The measure of a good actor comes from their ability to create a believable and three-dimensional character. If they’re really skilled, they may even subconsciously forget they’re acting altogether. Mike Tornabene did such a thorough job creating Dom Mazzetti for his “BroScienceLife’’ series that more than a few YouTubers thought Mazzetti was a real, honest-to-God person. That’s some pretty high praise for somebody who never intended on becoming an actor.
“My real personality is vastly different from Dom Mazzetti’s,” Tornabene says. “When people meet me, they’re pretty surprised we’re not even remotely similar. Dom represents everyone’s thoughts and inner voice. Most of the humor comes from making fun of myself and the way I do certain things—whether it’s working out, dating or going out drinking. My first step is thinking, ‘What do I do and why do I do it?’ then make fun of that.”
Dom Mazzetti was born by happenstance. Although he’d gone to NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts with the intention of becoming a comedy writer, Tornabene couldn’t have imagined a platform like YouTube coming along. “My childhood friend and I were writing out scripts and trying to get into Hollywood the traditional way,” Tornabene says. “After we graduated, we were making YouTube videos as a way to promote ourselves and we created the character Dom Mazzetti. We went viral, it kept growing, we started making money off of ad revenue and parlayed that into a clothing brand.”
Once he got that first taste of success, Tornabene ran with it and instead of chasing down those Hollywood dreams, he’s maintained a career on YouTube for over a decade. And if you’re familiar with the ups and downs of the analytics behind this platform, you understand this is no easy feat. “It’s funny to see now that I’m older, Dom’s obviously older too,” Tornabene says. “Ten year later, we now have Uncle Dom, the uncle who gives you really shitty advice all the time. Pretty much every step of the way has evolved parallel to the way my life has.”
As Tornabene grew a fondness for being on camera, he yearned for a way to show audiences his true self. He’ll always have a soft spot in his heart for Dom, but there’s much more to him than just joking around at the gym. When it came to introducing the real Mike Tornabene to the masses, he made his debut with engines racing. “When I first moved to L.A., I was making some money and wanted to buy a nice car,” Tornabene says. “I bought one of my dream cars, an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to be a poseur who buys a nice car and shows up to the valet like a d-bag.’ I wanted to learn how to drive it.”
Tornabene began taking courses on performance driving and he fell in love with it. This inspired him to turn this new passion into a video series and “GNARPM” was born. This series stars Tornabene, along with a crew of his friends, as they dig through the different aspects of car culture—from drifting to racing to off-roading some of the most exotic vehicles imaginable.
“GNARPM” has given Tornabene the opportunity to test out some pretty crazy rides, and he’s traveled the world to do so. But plucking up the courage to show the world the real him wasn’t always a smooth ride. “I was living in the shadow of my own creation, which was a really weird mindfuck of a thing to go through,” Tornabene says. “The car show proved I could do something intimidating, not just by learning how to drive cars, but putting my real self out there. If people don’t like Dom Mazzetti, he’s just a character. But if they don’t like me, then they just don’t like me.”
Ultimately, Tornabene decided that putting his real self out into the world was something he needed to do. In addition to “GNARPM,” he’s been able to be himself by building his tattoo collection. Tornabene always wanted to be tattooed, however, he held back because he needed to maintain the identity of Dom Mazzetti. “Dom would be a guy who gets tattoos, but these tattoos wouldn’t necessarily fit him,” Tornabene says. “As I got older, I didn’t want to live in his character and I started collecting the tattoos I wanted. That was more important to me than protecting a certain image. I started putting my foot on the gas and I haven’t taken it off since.”
Mike Tornabene is firing from all cylinders, keeping up his empire through Dom Mazzetti, “GNARPM,” two successful clothing brands and plenty more in the works. His path to success has certainly been one for the ages and it’s a far cry from what he imagined as a film student. However, one thing’s for certain: He has many miles ahead of him and won’t be running out of gas any time soon.