen Actors Guild.) The actors union does not give these out easily so you can say it’s pretty prestigious. Getting that job was a total turning point for me. The shoot itself was pretty interesting because we had to create an Arctic scene in the middle of the blazing summer.

3. What would be your dream photo- shoot?
My dream photo-shoot would be the cover of GQ or Muscle & Fitness because both are highly recognized publications and would lead to great exposure for my career.

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Looking after your body, due to being a model, I presume has lead you to become a fitness scientist.

4. For those that would not know. What is the difference between a Fitness Scientist and Fitness Instructor?
My approach and underlining difference between my title (Fitness-Scientist) and fitness instructor is the creativity I bring to my passion of training clients. I run a private training business in Manhattan, NY, which allows me the freedom to make my own schedule and train clients privately in their personal residence. Some buildings I train in give me minimal equipment to work with so my expertise and creativity is constantly tested. The meaning of scientist is “an expert in science, especially one of the physical or natural sciences.” I come from a natural bodybuilding background and specialties include- strength & conditioning, injury rehabilitation, pre/post-natal exercise, balance/coordination, and athletic training.

5. You have various certifications. For anyone contemplating to become a Fitness Scientist. How long did this take? What was the hardest part for you in requiring these certifications?
Being a great fitness expert requires constant renewal and update of your certifications. I obtained my first certification when I was 17 years old. The hardest part for me was the preparation of studying for a rigorous multiple choice/essay exam at such a young age. I believe it’s crucial that you learn more from hands on experience in the fitness industry than reading books because of constant changes of popular trends (ex. Cross-fit.)

6. What do you enjoy most about being a Fitness Instructor?
My job as a fitness instructor allows me to enjoy the feeling of giving something back. Similar to a doctor, you’re assessing someone’s health and wellness. My personal experience and expertise can change a client physically and mentally. It is very rewarding and gratifying to see someone’s body transform through hard-work and dedication, whether from being over-weight or sustaining an injury. My personal favorite quote is “Hard-work is synonymous with results”.

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We can see that you also act.
7. What made you decide to become an actor?
I decided to become an actor because my father and I would watch movies together when I was a kid and could memorize all the lines from my favorite movies. My memory and improvisational skills came natural. I decided to pursue my craft by taking classes and workshops in Philadelphia and eventually moving to NY became the turning point for me.

8. Many people will perceive acting as a very glamorous career. What do you think has been the hardest part of making it in this industry for yourself?
The hardest part of making it in the entertainment industry is the ability to handle rejection. Auditioning is definitely a numbers game and you feel constantly tested. The ability to stay determined and think clearly is what it takes to succeed. I turn off all distractions when I enter the casting. In the end, your job is to show them you can act and be diverse in any direction they give you. This part is the hardest because it will always be different and your craft is constantly being critiqued.

9. What has been your favourite acting experience so far?
My favorite acting experience so far was when I booked a lead role in a true crime series. I played a murderer and the experience of shooting a gun with blanks felt great. I was doing similar scenes that reminded me of my favorite movies growing up.

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10. What are your personal preferred film genres? And what would be the ideal film or TV show you would want to work on?
My personal preferred film genres are drama, suspense, horror, and comedy depending what I’m in the mood for. The ideal film I would like to work on would either be in the Marvel category or any suspense/action sequence. I would also be interested in a role on popular shows like Game of Thrones or Spartacus.

11. Which actor/ actress, would be your dream co-star and why?
My dream actor to co-star with would have to be either Matthew McConaughey or Christian Bale; both are extremely talented and make great movies.

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Interview by Gill Kirkham

Gill Kirkham

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