Q+A With Rio Mangini

Rio Mangini is not your typical fourteen-year-old. Sure, he’ll sneak in a few hours of video games here and there, but Mangini spends most of his days working as an actor, musician, and composer in Los Angeles. Like many young entertainers, Mangini got his start on Nickelodeon and Disney. But after taking on a more mature role this year, in a film that premiered at Sundance Film Festival, Mangini is eager for what’s next. PATTERN caught up with the multi-talented artist to find out what it’s really like to be a teenager in the spotlight.

Ally Denton: It’s pretty incredible you’re only fourteen years old and have had so much success. How long have you been doing this? How and why did you get started acting?

Rio Mangini: Thank you! I’ve been acting for six years and I’ve been a pianist for nine years. I was watching iCarly one day, and I felt really inspired. I thought, ‘I want to be on a show like that!’ So I told my folks and my improv teacher, Janiece Jary, recommended my agents and manager. I was shy so my parents weren’t too sure about it.

We actually shot my Nickelodeon series, Bella and the Bulldogs, on the same stage where they shot iCarly, so that was cool.

AD: Is there a certain type of role you like to play most?  

RM: I really liked playing Ace McFumbles back when I was doing Bella and the Bulldogs. He’s such a funny character. The fact that he’s a little anchorman is hilarious to me. I’ve done a lot of comedy on Nick and Disney, but now I feel like doing something a little more intense. 

AD: Are there any actors or artists who you really look up to or who have inspired your own work?

RM: Hugh Jackman. He can do everything. He can sing, dance, act — he can do it all. I also really like Jesse Eisenberg because on the screen, every facial expression matters. He puts every detail to work when he acts. I find that fascinating.

AD: Your latest project, the feature-length film Bitch, premiered at Sundance a few weeks ago. How was this project different from work you’ve done in the past? What was it like working with Marianna Palka and the rest of the crew, including Elijah Wood?

RM: I came from Nickelodeon and Disney, so Bitch was new! And very refreshing. I loved the material. Marianna Palka is amazing. She wrote, directed, and starred in the film. Like, how do you juggle all of that? It was really cool how Marianna chose to write the script. She incorporated so many genres into the film. The plot was so dark and twisted, but she wrote it in a comedic way. In some moments it was scary and creepy, and in other moments it was colorful, funny, and kind of chaotic. Brighton Sharbino plays my sister in the movie and we’ve known each other for a few years, so it was fun to finally work together. Jason Ritter and Jaime King are amazing. I really learned a lot from them. It was awesome meeting Elijah Wood. I felt like I was standing in front of my Messiah. I’ve been a major Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fan for a long time, so Elijah in front of me is like, woah. Did you know he’s a sick DJ? He did an amazing set at the Bitch party at Sundance. SICK.

AD: So as you mentioned earlier, in addition to acting, you’re also an accomplished and talented pianist. How do you balance the two in your career?

RM: It’s hard, but I always have time for both. When I get home from school, it’s homework, piano practice, working on auditions, reading scripts, composing, and video games. On some days though, there will be priorities. On one day, I’ll probably have three auditions I really need to work on, so I skip piano practice for the day. Or on another day, I want to create a track, so I practice piano and spend all day in my office. If I have a piano performance coming up, practice gets a bit more time. It really depends. 

Another fun fact –I wrote three short songs for Bitch so now I guess I’m a film composer. I’d really love to win an Oscar like my dad Mark Mangini did last year!

AD: You recently collaborated on a song with Kezwik. Can you talk about that creative process? Will we be seeing more music from you anytime soon?

RM: It started like this: I had a future bass project sitting in my Ableton library ever since I released “Rio and Fugue” with Champions of Justice, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. My producers Latroit and Kezwik came to my house to hear some of my stuff. So, I played them the project. They both loved it, so Kezwik and I went to the studio together and finished it up. It sounds so good now. I couldn’t have done this without him.

And yes, you can expect music. I’m working on it.

AD: What’s a normal day like for you? I’m curious what it’s like to be a teenager in Hollywood.

RM: I wake up, brush my teeth, eat breakfast, go to school, then usually drive through In-N-Out Burger, go to auditions, do homework in the car (we have a lot of traffic in LA), come home, do an hour or two of piano practice, or work in my office composing music, take a shower, I may read another script or prepare for the next day, and go to sleep. If I get it all done early enough I’ll play Overwatch.

Sometimes I have events or photo shoots.

If I’m working, I do school on the set and I’m there all day. You arrive and go to your trailer or dressing room and right to school. You have to do three hours every day, so we try to get it in early or between shots. You go to hair and makeup trailer and then get dressed. They always put your clothes in your trailer for you. Then, we go to the set, rehearse, then shoot. 

On Teen Wolf I had pretty short days. Just a few scenes on each day. On movies, the days are long. 

Then I come home, shower, and get ready to do it all again.

AD: Do you ever get sick of it?

RM: Dude, I’m just getting started!

AD: What’s next for Rio Mangini? What can we expect from you in the future?

RM: Lots of music, that’s for sure, and I can’t really speak about the acting stuff yet. I was offered a film at Sundance and I have a few TV shows airing soon. 

Written By
More from Ally Denton

Q + A with Lily & Madeleine

Indianapolis has always been proud to claim pop-indie duo Lily & Madeleine...
Read More