It’s (almost) a wrap!
Two years since his show’s release, Brooklyn’s own Will DeMeo is putting the finishing touches on season two of “Gravesend” — the ’80s mob series, he says, pays homage to his hometown.
The series formerly known as “The Neighborhood” — which premiered in April 2020 on Amazon Prime — centers around mob “soldier” Benny Zerletta (DeMeo), as he grapples with leaving behind a life of crime. Constantly challenged by his mother’s dying wish for him to seek guidance from above, Zerletta must find himself — while managing to not get himself killed.
The show proved successful as Brooklynites (and non-Brooklynites) binged the four-episode mini-season dropped at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had such an enormous response from so many fans that loved the show,” said DeMeo, a Gravesend native who doubles as the show’s lead actor and director, before filming for season two began. “I’m thrilled to be able to give them more.”
The actor, best known for roles in films like “Gotti” and “Back in the Day,” and who played Jason Molinaro on the Sopranos, said he hopes “Gravesend” can do for fans what other series have done for him — especially during quarantine.
“The best part of making something like this is giving people an escape to watch something,” DeMeo said last spring, adding that, when he came down with a case of COVID-19, the Netflix series “Cobra Kai” was that escape. “It really helped me get through it, and I want to do the same for other people — especially right now.”
Two-plus years into the pandemic and since season one’s release, DeMeo said it’s more important than ever to take a trip back in time, if only for a little bit.
“We just really want the world to know about Gravesend, to know about its impact on the borough, on history — and just what growing up in Gravesend was like,” said DeMeo, proud of the “nostalgia” his project exudes.
DeMeo and his crew at West Street Productions — named after the Gravesend block he grew up on — once again filmed at some of southern Brooklyn’s local landmarks like Lenny’s Pizza, L&B Spumoni Gardens, and Our Lady of Grace Church. Season two will also bring DeMeo’s character, Benny, to Michael’s Restaurant, Larry’s Auto Radiator Repair, Cannonball Park, and even Florida, where his story will continue to unravel.
But the star predicts that those who loved the show’s season one tributes to Brooklyn staples like the 18th Avenue feast, will especially enjoy season two’s portrayal of the Fourth of July Independence Day, and its homage to a good old fashioned Brooklyn block party.
“It’s gonna take everybody right back to the good old days,” he said.
When asked what he wanted “Gravesend” fans to know about season two, he said simply: “It’s worth the wait.”
“We had some issues getting started because of COVID but we’re so thrilled to be crossing the finish line, and to be able to bring back old school Brooklyn,” he said.
This isn’t the first time DeMeo has paid homage to his hometown. In 2016, he directed his first documentary film, “Cruisin 86th St.,” which focused on southern Brooklyn in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. And in 2019, he brought his “Gotti” co-star John Travolta back to Lenny’s — the Bensonhurst pizza place that, like Travolta, had a starring role in the 1977 classic “Saturday Night Fever.” His 2013 film “Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn,” is also streaming on HBO Max.
The show’s Brooklyn roots also carry over into its cast, DeMeo said, which consists of well known actors like Armand Assante, Andrew Dice Clay, Al Sapienza, Chris Tardio, Paul Borghese, Tommy Romola, William Forsythe, Frances Mangano, and more.
Actors Martin and Jesse Kove, of “Cobra Kai” fame, will also appear in season two, as will Leo Rossi, Christopher Mormando, Pete Gaudio, Sid Rosenberg, Cristian DeMeo, Paulie Malignaggi, Joseph D’Onofrio, Ken Lerner, Chuck Zito, Natalie Guercio and even Bo Dietl, the former New York City Police Department detective and mayoral candidate.
New to this season’s roster are “Sopranos” star Vincent Pastore, Tony Darrow, Joe Causi, Chazz Palminteri, Nick Vallelonga, Mario Cantone, Gina Gershon, Vic DiBitetto, Paul Ben-Victor, Justina Valentine, Gabriella Palminteri, Sofia Milos, and the “Nanny” herself, Fran Drescher.
“It’s just a star-studded cast,” he said.
And even the extras have Brooklyn ties. On a recent Tuesday in Little Italy, Bay Ridge resident Trish Cruz got ready to film her first scene for “Gravesend” season two.
“I’m really excited,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “I’m happy to be surrounded by such incredible talent.”
DeMeo hopes to wrap up filming by the Fourth of July, with season two’s release slated for the end of this year.