Tough guy Joe Mazzilli searches for a 14-year-old girl in the season finale of his A&E series, “Runaway Squad.”
Joe Mazzilli, star of A&E’s sobering reality hit, Runaway Squad took a few minutes out of his busy day to sit down and talk to TVgasm writer, SlifeGoesOn, about important things like catching dirtbags, sporting bling, and of course, Snooki from Jersey Shore.
SlifeGoesOn: Congratulations on the success of your first season!
Mazzilli: Thank you.
SlifeGoesOn: I know you were an NYPD detective for 16 years, busting up prostitution rings, before you switched gears and focused on finding teen runaways. How long had you been doing this before the show started?
Mazzilli: I had worked undercover for a long time, and even infiltrated the mob, before I formed the R.A.P. Program [a non-profit organization that enlists retired cops and investigators to help search for teen runaways.] But I’ve been doing this pro bono work for about 8 years now.
SlifeGoesOn: How did the show come about?
Mazzilli: Well, I’d actually been doing some work with my pal, Donnie Brasco, and we were approached about doing an undercover type reality show, when the producers found out about the work I do with runaways, and it just sorta took a whole new turn.
SlifeGoesOn: So, you sorta stole the spotlight off your famous friend!
SlifeGoesOn: What TV shows do you watch?
Mazzilli: I gotta be honest, I work 24/7, so I don’t get to watch much TV. And the work that I do is pretty serious stuff, so if I have time when I come home, I like the comedies.
SlifeGoesOn: Any favorites?
Mazzilli: I do like Seinfeld. And Two & A Half Men.
SlifeGoesOn: Well, that’s fitting! Because with your bulging muscles, you’re as big as two and a half men yourself!
SlifeGoesOn: I notice you often wear muscle tees and a fair amount of bling! Does it ever slow you down on the job, chasing after a perp?
Mazzilli: Ha! No, but this one time I was searching for a runaway girl, and I was questioning this kid who saw my chains and was like, “You’re not the feds! You look like a goomba! You’re the mafia!” And I told him, “I’ll be whoever. But if I don’t find her, I’ll be your worst nightmare!”
Bling it on!
SlifeGoesOn: Does your schedule leave you with much time for any hobbies?
Mazzilli: Well, I play the guitar a little. I’m also a body builder and a martial artist.
SlifeGoesOn: Speaking of knockouts, if Kate Gosselin and The Octomom went at it in the boxing ring, who would win?
Mazzilli: (chuckles) Oh, geez! I don’t really know either of them. I saw Kate on Dancing With The Stars. And I saw Octomom on something recently, too.
Mazzilli: No, it wasn’t Oprah. Idol, maybe? Anyways, I don’t know who would win. That’s a tough call.
SlifeGoesOn: The press has often compared your show to Dog The Bounty Hunter.
SlifeGoesOn: But he has a mullet. And you have heart! How do you compare the two shows?
Mazzilli: I was actually approached a few years back, when Dog was having all those problems, and the production company, which shall remain nameless, was like, “So, you work with your wife and son, huh? Do you guys have a crazy, dysfunctional family?” And I basically told them they could leave now. That’s not the show for me!
SlifeGoesOn: What’s it like working with your wife, Gemma?
Mazzilli: I’m still something of a newlywed. But it’s great. We’re the best of friends. She’s a real asset to the team. She’s half Latina, and she grew up in Brooklyn, so she’s really good at getting through to the kids and the families. Plus, if you put her in slacks and a pair of sneakers, she can pass for a fifteen year old decoy!
SlifeGoesOn: Who doesn’t love that! But if you’re working with her all day long, what’s left for you guys to talk about when you get home?
Mazzilli: Oh, we have lots to talk about! Besides, my phone never stops ringing. I am always getting up in the middle of the night for work. And she understands. I always say that if I didn’t see her 24/7 at work, I’d be divorced!
You gotta love the dress code!
SlifeGoesOn: She’s a pretty smokin’ hot mama! Is it weird that she’s the only female at work, surrounded by all you guys?
Mazzilli: Well, she’s the only female on the team, but we have other women at work. In fact, the teen runaway girl from our pilot episode is now our receptionist.
SlifeGoesOn: No way!
Mazzilli: Yup. She’s a great addition to the team, and she’s really committed to helping the families.
SlifeGoesOn: You also work alongside your son, Joey. What’s that like?
Mazzilli: Joey’s great. I trained him, and we work really well together. He does a lot of the research work in the office, so he’s kinda like the backbone of the whole team.
SlifeGoesOn: You work with teens who have tumultuous lives. Was there any drama with Joey growing up?
Mazzilli: Naw. Joey was a good kid. He almost got killed once, though.
Mazzilli: He was coming home after a basketball game and he got jumped by a gang and hit with a steel hammer.
Mazzilli: Yeah, his friend called and said he thought he was dead. So, that was a little scary and dramatic. But I did what I had to do and I got the guys.
SlifeGoesOn: Dayum! That’s enough drama for one lifetime!
Mazzilli: I’ll say!
SlifeGoesOn: But now Joey is happily married. Being a private investigator, did you ever do a background check on your daughter-in-law?
Mazzilli: (pauses) I could never say that! (laughs) I’m kidding, no. She’s a talented designer and she comes from a good family. We love her!
SlifeGoesOn: Might we expect the pitter patter of little feet next season? A special delivery from the stork?
Mazzilli: Not that I know of!
SlifeGoesOn: Not ready to be a grandpa, huh?
Mazzilli: Not yet!
Mazzilli’s son Joey rounds out the family affair.
SlifeGoesOn: Who’s the toughest member of your team?
Mazzilli: Besides me? (chuckles) I would have to say Jason and Chris. They are my right and left hands. We’ve been in physical altercations. We’ve been shot at. We’ve been through a lot together. But we hold our own.
SlifeGoesOn: And who’s a secret softie?
Mazzilli: I don’t know if it’s much of a secret, but I’m a big softie. I’m a teddy bear!
SlifeGoesOn: What direction would you like to see the show take in season 2?
Mazzilli: I get a lot of fans writing in that wish the show aired at an earlier time slot, like 8pm, so that they could watch the show with their families. There’s also a bunch of laws I’d like to change, so I’m constantly having to battle with judges and the police.
SlifeGoesOn: Is your work pretty localized in New York? Or do you ever have a case that takes you out of state? Say someplace tropical?
Mazzilli: I’m licensed in a lot of states, and we’ve worked in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
SlifeGoesOn: It’s funny you say Florida, because the Jersey Shore kids went to Miami for their second season! Any chance at a crossover event??
Mazzilli: (laughs) We’ll see about that! I’ve never watched the show, but I know it’s very popular!
SlifeGoesOn: So, if Snooki went missing, would you help?
Mazzilli: I don’t know what a Snooki is!
Mazzilli: Is that a male? A female? A dog? I don’t know! But if it’s a human being, of course I would help!
“You talkin’ to me?!”
SlifeGoesOn: How will you be celebrating the season finale of your show tonight?
Mazzilli: Well, let’s see. It’s a Monday, so I’ll probably be working out on the streets, looking for this girl in a new case I’ve got. But maybe I’ll celebrate once I find the dirtbag who’s got her!