Keep On Working: Rego Park’s Vic Bagratuni Chases Lifelong Dream of Acting


After finishing his classes, Bagratuni moved to Los Angeles to pursue his lifelong dream. He has appeared in the hit film The Wolf of Wall Street and the HBO television series Boardwalk Empire. headshot-10-vahag-bagratuniHe also played Joey Calco in the television documentary series “Inside the American Mob.”

But success didn’t come easy. He said he faced a lot of rejection, and advises other aspiring actors to be prepared to hear the word “no” a lot. He said he learned how to be patient, even after being rejected for auditions.

Then came an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Bagratuni was cast in a leading role in the upcoming film Men of Granite, which is about a group of poor immigrant boys in the 1940s who overcome the odds to win a basketball state championship in Granite City, Illinois. Based on a true story, the film is currently in production, and may be released next year.

Bagratuni plays John Markarian, an Armenian member of that fateful team who still lives in Granite City today. The actor said at the time, Granite City was still an industrial town, and immigrants from eastern Europe, including Hungarians, Macedonians and Bulgarians, had begun arriving in flux.

“All sorts of cultures were compiled on one side of town, and the other side was this old establishment of rich and middle-class Americans,” Bagratuni said.

There’s the inevitable clash between the two, and in the middle of the conflict is basketball. The immigrant boys grew up playing the sport and eventually make it onto the local high school team, but face heavy discrimination from the town.

“We go against all odds because we literally can’t play basketball in a professional sense, but we know how to do it,” he said. “But then we win the championship.”

In the film, Bagratuni plays alongside Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine, who plays a supportive teacher, and award-winning actor William Hunt, who plays the coach.

A year and a half ago, Bagratuni went to Granite City to interview Markarian. The actor said Markarian gave him “all the freedom” to study and interview him. Ultimately, he gave Bagratuni soundnew_vic-bagratuni-attends-the-golden-globes-2016 advice for the role. “At the end of everything, we just had fun,” Markarian told Bagratuni. “So I want you to have fun with it.”

Meeting the man he would later portray was just part of Bagratuni’s technique. He read the script and tried understand the character. He would look at the pivotal points in the character’s life to understand his characteristics. Then he would look at the physical attributes and compare.

“I look at myself and say, ‘How do you look like and how does the character look like?’” he said. “How are you different from the character? Where is he from?”
But no matter how much an actor prepares, Bagratuni said, it goes out the window when the camera starts rolling.

“You’ve done your homework, just trust and go with it,” he said. “Whatever comes in the moment organically, just embrace that and go with it.”

Bagratuni said he related to the character a lot. They’re both Armenian, but more than that, they’re both immigrants in a country that isn’t always receptive to newcomers.

The movie protrays the racial tension in Granite City, including a scene where the boys were beat up. The actor said he was never treated badly, partially because he grew up in diverse cities, but he still sometimes has the feeling of being a foreigner.

“He was caught between cultures, Armenian culture and American culture,” he said. “Everything that happened with the [Armenian] Genocide versus the new world.”

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Posted by on Oct 27 2016. Filed under Features, Main Story, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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