Article published in on June 5, 2006

“Dreams do come true if you follow your Passion”

By Dino M. Zaffina

Actor Adrian Bellani knows this all too well. In 2006, he became the newest member of the Passions’ family.

Acting has always been a passion of Adrian’s. Ever since he can remember, as a little boy in Miami and later in El Salvador, Adrian was fascinated with the entertainment industry. He loved watching all the awards shows. “I was that kid that would sit in front of the television and watch the Oscars, Grammys, and the Golden Globes. I would love to watch people as they walked down the red carpet and hear what they had to say when they were interviewed,” he said.

Bellani was born in Miami, Florida to an Italian father and Salvadoran mother. His parents left El Salvador because it was very dangerous during that country’s civil war. Miami was his home until he was 9-years-old. His parents divorced and his father moved back to El Salvador in 1991 when the civil war was coming to an end.

Adrian’s mother remained in Miami for a short while until it got to a point where he, his brother, and sister did not see their father for a couple of months at a time. So his mother thought that it would be best if they all moved to El Salvador where her parents and her ex-husband’s parents were living. Adrian’s father and mother decided that relocating would make it easier on everybody else and the children could see their father more often. Adrian speaking proudly of his parents said, “As parents they did everything possible to make that situation work as easy on us, and I think that they did a wonderful job.”

While living in El Salvador Adrian attended American oriented schools, elementary and high school. He had all American teachers and was educated through the American system. People ask Adrian “How come you speak English so well? You understand. Your spelling and your grammar is so good.” He replies by saying, “We had American teachers and all our classes with the exception of one (Spanish class), was taught in English.”

Bellani was not like most youngsters his own age, playing soccer in the streets or on organized teams. He candidly said, “I was never good at soccer. I always told people that my feet were too big.”

At age 10 he began to go to his aunt’s equestrian camp. His mother’s cousin (an extended aunt) was a very successful equestrian. “In El Salvador the women were equestrians and the men were polo players,” he said. Bellani added, “Compared to the United States where equestrian and polo are an elite sport it is not as expensive and is more common in El Salvador.”

For the next couple summers Adrian attended his aunt’s equestrian camp. When he reached the age of 12 he began to make equestrian his after school activity. He was a dedicated young man because the travel time one-way to the camp was a 45 minute drive.

When he was old enough to start jumping and doing other equestrian events, his parents bought him a horse, so that he could start competing. Adrian not only competed, but he won as well. He was doing so well that he was invited to compete in the Central America Games representing his country. Adrian finished 5th out of 72 competitors. It was something that he loved to do while growing up. However, the older he got, he grew out of the sport and the long drive became tiresome.

Just about the time he ceased his equestrian involvement, Bellani found an interest in volleyball. Delving into the sport with his heart and soul he became a very accomplished player. Once again he found himself invited to partake in the Central America Games. The team that he played for won the Central American tournament. If that wasn’t good enough, Bellani was privileged to train with the El Salvador National team.

While in high school Adrian had his first brush with the entertainment industry. He was introduced to a professional photographer, Roberto Aguillar. Aguillar had a little studio at the time and was working on some small commercials and modeling campaigns in El Salvador. Adrian went to a casting session at Aguillar’s office and landed a small jean campaign.

After that time, Adrian and Roberto became great friends and maintain a friendship that is still strong today. “Now, Roberto is extremely successful and lives in London. He works extremely hard and travels all over the world photographing all the beautiful models,” said Adrian.

Even though he landed a modeling job on his first attempt, his family was not supportive of his choice. Bellani explains, “It wasn’t something that my family was too fond of, coming from a Hispanic/Latino family. It wasn’t accepted. Much less to say, I wanted to be an actor.” “They were afraid that I would change. The whole industry in general because of all the vices,” he added.

Because of his family’s disdain for the entertainment industry his dream was always unspoken. He never really talked about it; he kept his aspirations to himself.

After graduating from high school Adrian attended college at SMU (“Southern Methodist University) in Dallas, where he graduated with a finance degree.

