Sebastian Maniscalco on Robert De Niro Playing His Father and 'Bookie' Series With Charlie Sheen (Exclusive)

The comedian talks to ET about his new film, 'About My Father,' and upcoming Max series.

After appearing in Martin Scorsese's 2019 film, The Irishman, with Robert De Niro, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco is reuniting with the two-time Oscar winner in the loosely biographical comedy, About My Father. While speaking to ET's Rachel Smith, Sebastian opened up about teaming up with the screen legend as well as working on his upcoming Max series, How to Be a Bookie

In the movie, which opens in theaters on Friday, May 26, De Niro portrays a version of Maniscalco's immigrant, hairdresser father, Salvo Maniscalco, who finds himself amid a culture clash with the parents of his son's fiancée (Leslie Bibb) after their two families get together for a summer weekend. 

"It's a classic situation between the in-laws," De Niro said of the movie, describing Bibb's onscreen family as "very waspy and just the opposite of Salvo." And as a result, "there's a lot of humor in it," he said, adding that "anybody can relate to it."  

But when it came to telling this heightened version of his father, Maniscalco revealed, "My father said, 'You're not going to make this movie unless you get De Niro to play me,'" before joking that Salvo got to approve whoever ended up in the titular role. "It's in his contract that he had to approve it," the comedian quipped. 

Of course, Salvo didn't believe his son had actually landed the actor. "I said I didn't believe him," Salvo admitted, before agreeing that he was perfect for the part. "Oh, yeah." 


And for Maniscalco, casting De Niro as his father was an "unbelievable" opportunity to work and learn from the longtime performer. "I learned so much about acting just spending time with him for the last, you know, nine weeks on that movie. That for me, it was a dream come true," he said, adding that coming from the world of stand-up, "it was a dream for a guy who doesn't do this a lot." 

In order for De Niro to capture the presence of Salvo, the Oscar winner "had to go to his hair salon," Maniscalco revealed, before explaining that's where his father truly is in his element. "He's, like, the star of the show. If you want my dad to talk to everybody, you gotta put a client in front of him and let him do a dye job. And then, he'll talk your ear off." 

And while De Niro was hanging with Salvo, he apparently learned a thing or two about hairstyling. "Salvo showed me how to do [highlights]," the actor said. 

When it comes to his in-laws, they are portrayed by Kim Cattrall and David Rasche. But Maniscalco revealed that what's seen onscreen is an extreme version of their family, which also includes Ander Holms and Brett Dier as the brothers of Bibb's character, Ellie. 

"My in-laws are really, really fantastic people. In this, we portrayed them a little differently than how they are in real life," Maniscalco shared, admitting that they "took some creative liberty of giving them some characteristics that my in-laws don't have." 

He also added that "my in-laws don't have a problem with this," before suggesting that if they don't like it, "I might not be invited to Thanksgiving dinner this year."  

While that holiday is further out, Maniscalco can next be seen in the Max series, How to Be a Bookie, from creator Chuck Lorre. The comedy also reunites Lorre with Charlie Sheen, who is set to appear as a recurring character on the show about a veteran bookie in Los Angeles. 

"[He's] dealing with a changing landscape in gambling. Gambling's legalized and, you know, the bookies are kind of being squeezed out of the game," Maniscalco said of his lead character, Danny. Co-starring Omar Dorsey as Ray, Maniscalco also described the series as "a buddy comedy." 

Previously in production, Maniscalco revealed that the eight-episode season "just finished wrapping" in California. "It was a really, really fun experience for me," he said. "So, it's great."