At just 26 years old, first-generation Bronx transplant Gennaro Santella began working for the U.S. Department of Justice after earning his degree in electrical engineering at Manhattan College. Now, two kids and a couple of decades later, the 50-year-old Harrison resident handles all the technical operations internationally and domestically for the DOJ, including its SWAT missions, working mainly out of their Westchester and Manhattan locations.
“I am not the guy who goes in the door, but I am the guy who makes sure that the guy who goes in the door is well equipped with today’s technical needs,” he explains. Santella has traveled to Africa five times and works with the legal offices in far-flung places, evaluating the areas’ technical situations, getting those offices up to speed if there are any communication issues. While Santella holds a position that requires secrecy, he doesn’t lie low during his off-hours. He is also the president of his own home-improvement company, GJG Home Improvement.
“My main goal is to give a good performance. That’s really what I want — to get that opportunity to have a speaking role and give a quality performance.”
Through his home-improvement business, he buys multifamily buildings (mainly in Westchester and the Bronx), renovates them, and then, using his real estate license, finds tenants to rent them. To minimize costs both for himself and those who hire him, Santella does all of the renovation work himself. “I try to keep the costs as low as possible, so I can give a quality product for a low price,” he says, adding that the cost of living here is so high, even $50 can make a difference. “To most people, that is nothing, but to other people, it might be their cable TV or an extra carton of eggs for the month. You just don’t know.”
His ability to put himself in the place of others comes in handy, as evidenced two years ago, when he dipped his toes in the acting world — with no prior background in the art and no agent. This year, he became SAG eligible and has earned credits in such TV series as The Blacklist, The Fever, and The Bitch in 4B. “My main goal is to give a good performance. That’s really what I want — to get that opportunity to have a speaking role and give a quality performance. Everyone says [they want to act] to be famous, but my kids love me, so I’m already famous enough.”
A family man to the end, Santella is happy that his acting career connects him with his daughters, who are 19 and 23. “When they saw me on TV on The Blacklist, they were totally freaking out. I think it brought us closer together, because it’s something they can be proud of and talk to their friends about. I have a really good relationship with my children.” He explains, “That’s one thing I pride myself on. Out of all the jobs I have, being a father was my main goal.”