While he was in Texas, certain opportunities presented themselves. His friend Roberto from El Salvador was living in Dallas at the time and working for a company. Roberto asked Adrian to come to his studio to meet some people. Again, Adrian was cast to work as a model, this time for Toni & Guy Bed Head campaign for a hair product.

After working on that project, Adrian thought it was cool, but he still wasn’t getting the career rush from modeling. He always wanted to be an actor. He would watch movies constantly and his passion for that type of job grew. “To this day every single week I go to the movies,” said Adrian.

When he was about to graduate from college Bellani approached his father with the idea of going out to Los Angeles to pursue a modeling and acting career. His father wasn’t too excited with the idea, especially since he had just spent a lot of money sending his son to college to receive a bachelor’s degree. He couldn’t see his son becoming a waiter while he was trying to become a model and/or an actor. Bellani’s father wanted his son to be a businessman.

Bellani said, “My father always encouraged and supported his children in following their dreams. He would tell us to do whatever it is that we do and be the very best that we can at it.”

Knowing this, Bellani convinced his father to let him go out to L.A. He was going to have a couple of months.  Bellani did not have any idea about how the industry worked. He had no idea where to start. He only had one friend in Los Angeles, and she let him sleep on her couch for a couple of months. He didn’t even have a car.

Once he arrived in Los Angeles, Adrian hit the ground running. He started going out to see agents. He said, “Granted they were probably some of the top agents, but I didn’t want to start with some of the smaller ones.” He interviewed with 8 or 9 agents. Every one of the agents said, “Adrian you are good-looking, but you will never, ever, work in this town. You are too commercial.” Adrian would ask them, “What does that mean?” Some of their responses were, “You are too commercial. You will not ever be able to work in this town as a model or an actor.”

That happened during the first meeting and Adrian just shook it off and figured that that guy didn’t know what he was talking about. Then it kept happening as he interviewed with other agents. Soon he began to doubt his chances of making a career in modeling and acting.

It got to a point that he felt that his dreams and hopes were just over. He was very discouraged. He was beginning to realize that the entertainment industry had many people in it that didn’t care whether they hurt you or destroyed your ambitions.

Adrian was definitely torn. He started to feel that he had wasted his time and his father’s money during the two months he was in L.A.

His father flew out to visit him and while the two talked, Adrian decided that he wanted to stay in L.A. a little while longer. His father told him that he was crazy. Adrian started to believe this since he was told that he would not make it as a model and he hadn’t ever taken an acting class. He thought, “What is the point of me staying in L.A. to keep trying.”

Notwithstanding his doubts, Adrian convinced his dad to let him stay in California for a short while longer, but on one condition. His father told Adrian that he wanted him to write up a business plan. He felt that with his son’s finance degree and entrepreneurial classes, he should be able to write up a business plan for his father to decide whether this was worthy of the opportunity to continue the pursuit of his dream; moreover, probably to see if he was really serious enough to do all the work on the plan.

Bellani’s father was flying back to El Salvador. His father wanted an explanation of what his business was going to be, his mission statement, forecasting; he wanted everything. His father said to him, “You are my son, but to me, this is a business also. And once you present to me a business plan, that tells me what you are going to do, how much money I am going to need to invest, then we’ll talk about it.”

Adrian is very much a perfectionist and extremely organized. He keeps all his receipts and his credit card statements. In the three months that he was living in Los Angeles he knew how much he was spending per month at the gym and on groceries.

He presented every bit of information to his father and it was somewhat expensive, but it was a real business plan at 25 pages in length. His dad still has the plan.

After reviewing Adrian’s business plan and several conversations with his son, he saw that Adrian really wanted this career and how happy he was, happy that he was pursuing his dream. So his father agreed to make the investment.

In March 2005, Bellani’s father gave him the go ahead. He immediately jumped into some acting classes. He fell in love with it. “This was my first acting class ever,” he said. “I started taking the classes, but I did not know where to go from there. I knew that I needed an agent and a manager,” he added. A couple months passed and Bellani still did not have an agent or a manager.

