Band Of Brothers Changed James Madio’s Life Beyond His Acting Career

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In a series like “Band of Brothers,” it’s always going to be tough to stand out from the crowd. The HBO miniseries features a deep cast, filled to the brim with up-and-coming actors looking for their big break. And in a production like “Band of Brothers,” it’s a break that could change your life. For James Madio, who played Frank Perconte, that’s exactly what it did — in more ways than one.

Madio’s Perconte does wind up standing out in the series, even in a young cast that featured then-unknowns like Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Tom Hardy, Dominic Cooper, and Andrew Scott. In part, it was because of his diminutive size, coming in at 5-foot-5, and with a scrawny build (but plenty of attitude). Standing next to a burly actor like the 6-foot-1 Michael Cudlitz, who played the aptly nicknamed “Bull” Randleman, he’s easy to notice. But it wasn’t just Madio’s lack of stature that helped him become one of the faces of the series — it was also a terrific performance as the Illinois-born Perconte, who won the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart while serving in Easy Company.

Given that Madio’s performance in “Band of Brothers” is so memorable, it may come as a surprise to learn that the actor knew little about the war itself before being cast in the role. But the man who played Frank Perconte onscreen quickly gained an education in all things World War II, Normandy, and Easy Company. In a situation like that, it certainly helps when the person educating you just happens to be the same guy you’re portraying. And it’s an education that changed Madio not just as an actor, but as a person.

Life Lessons From The Greatest Generation

For the few people out there who might not be aware, the sometimes brutal “Band of Brothers” is based on the nonfiction book written by Stephen Ambrose, portraying the real men of Easy Company from their training at Camp Toccoa, to the Normandy Invasion, to Bastogne, to capturing Hitler’s prized Eagle’s Nest. That meant that the actors were playing real people, and authenticity was necessary in order to properly honor the brave men of what has come to be called the Greatest Generation. Some of those men, like the real Frank Perconte, were still alive at the time of filming, and that gave performers like Madio a once-in-a-lifetime chance to not just meet, but get to know the men they’d be portraying. 

It was a life-changing experience, as Madio told Smithsonian Magazine:

“It changed me as a young man. I was this kid from the Bronx with no education on World War II. I went to Europe for a year and got to meet these guys who fought there. It taught me respect and understanding for what they did. It shaped me into the man I am today.”

Madio and Perconte grew to become good friends in the years that would follow. Along the way, it enabled Madio to get a glimpse into the lives of the real men of Easy Company, and how their experiences impacted them in the years and decades that followed.

A Life-Changing Trip To Europe

Madio, who was 26 at the time of filming “Band of Brothers,” got a deeper glimpse into the lives of Easy Company than most. In fact, he wound up being invited along with Perconte to attend a reunion with other World War II veterans in Europe. Over the years, he and Cutlitz, in particular, have attended a number of events remembering and celebrating their Toccoa counterparts. Needless to say, it’s had a lasting impact. As Madio explained to Smithsonian about his first time being asked to participate in one of these life-changing events:

“Frank had just lost his wife, and his son couldn’t go on the tour. He asked me if I would go with him. I spent two weeks with Frank and the other vets as we went around Normandy, Holland and Germany. It was amazing.”

When you’re an actor portraying a real person, particularly one who displayed as much courage and heroism as Perconte or any of the other men of Easy Company, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. Given the bond Madio formed with Perconte in the years following “Band of Brothers,” it’s safe to say the real-life hero felt his young friend knocked the performance out of the park. We’d certainly agree.

Read this next: The 30 Greatest War Films Of All Time, Ranked

The post Band Of Brothers Changed James Madio’s Life Beyond His Acting Career appeared first on /Film.

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