(KGET) — Sam Vartholomeos had no trouble relating his character in the new EPIX series “Bridge and Tunnel.” He plays Jimmy, a twenty-something from a blue-collar family living in Long Island who dreams of a life working in the creative world of photography. Vartholomeos is a twentysomething from a blue-collar family from Queens who had always dreamed of working in the creative world of acting.
The place where Vartholomeos needed some help was with the time setting. The series – set to debut at 9 p.m. Jan. 24 on the premium cable channel – written, directed and produced by Edward Burns (“Saving Private Ryan”) takes place in 1980. That was years before the series star was born.
Some of his general questions regarding the time period were answered by his family. When it came to specific questions, Vartholomeos turned to Burns.
“Ed was just a plethora of knowledge for the 80s – baseball especially,” Vatholomeos says. “Just hearing his vivid stories, his vivid memories about him and his father, him and his brothers, him and his friends shows up on the screen.
“This isn’t a series based on his life but it is safe to assume some of these stories are familiar to him. It was sort of neat to see this light come into his eyes when he would talk about it.”
The series Burns has created inspired by his own youth looks at a group of recent college graduates who are beginning their quests to pursue their dreams in Manhattan. At the same time, they remain deeply rooted in in the familiar world of their working-class Long Island home town.
The cast of “Bridge and Tunnel” also includes Caitlin Stasey (“Reign”), Gigi Zumbado (“Scream”), JanLuis Castellanos (“Marvel’s Runways”), Brian Muller (“The Good Wife”) Isabella Farrell (“The Good Fight”) and Barrett Wilbert Weed (“Mean Girls” on Broadway).
Think of the show as if “Friends” had been set during the ‘80s. The three men and three woman are connected by friendship and romance, especially Jimmy and Jill (Stasey). Their love connection is facing a test as Jimmy is on the verge of leaving for a job in the wild with National Geographic while Jill will be working in corporate jungles of high fashion in New York.
“I could definitely relate to Jimmy’s struggle with these two choices. You have a passion for something you have worked your whole life for and your heart is being torn in two different places,” Vartholomeos says.
“Bridge and Tunnel” takes place in the ‘80s but Vartolomeos sees the series as being a timeless story. The way he explains it is that there have been young people through the ages who have reached crossroads in their lives where they must make difficult decisions in regards to family, friends and careers.
Vartolomeos is convinced that if this series was set in 1940, 1980 or 2021, the music and fashions would be different but the human elements would be the same.
The connection all of the characters play on screen springs from the bonds the cast made while filming. Productions during the pandemic have forced casts and crews to become very isolated from the outside world. The fact this group of actors had to spend so much time together made it easy for them to play the close-knit group on screen.
That was particularly important for Vartholomeos because he and Stasey have such an intimate relationship on screen. He was happy that he and Stasey had gotten comfortable working together before those kinds of scenes were shot.
Bonding was the key for playing all of the connections between the friends.
“These are a group of kids who have known each other forever,” Vartholomeoes says. “I have a group of friends that I have known for 10-plus, 15-plus years and to portray that familiarity, to show the love and the little peccadillos we all have was a lot to do.”
Previous acting credits for Vartholomeos include “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “The Following,” “Bull,” commercials and theater work.
Before taking on the new EPIX series, Vartholomeos was best known for his appearances on First season of “Star Trek: Discovery.” Vartholomeos laughs at the suggestion he’s making a career out of roles that are taking him either to the past or the future.
Despite only beaming into a few episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery,” Vartholomeos has gained a huge new following. That took him by surprise.
“I thought I was a ‘Star Trek’ fan until I got into the world. After getting into the world I know I am not a ‘Star Trek’ fan. I am an admirer of ‘Star Trek’,” Vartholomeos says. “I don’t know another franchise with a more loving and accepting fan base than ‘Star Trek.’
“There is a lot of love in that world.”