Friday, September 18, 2020

Person of the Week

Jordyn DiNatale Moves to the Big Screen


East Haven High School alum Jordyn DiNatale achieved a career goal, starring in a film directed by Martin Scorcese. Even better, that film, The Irishman, has been nominated for an Oscar. Photo courtesy of Jordyn DiNatale

East Haven High School alum Jordyn DiNatale achieved a career goal, starring in a film directed by Martin Scorcese. Even better, that film, The Irishman, has been nominated for an Oscar. (Photo courtesy of Jordyn DiNatale )

After getting her start on stage in New Haven and at East Haven Academy, actress Jordyn DiNatale has already achieved one of her career goals: to work with director Martin Scorsese.

Cast in the Oscar-nominated film The Irishman, which was directed and produced by Scorsese, Jordyn plays a young Connie Sheeran, the youngest of Frank Sheeran’s four daughters.

The film, which is based on the lives of real people, focuses on teamster Frank Sheeran’s connections to the mafia as a hitman and his alleged murder of the legendary union leader Jimmy Hoffa, who had ties to organized crime.

In theaters on Nov. 1, 2019 and released for digital streaming on Netflix Nov. 27, The Irishman includes an all-star cast of Robert DeNiro as Frank Sheeran, Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino, head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family.

It follows the events of Frank Sheeran’s interactions with the Bufalino crime family and teamster Hoffa.

“My character, she doesn’t know about what [Sheeran] does,” says Jordyn. “She idolizes him.”

In preparation for her audition for The Irishman, Jordyn conducted background research on her character and the film overall, including reading a synopsis of the book on which it’s based, I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt.

“They didn’t release any information…everything was really private. I knew the character’s name and age and that was about it,” Jordyn says.

Without much information on the scene that she would be performing as part of her audition, Jordyn admits that she and her team of agents from Innovative Artists “didn’t know what we were going to do.”

“I walked in and realized it was an improv,” adds Jordyn.

She was asked to mingle at a banquet being held for Sheeran.

Jordyn says that it might have been the research that she did beforehand that helped the casting director decide that she was right for the part, or “sometimes the director just says, ‘That’s the person,’” says Jordyn.

Once chosen, Jordyn filmed on set for three weeks in New York City.

“It was so cool,” said Jordyn. “…it was an amazing experience on set with Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. All of the big stars of the film were in the scenes that I was in.”

As a director, Jordyn says Scorsese was “pretty hands off. He lets the actors do what they want to do in terms of the acting, [but] for the camera movements, he was very specific.”

In her role, most of Jordyn’s acting had to be natural and unplanned, similar to her audition.

And she was always spot on.

“In one of my scenes, toward the end of the film…We’re just sitting on the couch,” Jordyn says. “[Scorsese is] like, ‘Okay, action.’ You can’t just sit there, you have to come up with your own thing to do.

“You have to embody the character,” she continues. “So I started leaning on my mom [in the movie]…Martin came up after one of the takes and told me he loved what I was doing. That was really cool.”

Jordyn has played roles in numerous television shows such as Madam Secretary, The Punisher, and Shades of Blue, and gained notice for her role as Emma in the 2016 television movie Truth Slash Fiction. She also played Lauryn in the 2017 short Fry Day.

Fear Street, for 20th Century Fox Studios, is one of her most recent projects. The feature adaptation of R.L. Sine’s bestselling horror fiction series is due for release this summer.

When it comes to being cast in a television show or movie, Jordyn says, “I like to play any character that has substance to them, someone who is interesting. The Irishman was cool because even though I had a small role, my character had a lot of back story.”

Jordyn’s flair for acting was apparent at a young age and heavily influenced by her family.

“I got the bug from my parents, I’d say,” Jordyn says.

Her parents and an older brother already involved with Albertus Magnus College’s ACT 2 Theater in New Haven, helped pique Jordan’s interest in acting.

As singers for the band American Graffiti for 18 years, her parents encouraged development of her creative side, helping Jordyn train as a dancer.

She performed in her first musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, at the age of seven with ACT 2 Theater.

Jordyn went on to East Haven Academy where she performed the lead part of Cinderella in Cinderella and the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

It was during this time period, “when I said ‘I want this to be my job,’” she recalls.

With the help of her mother, Robyn DiNatale, Jordyn started going to New York City for auditions, exploring professional acting work.

She studied theater at the Education Center for the Arts magnet school in New Haven for two years while attending East Haven High School.

Jordyn says a desire “to be more well-rounded and not just have this one interest” led to her decision to focus on high school full-time, however.

“I felt like I was missing out,” she said. “I was doing so much to learn as much as I could about this career that I decided that I wanted at a young age.”

Her decision opened new opportunities for Jordyn to participate in after school activities and organized sports, like track and field, where she held the school’s record in the girl’s high jump for several years.

All the while, though, “I was still studying theater, going to New York…I was still learning the craft,” she says.

Jordyn took acting classes in New York, under the tutelage of acting coach Anthony Abeson. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in video production from Southern Connecticut State University.

“I wanted a college degree,” said Jordyn. “That was very important to me.”

Video production offered Jordyn the chance “to study the other side of the film making process, sound, lighting,” she says.

Asked about The Irishman’s Oscar nomination, Jordyn says, “It feels like a dream come true. It’s really exciting and very humbling…just being on set with all of these people…seeing how much hard word goes into it firsthand. It feels special to get rewarded like that with an Oscar nomination.”

Although Jordyn has already realized a career aspiration in working with Scorsese, she’s ready for more.

“I would like to keep going…keep getting parts, jobs,” she says. “A goal would be as a serious regular in a television show. I really love the idea of that, because you get to explore a character for so long.”

When Jordyn isn’t auditioning or filming, she teaches an adult tap class at her mother’s dance studio Attitude Dance and Fitness in Branford. She also enjoys rock climbing at the gym and visiting East Haven weekly to take part in an Italian dinner with her family on Sundays.

Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email at .

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