Adrian spoke to his father every single day. “A little country like El Salvador, Hispanic family, they have no idea what this industry is like; they do not know what an audition is or what it is to get a call-back, or to screen test,” he said. “Everyday they would call me and ask, Have you gotten anything? Did you book anything? Movies? Have you met Andy Garcia?” Adrian would tell them that he was only in class. His family’s questions, added to his frustration. He said, “I started thinking, I’m not going to do this.  This is a waste of time.  I am wasting my dad’s money.  I’m not really happy.” Adrian flew back home. He told his dad that he did not know what to do. He did not know anybody. He was having thoughts of giving up because it was not working out for him.

My dad felt bad because as a father he did not want to see his son’s dreams falling apart. On the other hand he was happy that he saw me try my best and that I was learning my lesson,” Adrian said. “He told me to come back home and get a real job.”

Bellani flew back to L.A. and packed his stuff. He decided to go out that Friday night. While sitting at this bar he noticed that this guy kept checking him out; this guy kept looking at him. It made Bellani uncomfortable. He said, “I had gone out a couple times in L.A., but it wasn’t like I had any friends or anything.”

The man’s continued glances and long stares at Bellani caused him to feel uncomfortable, to the point that he was going to get up and leave. Just before he made this decision, the man approached him and he handed Bellani his business card and said, “I do not know if you have any representation, but I am a manager and I think that you have a great look.”

Adrian told him, “Thank you very much.  I really appreciate it, but I am flying home. I am leaving on Tuesday. I already have my plane tickets.” Being polite, Adrian still took the man’s card.

That evening while back home, Adrian stared at the card for awhile and wondered if he should make the call. He had doubts because he knew that he was returning to El Salvador and he wasn’t sure if it was real. Adrian said, “This is a crazy business where anybody can be a manager or an agent.”

Adrian decided to call the number on the card. He wanted to give the man the benefit of the doubt. He figured that he did not have anything to lose since he was leaving on Tuesday anyway. If the guy turned out to be a phony it wouldn’t matter. So, he called him and the man offered to take him to dinner, so that they could talk over business. When he said dinner, this immediately sent up a red flag. Adrian was wondering what this guy was expecting. He said, “I did not know who he was or if he really was a manager. I looked him up on the computer and I didn’t find anything about him.”

He shook off his skepticism and decided to accept the offer to dinner to listen to what this man had to say. He figured what did he have to lose he was going home. While at dinner Bellani told the man his story and that he had all of his bags packed and was leaving for El Salvador on Tuesday. The man asked him to stay an extra day to take a meeting on Monday with a talent agency.

Adrian changed his departure time so that he could attend a meeting at Kazarian/Spencer & Associates, Inc. (“KSA”) as promised by this manager. Adrian went to the meeting with the attitude that this was his last shot. He said, “I knew nothing about this agency. I did not know if they were good or not. I did not know who they represented. I did not know anything, but I figured I was leaving, so what did I have to lose.”

  He said that it was very nerve-racking. “I walked in and there was a desk on the right and a desk on the left, both facing each other and I was sitting in the middle of these two people. On one side was Mara Santino and the other was Ryan Daly (who are now my two theatrical agents). They started asking me questions. They were looking at me. They asked, Do you have a headshot? I said, No, I do not have a headshot. Do you have a resume? I said, No, I do not have a resume. Do you have any experience; have you taken any classes?

Adrian was honest with them. He told them that he had never taken an acting class until about two months ago. He did, however, tell them that acting was something that he has always wanted to do. “It has always been my dream, but I was going to give up on it until I met Robert (Robert Tisdale) and he sent me over to you. Other than that, I am lost; I do not know anything about the industry. I do not know who to get a headshot from or what a resume looks like,” he told them.

Apparently testing his seriousness, both agents asked Adrian if acting is something that he really wants to do. He replied, “Yes! I told them that this has always been my dream and that I believe that I could do it.” He did not know where this meeting was going to lead and he did not tell them that he was going back to El Salvador, although Robert knew.

Bellani walked out of the meeting thinking that they definitely did not like him. He thought there was no way that they were going to want him. “I have nothing on a resume,” he said. “When I took the meeting it was just shortly after they had book Brandon Routh as the new Superman.  There was no way that they were going to take me. Why would they want to work with me?”

He called Robert Tisdale and told him that he didn’t think that they liked him. After a couple hours Adrian received a call from Robert. He told Adrian that Mara “loved” him. He said, “She absolutely loved you.” Adrian was excited to hear this news, but he asked, “What does that mean?” Robert told him that they wanted to sign him as a developing client. Adrian was unsure what that meant. Robert explained, “They want to sign you so that no one else can sign you.” Adrian said jokingly, “No one else will be signing me, I am going home.”

Robert asked Adrian to stay and accept this offer. He told Adrian that they want him to jump into class. Mara and Ryan were going to refer Adrian to some acting classes. They were also going to refer him to some photographers to get some headshots, and they were going to help him with his resume.

Soon after signing with the theatrical department of KSA, Adrian was introduced to the commercial division where he was signed by Brooke Nuttall and Alicia Ruskin.

In a matter of about five days when he had his bags packed and a ticket to go home to El Salvador, Bellani met Robert Tisdale of Managing Artistic Concepts, who became his manager; then he met Mara Santino and Ryan Daly who became his theatrical agents and Brooke Nuttall and Alicia Ruskin who became his commercial agents.

Bellani called his dad and told him that he had just signed with an agent and a manager and that he wanted to stay a little while longer. He told his dad, “They are going to send me out on auditions and I think things will begin to happen.” His father agreed to the extension since he had all this lined up. He stayed at his friends place for a few more weeks until his father got him an apartment. Eventually, he got his car shipped out to L.A.

Adrian began attending 4 or 5 acting classes a week. The more he kept going, the better he thought that he was getting and the more he wanted to go to class. At first, his agents did not schedule him for any auditions because they did not feel that he was ready. A month had passed and he had been very hard at his craft, so his agents sent him on an audition for the soap opera Passions. It was Adrian’s first acting audition ever. He said, “It was horrible. I was horrible. Jackie Briskey the casting director looked at me and said, You have to get into class. I did not tell her that I was already going to class, I told her that I understood.”

Over the next four months Bellani went on another couple of auditions. He got a call back on one, but nothing on the others.

In October 2005, he was sitting by his pool at his apartment one Saturday. He was all scruffy and his hair was a mess. He received a call from his commercial agent informing him that he had an audition. It was for a Pespi commercial. They were looking for a guy to play the role of a Brazilian. The audition was in Santa Monica about 40 minutes away from where he was living. He had no time to shower or get cleaned up. He hustled to the audition in a pair of shorts and t-shirt, very much in disarray.

At the audition, they took his picture and talked to him for a few minutes and that was it; he returned home. While laying around the pool the next day, on Sunday, Adrian was talking with his friend. He was very unhappy, he told his friend, “This sucks, I’ve gone out on all these commercial auditions and I do not book anything. I do not have any theatrical auditions. What is the point of staying here?” During this conversation, his phone rang; it was the commercial casting director’s office from the Pespi audition. They asked Adrian if he was available on Monday because they wanted to book him for the commercial.  He became so excited!

Besides getting his first commercial job for a huge campaign, now Adrian was eligible to get his SAG card (Screen Actors Guild) which is very important for an actor to have.

He immediately called his commercial agents and was able to reach Brooke. He told her that he had just been booked for the Pespi commercial. Adrian was scheduled to be on the set in Malibu by 11:00 a.m. the following morning.

The next morning when he arrived at the location for the commercial, he quickly took notice that the set and periphery were very quite. Moreover, there was more visible security than he had imagined.

Bellani called his agents with concern. He thought that something was wrong, even though he had never been on a major Hollywood set before. Brooke assured him that everything was alright. There was a celebrity in the commercial, but he still did not know who it was.

Adrian was sitting around under the blazing sun talking to a number of people. An assistant director (“AD”) approached him and asked for his name. He told the AD that he was Adrian. The AD asked if he was background, and Adrian told him that he was a principal actor. The AD told him that he should have said something because there was a trailer for him.

