Tuesday, August 24, 2010

True Blood Pittsburgh

Tracking Pittsburgh's image makeover has helped me to appreciate all the different ways a regional brand can be recast. If you are a fan of the HBO series "True Blood", then you know actor Joe Manganiello. Turns out he is from Pittsburgh:

TBN: We don’t want to keep you too long so we’ll just jump right into the interview. You grew up in the Rust Belt?
Joe: Well I grew up in Pittsburgh.

TBN: Can you tell us a little of what it was like to grow up there?
Joe: It was beautiful and green. I think most people have an idea of Pittsburgh that’s very antiquated and smoke stacks spewing. You need to take an extra dress shirt to lunch because you’ll be covered in soot kind of city but it really wasn’t like that. I was born there when the Steelers and the Pirates were both winning repeated championships and so I grew up in this really fun town that was beautiful. It’s green, full of mountains, beautiful rivers; I went to a great school. It had a TV studio built into it in high school. When I went to high school it was unheard of, it was before the days of computer editing so I had a lot of my. I was exposed to a lot of things eclectically that shaped my future and I wound up staying there for college, Carnegie Melon and it’s a great city for the arts. Andy Warhol went to Carnegie Melon, he was born in Pittsburgh. The great amazing museums and art theatre, so, I grew up exposed to all of that and I think it really shaped me.

The big change I see is that the audience is now more likely to believe Manganiello. His description of home has a greater impact than it would have before the Pittsburgh Summit. That the city is not what you would expect is now cliché.

I've noticed that Pittsburgh expatriates tend to be excellent ambassadors for their hometown. Their culture and background are not something to hide:

The new attention has its perks: Mr. Manganiello said the Steelers have invited him to attend a game this season, and he may have a role in November's Celebrate the Season Parade. His parents, Susan and Charlie, still live in the area and plan to make sure friends and neighbors are aware of their son's latest career achievement.

"My dad said as soon as a few episodes [of 'True Blood'] start airing, he's going down to Primanti's in the Strip District and pitch me getting up on the wall there," Mr. Manganiello said. "That would be right on par with getting an Oscar, I think, getting my face painted on the wall at Primanti Bros."

This spring he filmed a pilot for a CBS sitcom set in Pittsburgh, "Livin' on a Prayer," but the network chose not to make it a series.

"I played a sports dad," he said. "He's got a 5-month-old infant he carries around like a football. I was never without a Pitt shirt or a Penguins jersey or a Steelers T-shirt."

He even auditioned with a Pittsburghese accent.

"The show creators loved it, and the network wanted me to tone it down. They were worried the audience wouldn't understand me," Mr. Manganiello said. "I talked to the show creators about this idea of speaking Pittsburghese and having subtitles at the bottom. I toned it down a little bit, but if there was a 'dahn there' in the script, I'd throw it in whenever I could."

Pittsburgh guerrilla marketing.

No comments: