Bill Viola Jr. hopes to hit it big in Tinsel Town
Wertz, Majorie (November 4, 2000). “North Huntingdon Township man hopes to hit it big in Tinsel Town”. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, p. 5. Standard Observer Section
You can take the man out of western Pennsylvania, but you can’t take westernPennsylvania out of the man. At least, that’s what Bill Viola, Jr. believes.
Born and raised in North Huntingdon Township, the 1995 Hempfield High Schoolgraduate attended the University of Pittsburgh and received a degree in political science. Within a year’s time, he took his good looks and talents to Hollywood. “A number of things happened to bring me out to California,” said Viola. “It’s always been a dream of mine to break into movies. And I’ve always been in front of a camera and in front of large audiences when competing in karate.”
Viola has been training and competing in a Japanese form of karate for nearly 20 years. Viola’s father, Bill Sr., owns the Allegheny Shotokan Karate School inNorth Huntingdon. Since 1981, Bill Jr. has won over 2,000 trophies, awards and titles. But a serious automobile accident last year could have ended his days in competitions. “The vehicle I was in got hit from behind on Route 30 in North Huntingdon last summer,” he said. “I suffered a fractured neck.”
The accident and his injury put a stop to his competing in the karate national championships in August. Viola was a six-time Pennsylvania state karate champion and couldn’t defend his national title win of 1998. “All I’ve ever done was compete in karate tournaments and championships,” said Viola. “Then in January, I had to have surgery on my esophagus at UPMC. I wasn’t allowed to train or compete. So I decided to try a different avenue.”
Viola began promoting karate and tournaments, but it wasn’t enough. “Summer was coming and I had to decide what do to. I have a cousin who is a model inCalifornia. He encouraged me to come out and try modeling.” After only two weeks in Hollywood, Viola was signed by the Pang Matusi Agency. “Pang Matusi is Japanese and because I’ve competed in Japanese style karate, there was a click between me and the agency right away,” he said.
Since moving to North Hollywood, Viola has found work as a model, actor and dancer, appearing in a wide variety of movies, commercials, promos and dance videos, including Britney Spears’ “Stronger” video. “I like to keep myself open to a lot of things – TV, movies, videos. A casting director was selecting the right look for the Britney Spears’ video and he saw my photograph on my web site,” said Viola. “The casting director said I had the perfect look for her video. “My three little sisters are the most popular girls in school now because of my association with Britney Spears,” he said with a laugh.
The 23-year-old son of Bill Viola, Sr. and Shelly Rossi of the Penglyn area of North Huntingdon said other opportunities have opened up since the Britney Spears’ video. “Since then, I’ve done other things, little things here and there. You never know what to expect. It’s like no other job out there and you have to be ready. You get to meet directors, actors, connections that will help you in the future. My political science background has helped me in this industry. Hollywood is all politics. So I have to give credit to my poly sci professors at Pitt.”
Although Viola’s future in Hollywood is bright, he still maintains his hometown roots in western Pennsylvania. “People comment on my western Pennsylvaniaaccent all the time,” Viola said. “The relatives I have out here are originally from western Pennsylvania, so we can relate. “I come back home as much as I can. All my friends and family are still there. I hope to be back for Christmas.”
Living life in Hollywood is definitely different, Viola said. “The traffic is unbelievable. To go a mile may take an hour or two. If anything stresses me out, it’s the traffic jams.” Despite the setbacks that have hampered his competing in karate tournaments and championships, Viola continues to be an active member of the Hollywood scene. “I’m very fortunate that I can still teach and coach karate to make extra money, but I’ve been really busy with modeling and acting.”