After sitting in a comfortable air conditioned trailer for awhile, Adrian was called to the set for some of the principal photography. Shortly thereafter, he could hear the ADs say, “Talent is coming to the set.” The talent turned out to be Christina Aguilera. Adrian’s first world-wide Pepsi campaign was with Christina Aguilera.

Just about a month later in November 2005, Adrian auditioned for a television show pilot. It was a nonunion production that was being pitched to different networks. He got a call-back. They brought him in to meet the producers. They liked him, so there was a screen test done. He was going nuts with excitement; this was his first big opportunity. He thought that it had gone great. During the test they mixed and matched with different girls and guys. However, he didn’t get the part. The casting director told his agents that they decided to go in a different direction.

Bellani was disappointed, but this didn’t last too long. Three days after receiving the discouraging news, his agents scheduled him for another audition with Passions. This time he was reading for the role of “Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald” who is a regular character in the storyline and was previously played by Jesse Metcalf (Desperate Housewives).

He read the description of “Miguel” and instantly he knew that he should get the role because he thought that he and the character were one in the same. Even though a short time had passed since his last Passions audition, and he did not have that many auditions in the interim, Adrian had forgotten that he read for Jackie Briskey, the casting director for Passions, during a previous audition earlier just after signing with his agents.

This time Adrian walked into Jackie’s office with confidence, a nice headshot, and some training under his belt. Granted he still didn’t have anything on his resume, but he did have a long list of acting classes that he was attending.

He prepared for the audience and was fully committed to getting the part. Adrian believed that this was his opportunity to prove to himself that he could do this. After reading from the sides, Jackie looked at her assist and then to Adrian and said, “I’m so glad you walked in that door.” This positive feedback led to a call-back for producers and a screen test, which ultimately led to Adrian getting the job.

When Adrian returned for the call-back, Jackie remembered him from his previous audition. She said to him, “You know Adrian, I was looking through my files and I pulled out this headshot and this resume. You have grown tremendously; your headshot is good and I can tell that you have been doing your homework.  It is all up to you, you are the only one that can get this job.”

Adrian said, “Those were the nicest and most encouraging words I had ever heard since I began this pursuit.” He added, “Every time I see Jackie I call her my angel.”

Bellani was offered a contract for the role of “Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald” which started shooting on January 4, 2006. He has walked into a time when “Miguel’s” storyline is very heavy. He said, “I am really enjoying my time on the show; I am having a great time.” He added, “I am learning more and more everyday. I get to work with wonderful, wonderful actors.”

He called his parents and family to tell them that he got the job. They were all excited for him.

Adrian Bellani has entered Passions in the following storyline:

He plays “Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald,” the youngest  of “Pilar” (Eva Tamargo) and “Martin” (Richard Steinmetz). Miguel is extremely in love with his girlfriend, “Charity Standish” (Molly Stanton).   His best friend was “Kay Bennett” (Heidi Mueller). Charity is Kay’s cousin. Kay was always in love with Miguel, but Miguel was always in love with Charity. Due to a spell placed on Miguel by some witches, he ended up having sex with Kay (all the time thinking that it was Charity), and that led to her becoming pregnant with their daughter “Maria Ivy” (Layla and Logan Wheeler). This ultimately destroyed Miguel and Charity’s wedding plans.

Charity was so distraught that she left Harmony (the town they live in). Miguel followed after her to try and find the love of his life. Miguel returned to Harmony, only to discover that Kay is engaged to “Nicholas ‘Fox’ Crane” (Mark Wystrach). This distresses Miguel, not because of any jealously over Kay, but because Miguel’s daughter Maria is calling Fox “Daddy.”

Miguel decides to stay in Harmony for the good of his daughter. Ironically, he ends up falling in love with Kay. However, Kay rebuffs Miguel’s advances and continues to plan her wedding to Fox. So Miguel leaves her alone.

While working on a boat, he has an accident at sea causing him to fall overboard. Miguel is saved by a blonde woman. The woman is “Siren” (Brandi Burkhardt) a mermaid. After being saved Miguel falls in love with Siren who, although she is a mermaid, she is given legs by the witches whenever she is on land.

Watch for Adrian Bellani as “Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald” on NBC’s Passions.

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