Born in Baltimore, MD, Vincent De Paul started modeling as a child and acting in film and television as a young man. His first feature film was Hairspray (directed by John Waters), followed by Riding in Cars with Boys (directed by Penny Marshall). His TV career includes appearances on West Wing, Frasier, Charmed, Sex and the City, and Six Feet Under. For four years he played Charlie the bartender on As the World Turns and, more recently, Father Leone on Amazon Prime’s The Bay. Here, we chat with De Paul about his journey and the role fashion plays on screen.
Q: How did you get your start as a performer?
A: My earliest memories are modeling as a kid in Baltimore: I did local fashion events for Brager-Gutman, Hutzler’s and Hecht Company. I then finished high school and studied biomedical ethics at Johns Hopkins University. After graduating, I moved to South Beach to work at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. One weekend, while jogging on the beach, a gentleman stopped me and said he thought I should be a model. It was Gianni Versace who hired me to do fashion shows: He was one of the most gracious and kind individuals I ever met. I remember doing shows at Bal Harbour, then traveling to Milan and Athens. After that, I modeled in New York, Miami, Milan and Berlin Fashion Weeks. It was a major departure from the biomedical ethics, epidemiology and biostatistics work that I completed at Hopkins.
Q: Can you talk about the role of fashion in your projects? Who decides on wardrobe?
A: Fashion is paramount in telling the story when shooting a project. On film and TV, it’s the costume designer working with the director who decides what the actors wear. The actors’ outfits and overall style are critical in evoking the energy of a particular scene. The clothing is as important as grooming, hair, and makeup. The clothes make the man for sure.
Q: What is your best advice to menswear manufacturers for getting their product on screen?
A: First of all, manufacturers have to make available extra showroom samples to send out on different projects. It’s also important to communicate with the different costume designers and stylists in the pre-production stages of the movie or series.
Ike Behar has been diligent in brand integration: They supplied the tuxedos and shirts on Warner Bros.’ Poseidon. Josh Lucas and I enjoyed wearing their amazing well-tailored shirts on set. Recently for Keanu Reeves, Behar created a single-breasted notch lapel suit for John Wick: Chapter 3. On our movie Tesla starring Ethan Hawke, Paisley & Gray, Grenson Shoes and Ted Baker all sent product to the wardrobe designer. When a movie studio calls your showroom, you should have lookbooks readily available to email the costumer. Why not designate one team member as the liaison to pull from your collection for the studios?
Q: Which costume designers and stylists have been best to work with?
A: Some of my favorites include Patricia Field (Sex and the City), Mona May (Beverly Hills Christmas), Pascale Lemaire, Susan Sidor and recently Sofija Mesicek on Tesla. Each has an amazing eye, mixing emerging designers with well-established brands to create a customized look.
Q: You’ve recently been photographed wearing Paisley & Gray and Lubiam. What do you like about these brands?
A: I was introduced to Paisley & Gray by a model named Jordan Verroi who I first met at Model Volleyball (Volleypalooza) in Miami. He was wearing a stylish peak lapel jacket that was amazing. He set up a time for me to visit the showroom and I was truly impressed by their patterns, color palette and styles. I’ve now worn their clothing to several red carpet events.
I was introduced to Lubiam Luigi Bianchi Mantova at a MRket tradeshow; I then visited Cristiano Magni PR to view their collection. And each time I won an Emmy, I was wearing Luigi Bianchi Mantova so it must be good luck!
Q: How would you describe your personal style these days?
A: I’d say classic Hollywood. I like some edge but I prefer more of a Savile Row understated look. For shirts. it’s important for me to have a convertible cuff to dress up with a cuff link or dress down with a simple button. I feel the proper shirt completes the suit. I enjoy wearing Ike Behar, Eton, and Turnbull & Asser.
Q: About your Emmy-Nominated series The Bay on Amazon Prime: What makes it a hit?
A: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a show resonate with an audience. Variety magazine stated that The Bay series was a hybrid between daytime and primetime shows. We appeal to a wide viewing audience. For me, playing Father Leone for seven years and giving spiritual guidance to the folks of Bay City is a dream role. The show has won countless Emmys; we’re now in pre-production on our next season. I’m honored to have won two consecutive Emmys in 2015 and 2016 from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. My success is likely due to the talented creator and writers.
Q: About your new movie with Ethan Hawke: What’s he like? Who else have you enjoyed working with?
A: Working with director Michael Almereyda and Ethan Hawke was amazing—they truly captured the essence and the genius of Nikola Tesla. Ethan is such a sincere and kind actor to work with on set. After each take, he remained jovial and energetic, even after working 12-hour takes.
Other actors I enjoyed working with: Drew Barrymore and the late Brittany Murphy in Riding in Cars with Boys. Penny Marshall, our dynamic director, taught us dances from the 1960s. I remember Drew, Brittany and I laughing through rehearsals as we danced to Penny’s choreography. I’ve been fortunate to work with performers who fearlessly dive into their roles.
Q: What have you learned from your career in the limelight?
A: One thing is to show integrity and humility in your performances. Audiences don’t want to watch someone act. They want to see a real person confronting life’s challenges. I’ve also learned to be attentive and absorb from every department on set. I try to surround myself with other creative individuals and to help out up-and-coming actors and filmmakers who will be our future.
Q: What’s next?
A: As for my future, I will be starring in season 2 of Pure Flix’s Encounter (in an episode entitled “Homeward Bound”), in two other films coming out Erin’s Garden, All I Need for Christmas, and of course Tesla.
Q: Do you have any mentors?
A: My parents. They were so empowering to their eight children, always offering encouragement. I only wish they were still with me to see what their guidance enabled me to achieve.
Q: Any fashion advice to us ordinary spectators?
A: Yes! Whether you’re a stockbroker, cinematographer or masonry worker, don’t be afraid to create your own personal style and rock the runway of your life.