Giacomo Gianniotti is always learning.
On-screen, his Grey’s Anatomy character, Dr. Andrew DeLuca, is an intern still grasping at ropes, the ins and outs of the day-to-day life of a surgeon. Off-screen, you could paint Gianniotti as something of an acting resident – becoming a series regular on Grey’s Anatomy has been the biggest role to this point of the Canadian-born actor’s nascent career, so it’s safe to say the 29-year-old Gianniotti is, just like DeLuca, still honing the finer aspects of his profession.
And away from the stage, Gianniotti is doing perhaps the most important learning of his young life – he’s learning how to give. Or, maybe now, preparing for his second charity run at Tough Mudder Half Los Angeles in as many seasons, how best to give.
“Hopefully we can do this every year and learn from it and keep getting better, and make each year a bigger success,” Gianniotti recently told Tough Mudder.
That big – well, bigger – success of which Gianniotti spoke isn’t landing the most prominent role of his career on the perma-popular Grey’s Anatomy, now in its 14th season and showing no signs of stopping, though that’s certainly part of it – it’s the work he’s done and continues to do with My Friend’s Place, a charity which seeks to aid homeless youth in the greater Los Angeles area by providing free meals and a safe place to stay. Through a partnership with Tough Mudder, My Friend’s Place is now set to see a sizable donation for the third season in a row, thanks to Gianniotti’s upcoming run at Tough Mudder Half Los Angeles.
Gianniotti was first introduced to My Friend’s Place and Executive Director Heather Carmichael by friend and Grey’s Anatomy costar, Jerrika Hinton, known to fans as Dr. Stephanie Edwards. What struck Gianniotti as he toured the facility was that My Friend’s Place was, and is, so much more than just a shelter – it’s an incubator for creative minds, for the vital pieces of these children which require nourishment beyond just food and drink.
As an artist, musician, writer, and, of course, actor, Gianniotti cherishes the depth and breadth of what My Friend’s Place offers.“I mean, you have so many different arts programming and workshops, and they have professionals that come in – real working professionals – that dedicate their time to these youths and come in and teach them guitar or how to lace a vocal track or do fashion design or writing or painting or drawing.”
Gianniotti’s giving streak actually extends back to when he was still at home in Toronto, but it wasn’t until he landed his gig on Grey’s that he was truly able to take his charitable giving to the next level, making the sort of impact he always hoped he could.
“I didn’t really have a platform to reach out to people and make people care,” he said. “So having this success has given me this great following and platform on social media that I can use to do good, to get people involved.”
It’s a responsibility that, Giannoti said, he welcomes. “I think it’s a really important part of being an artist, and knowing that to success there is a responsibility to give back, because we’re very fortunate to be in the position we are.”
Last year, the total donated was over $20,000. So, you could say the learning has worked. But it doesn’t stop there. Giannioti didn’t just earn valuable lessons about charitable giving on the Tough Mudder Half course in 2015 – he learned that Tough Mudder can be a great way to bond with your team and, in Gianniotti’s case, coworkers. Considering over 40 of them joined him at Glen Helen Raceway last year, that’s some serious bonding, and some serious Grey’s Anatomy team-building.
“As an actor, working in television, if you’ve ever seen the credits roll after a film or tv show it’s very long, which means there are so many people involved in making it. And we, often, as actors, only interact with 10 percent of those people. So having an opportunity to have an event where I can get all of those other people involved and engaged, not only donating to the cause but coming out as well and running in support and being able to meet those people and sort of foster relationships with them, so it was a really great way to bond with people at work and create friendships that hadn’t existed, hadn’t had the possibility to exist, before.”
This year, Gianniotti’s expecting a more modest number, with 30 or so family, friends, and coworkers slated to join him at Tough Mudder Half Los Angeles.“This year’s exciting because last year I was so focused on the fundraising and I kind of didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” Gianniotti said, “and it ended up being a really incredible, fun day.”
Tough Mudder Half, though slightly less intense than the original, still boasts 5 miles and 13 obstacles worth of tough team mudding. It won’t be easy for Team My Friend’s Place, though Gianniotti admitted he didn’t make any major alterations to his normal training regimen, something he lovingly refers to as “absolute hell,” which he hates “every minute of.” The boxing, running, and other high-interval cardio training are simply a matter of formality for anyone who makes their living in front of a camera, after all. So, despite all the good he’s doing on the course and off, and the fact that he’s on the verge of becoming a Mudder for the second time, don’t expect Gianniotti to transform into a fitness nut.
Still, don’t be surprised if you see Gianniotti back on the course with his crew in 2019, 2020, and maybe even beyond. Because, despite the pain of training, despite the mud and tough on course, as long as there’s a need for charitable organizations like My Friend’s Place and as long as there’s aid to be offered, there will be people like Gianniotti, working to see that these efforts are kept well-funded, and the lives of the less fortunate are impacted in a real, and tangible way.
As for whether he’d think about making the leap to a Tough Mudder later this season or sometime in the not-too-distant future, Gianniotti said he’d “love to,” adding that his focus remains on this weekend’s event and his My Friend’s Place team. “I feel great. I feel ready.”