Comedian Ricky Velez is slowly settling into the life of more sunshine and space, all while adjusting to new levels of attention courtesy of his breakout role in “The King of Staten Island,” Judd Apatow’s semi-biographical film about the life of Pete Davidson (who happens to be Velez’s real-life best friend). Velez both acted in the film and worked with Apatow on the script, and, revealed earlier this month, will star in his own HBO comedy special executive produced by Apatow.
In the film, as in real life, Davidson’s father was a firefighter who died in the 9/11 attacks. Velez lost his own mother four years ago on Valentine’s Day, when she died suddenly. Putting out an honest conversation on mental health was important to Velez — and it made the creative process all the more challenging, he says.
“I would say there were parts that were definitely hard. Being Pete’s friend, I definitely know a lot more than a lot of other people. So it felt like we were kind of letting people in on our secrets. The scene when he’s driving with his eyes closed, that was a scary time in our lives. Putting that out there was terrifying, honestly. But it’s helping a lot of people,” Velez says. “I think a lot of people either know somebody or deal with mental illness daily. And this makes people understand it a little bit more about loss and grieving. It’s a cool movie. I had somebody tell me that they’re happy it didn’t go into theaters because they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to get that emotional in public.”
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Photos Courtesy of Najah Brown: @najwitthecam