Rocking the Vinyl on HBO

Vinyl . J.C. MacKenzie (Front Left) as Skip Fontaine, Ray Romano as Zak Yankovich, Bobby Cannavale as Richie Finestra.  Photo: Niko Tavernise/HBO.

You may have heard already that Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese have teamed up with Rich Cohen and Terence Winter to create a series on HBO that offers insight into life in the 1970s music industry. Vinyl is a romp through the sex and drug-addled music business of New York at the dawn of punk, disco and hip-hop. The show follows life at record label American Century, with all the trappings and sleazy tactics used by its executives and those in the industry to survive.

The show stars Bobby Cannavale (HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), as American Century founder and president Richie Finestra, SAG Award nominee Olivia Wilde (HBO’s Doll and Em) and multiple Emmy® winner Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) also star, supported by a cast that includes actors like Andrew Dice Clay and Canada’s very own J.C. MacKenzie.

MacKenzie plays Skip Fontaine, head of sales and a partner at American Century, whose savvy and sometimes questionable business practices inflate American Century’s profits.

“I was really shocked at how sleazy the industry really was back then. I mean, these guys would do anything to get their bands on air. Corruption reigned,” MacKenzie explains.

In real life, MacKenzie is anything but slimy.  He’s the warmest, nicest, most outgoing, down-to-earth guy, so it should come as no surprise that he hails from Ottawa. His family owned the White Cross Dispensary on Elgin Street, where back in the day you might have seen him lugging boxes or serving behind the cash.  His family has since moved to Pembroke, but Ottawa is still close to his heart.

“I love Ottawa,” MacKenzie says. “If you’re from Ottawa, or Canada for that matter, you never really stray far from your roots, no matter where you live or where your path takes you, you are always Canadian.”

VINYL Skip Zak Richie and Scott PS12098
Vinyl. J.C. MacKenzie (Left) as Skip Fontaine, Ray Romano as Zak Yankovich, Bobby Cannavale as Richie Finestra, P.J. Byrne as Scott Levitt. Photo: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.

Having grown up in Ottawa, politics got into his blood. In fact, MacKenzie is a political junkie and follows Canadian politics closely.  “I absolutely love it.  Always have.  Canadian politics is something I am actually obsessed with and I keep on top of what’s going on. I remember back when I worked as a waiter in the Ottawa area, I served Pierre Trudeau dinner and was in awe of the guy. It’s something I never forgot, so I think it’s really cool that his son is now Prime Minister.”

MacKenzie’s journey has taken him to phenomenal places.  Armed with an education at Concordia and prestigious LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), he took on the acting world. He hit Broadway and then found his way onto the silver screen and the tube. He has over 150 television credits under his belt, including stints as Arnold Spivak on Murder One and Reagan “Normal” Ronald in the series Dark Angel.

And of course, if you’re a fan of Martin Scorsese films, then you will also know MacKenzie.  He has been in three of them: The Aviator, The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street.

“Marty is absolutely fantastic to work with,” MacKenzie says. “The guy is a genius, which everybody knows, but the way he works is incredible too. While some film makers keep to the letter of a script, Marty will take your misfires or screw ups and if he can incorporate them into the movie he does.  He has an organic approach to creating, which is innovative and it’s a great way to work as an actor.”

Scorsese also definitely knows talent, considering he’s cast MacKenzie in four films already. It will be exciting to continue to watch J.C. MacKenzie to see where his career next takes him.

The first episode of Vinyl, “Pilot” airs Sunday, Feb. 14 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET) on HBO Canada.