Giacomo Gianniotti on Wild Cards, a fun and mold breaking mystery series

Wild Cards -- “Show Me the Murder” -- Image Number: WCD102b_0166r -- Pictured (L-R) : Giacomo Gianniotti as Ellis and Vanessa Morgan as Max -- Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Wild Cards -- “Show Me the Murder” -- Image Number: WCD102b_0166r -- Pictured (L-R) : Giacomo Gianniotti as Ellis and Vanessa Morgan as Max -- Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Wild Cards, a new procedural that's launched on The CW has brought actor Giacomo Gianniotti back to primetime in the U.S. The actor, best known stateside through his work on Grey's Anatomy as Dr. Andrew DeLuca, plays Det. Cole Ellis in the mystery series. His character is described as "by the book" but, as viewers learned in "The Infinity Thief," he has a big heart, is dealing with grief over the loss of his brother, and was seemingly framed while on a major case.

I sat down to speak with Gianniotti to talk about the series including what fans can expect regarding Ellis' past, his budding partnership with Max (played by Vanessa Morgan), and how the show differs from procedurals viewers are used to seeing on television.

Giacomo Gianniotti on Wild Cards, the new mystery series on The CW

What attracted you to the role of Ellis?

A lot of things, but I had not played a detective yet, so that was exciting. I got to work in Canada where I'm from, which is really beautiful. I had never worked in Vancouver, [which] is a beautiful place. And we were one of the few productions that got permission to work during the strike, so we were just very fortunate, very lucky. We all came to work with a lot of gratitude. There was a lot of everyone just [being] very, very, very happy to be at work.

How much time did you end up spending on the water since Ellis starts out as a maritime police officer who'd rather be doing detective work?

A lot, it was fun. Certainly where my character lives on the houseboat, those were some of my favorite scenes. It's in this place called False Creek in Vancouver, which is sort of like a port in a harbor, so there's just boats around and you're on the water, there's this big, sweeping deck that [Ellis] lives on in his boat. That's where a lot of the fun scenes like as we wrap up the episodes at the end of the day--Max and Ellis, myself and Vanessa [Morgan]--kind of come together and those are some of the more meaty, more character scenes.

It's also were we're sometimes figuring out a case like we're throwing down files on a table and being like "Alright, let's do this. What's going on? Let's get to the bottom of it."

I got to ride around on the actual speed boat for the police officer scenes in the pilot which was really fun. I love being on the water. I love being on a boat. I could do that 'til I die.

Howl to Get Away With Murder
Wild Cards -- “Howl to Get Away with Murder” -- Image Number: WCD103b_0170r -- Pictured (L-R) : Giacomo Gianniotti as Ellis -- Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Speaking of meatier scenes, because [on the boat] is when we get to peel Ellis back like an onion, we learn about his brother. Are we going to learn more about that dynamic between the two of them, considering we do find out he, unfortunately, was murdered?

Yeah, definitely. There's a very powerful A storyline which is that this couple needs to work together in order to sort of redeem themselves. For him, it's getting his desk back. For her, it's getting out of jail. That sort of takes the forefront. But as they start to work together, you get to see a little glimpse of their sort of dark paths.

For Ellis, it's his brother was murdered a year ago and he's still very much angry about that and a lot of unsolved grief because they never caught the guy who did it. For Max's character, we sort of find out less. Hers is more cryptic. We're kind of like "What's going on?"

We know also that she's a con woman. So there's always in the back of your mind like is she telling the truth, is this a lie, is this a con? So there's much more mystery around her character, but she sort of subtly hints to her upbringing and her mom not being around anymore. You start to see little things like she's got a little darkness in there, too, and she's not always so light and bubbly. There's something unsolved within her as well.

I think that's interesting for the audience and it gives them a starting point to understand there's more to them that meets the eye than the sort of what they're presenting on the surface.

I love Max but I'm unsure if I should trust her with everything happening with her father.

Right. I think you're right to not to trust her. Her dad's a cont artist, her parents are con artists. She grew up in that world of conning and lying and white lies, sort of becoming different people and being a chameleon. I think you're right to sort of not trust or be careful with Max.

The case that Ellis was on, that is the reason why he's on the maritime police force. Is that a bit of a mystery as well in terms of who potentially framed him?

Definitely. If we tell that story too quickly, then there's not enough show, right? So we want to be more focused with these two characters working together, their reluctance to work together. It's fun watching them surprise each other of how much of a good team they actually make because I know Ellis certainly doesn't think they do, but as the show goes on, you start to see him sort of melting a bit and being like "Oh, maybe we do kind of work well together or work well off each other.

So that storyline, in terms of Ellis' past, and certainly Max's past, is doled out a little slower. It's more satisfying. I think also the connection and chemistry between them is something that we want to take our time with. We don't want to rush that too quickly, so it's more satisfying for the viewers.

But, yes, those things are all still alive and well and cooking as you watch the season and get to see it go, you'll definitely get more layers of that onion to peel back.

Howl to Get Away With Murder
Wild Cards -- “Howl to Get Away with Murder” -- Image Number: WCD103a_0042r -- Pictured (L-R) : Giacomo Gianniotti as Ellis and Vanessa Morgan as Max -- Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

The dynamic between Max and Ellis is fantastic. There's a lot of chemistry there but it does start off with a kiss. Will we be seeing them delve a little bit more into their romantic connection? Or are we starting with fire first then slowly coming away from that as they figure out who they are as partners?

I think the kiss is exciting for the viewer because you're kind of surprised by it and taken off guard. The viewers is kind of like Ellis in that moment which is totally, "Whoa! Okay, I didn't see this coming."

In a way, it's kind of funny because in a lot of shows that moment takes seasons and seasons and season to happen and we just had it happen in our pilot. That was an exciting way for them both to feel a connection there. But they're like I kind of felt something but I can't say anything about it, you know what I mean? They had to keep it all in. Certainly Ellis.

I think it's more the latter of what you said, that that's something we want to take our time with and focus on their relationship as friends and partners first.

What was it like acting alongside the cat Jonesy, who plays Marc?

It was fun to work with an animal and he's certainly entertaining. I think a lot of the entertainment came from--he's very unpredictable. It's not like a dog where you can train him to do everything like at once on command. Cats are much more in their own world, he was certainly in his own world. It was tough to get him to do things that we wanted, but it's not like we're asking him to do anything insane. It added a nice, fun dynamic to a lot of the scenes he was in.

I'm a cat person so I was very excited to see Jonesy.

You'll see him in every episode.

Is there a specific thing you like about the mysteries that are being solved in Wild Cards?

They do a good job of just keeping a great variety. I was saying this to another journalist, just like that every episode feels like its own little movie. The tone, the pace, the sense of humor, everything changes and it feels very singular. [Whereas] I feel like a lot of procedurals, some episodes feel interchangeable. They just seem like this is exactly like the last episode, we're in the same place, we're looking at the same four walls with the same characters and like another guy who's dead. It feels very repetitive.

That's probably what I'm most proud of with this show. Each script is so completely different. It takes place in a completely different place. We went all over Vancouver, all over British Columbia. Each episode really feels different and fresh and exciting and completely different. It forces Max, Vanessa's character, to rise to a new occasion, a [new] disguise, which is cool.

Is there a specific episode we should be watching out for in terms of the case?

There is one episode, episode 8, where they visit a therapy and wellness center. We just had a lot of fun doing [that episode] and there's all kinds of funny [scenes] and comedy from that but that's all that I'll tease about that.