Scott Aiello’s theatrical journey has tested his determination in many ways. After spending years on the Chicago theater scene making great first, second and third impressions on producers and peers alike, he decided to pack his bags and move to the East Coast. He didn’t follow the path of the starving artist, though. Aiello was accepted at Juilliard, the most prestigious theatre school in the country. And less than a year after he graduated, the industry is already taking notice.
Aiello began his journey after graduating magna cum laude from Loyola University in Chicago with a degree in philosophy. He was cast in several regional theatre productions, studied at the Second City Conservatory, and won a Joseph Jefferson Award in 2004 for his role as Stanley Jerome in the Pegasus Players production of “Broadway Bound.” In 2005, he received a Black Excellence Recognition Award for his role as Dr. Lowenfeld in “The Upper Room.” But after 10 years of gaining valuable experience in Chicago, Aiello felt he had hit the proverbial glass ceiling, and had bigger and better things in mind. “People have told me I have a New York vibe about me,” he says.
While he gave his next move considerable thought, he left the rest to destiny. “I’m a big believer in fate,” he explains. “I auditioned at the top five schools.” His drive and experience earned him a coveted spot in Julliard’s class of 2012. “Going to Juilliard took my acting to a whole new level,” Aiello believes. An average week consisted of nine hours of acting and six hours of singing. Aiello credits one of his directors, Lisa Benavides, for testing his limits and helping him tackle roles that were well outside of his comfort zone. His most memorable experience came during his performance in the lead role of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” under her direction. “My heart was pumping, and I was an emotional basket case!” Aiello recalls.
Benavides noticed early in Aiello’s education that he was trying to do too much. So after a long day of rehearsal, Benavides made him sit in a room by himself for 10 minutes and do absolutely nothing! “She said I couldn’t read, no clock watching, no sleeping, no day dreaming,” he explains. He did this for the entire rehearsal project, and by the end, he was sitting in a room for over 45 minutes. “This experience helped me so much because you need to realize that you are enough,” Aiello notes.
Before graduation, Julliard gave him and 18 fellow students an opportunity to showcase their talents for several agents and managers. Aiello credits the school with opening many doors for him, but it’s been up to him to make the most of those opportunities. One of them was a gig as a narrator for Audible.com. “As an actor, you have to make yourself available to everything in order to survive,” Aiello points out. “You have to have the chops for book narration.” Continuing his winning ways, he was nominated for Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year by the Audio Publishers Association for his narration of “Sex and God at Yale” by Nathan Harden. “I auditioned with a lot of candidates to narrate this book and the author picked me,” Aiello says. “My friend actually called to tell me I was nominated!” Aiello is vying for the Audie Award with legendary singer Elton John. The ceremony will take place on May 30 at the New York Historical Society in New York City.
In late 2012, Aiello met with a casting director from CBS, landing the part of Detective Bowman in “Person of Interest,” and more recently wrapping up an episode of “Elementary,” a modern crime drama set in New York City that stars Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson.
Always up for a new challenge, Aiello accepted Hollywood writer Seth Freeman’s invitation to direct his new play, “Hemlock Martini” for the StrangeDog Theater Co.’s Beer Battered Play Festival in New Jersey. Offering a new twist on the traditional theatergoing experience, the entire play is acted from behind an actual bar. “These kinds of things really feed your soul,” Aiello enthuses.
Aiello’s positive attitude in a cutthroat business is what makes him stand out and gives him the edge. “If you put negative energy out there, it will come back to you,” he believes. His time at Juilliard and the people that he has met along the way have helped him survive in a big city like New York. “I am very fortunate to have my agent in New York, Danielle Ippolito, and manager in Los Angeles, Tim Angle,” Aiello shares. He also hails from an incredibly close-knit and supportive Italian family. Fate and determination continue to be on Aiello’s side as he pursues his professional path wherever it may lead him.