|Famous For: Taxi, Who’s the Boss? and The Tony Danza Show||Currently Known For: There’s… Johnny!, The Good Cop and his cabaret show: Standards & Stories|
Currently Known For There’s… Johnny!, The Good Cop and his cabaret show: Standards & Stories
“Don't try too hard to be young. Be who you are.” Who would have ever thought that a boxer from Brooklyn, New York would become a huge television star with a legacy spanning nearly four decades and counting? Getting his start in the boxing ring after entering the Golden Gloves competition on a dare, Danza proved he had nimble feet as he excelled in the ring and earned a wrestling scholarship to the University of Dubuque. As his career in the ring flourished with a record of nine knockouts and three losses, Danza’s career took a different turn throughout the 1970s and 1980s when he landed a starring role as a part-time boxer and cab driver in the sitcom, Taxi.
“I was training in Gleason’s Gym on 30th and 8th Avenue, where it was the mecca of boxing, and a guy walked in who couldn’t rub two quarters together and said, ‘Did you ever think of being on TV?’ And somehow, I ended up in Taxi, which is the craziest thing of all,” Danza recalled of his venture into acting. Despite not having any experience in front of the camera, Danza proved to be a natural as he quit boxing and focused on his acting career full time with his performance as Tony Banta lasting from 1978 to 1983 and earning him a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
After Taxi ended, Danza didn't have to wait long to find another starring role when he was cast as Tony Micelli, a single father and former baseball star turned housekeeper, on Who’s the Boss? in 1984. The series was another big hit for Danza who spent the next eight years on the show and earned a Golden Globe Award nomination as well as a TV Land Award nomination for Single Dad of the Year. With Who’s the Boss? gaining more and more viewers with each season, the series gave Danza so much peace of mind that he didn’t check the ratings because “you just know it was going to be in the top 10,” which he said of his good fortune shortly before the series ended in 1992.
Watching his popularity fade after a skiing accident took him out of the game for over a year, Danza returned in a string of made for television films including Freedom Fighter, Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace, The Mighty Jungle and Deadly Whispers that barely scratched the surface of his talent. In 1995, he was on another short-lived series called Hudson Street and, by 1997, took matters into his own hands with the debut of The Tony Danza Show, which was canceled after its first season.
Things improved for Danza in 1998 when he joined the cast of The Practice and earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor after four episodes. In 2000, he put on a suit and tie once again to defend his clients when he was cast as Joe Celano on Family Law while making guest appearances on episodes of King of the Hill and Family Guy. Then, in 2004, he tried his hand at daytime television and hosted The Tony Danza Show until 2006 while pursuing his interests in music with the release of his debut album, The House I Lived In. Little did Danza realize that his career in music would become an even bigger priority over a decade later… but not until he pursued another passion for teaching!
In 2009, Danza saw his lifelong dreams of teaching come true when he signed on with A&E to star in the network’s newest reality series, Teach: Tony Danza. Hired as a first-year teacher at Philadelphia’s Northeast High School, Danza’s first year in the classroom was documented by a camera crew as Danza himself later admitted that he wasn’t exactly the best student as a kid. “I think like a lot of people, you look back on your life and say, ‘Gee, why didn’t I apply myself?’” Danza admitted. “If I would have spent as much time studying as I did conniving, trying to do as little as possible, I probably would have got the A’s.”
Given a second chance in the classroom, Danza learned a huge lesson from his students—a lesson in self-control and perspective. “I think it’s the same lesson you learn over and over again in life… I’ll tell you an example,” he said. “I worked at an old folks’ home once in Harlem and I was an activities volunteer. I used to do all these plays with the old people. I did The Wizard of Oz, it was adapted. There was a guy there who played the harmonica, so we had an overture, and The Wizard was 96. I got some kids from around the corner—third graders—who were playing the Munchkins. I used to say to myself as I went there: ‘Oh, I’m doing something good. I’m going to go out there.’ But it was so good for me. I think it’s called doing well by doing good.”
Undoubtedly living up to his mantra of giving back, Danza’s stint as a teacher didn’t end when A&E canceled the series after seven episodes. Instead, he pushed forward to finish the year and later authored I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High in 2012. He’s also seen his television career flourish thanks to recent credits in Broad City, Sebastian Says and There’s… Johnny! with Netflix recently announcing the former Taxi star will take the lead in their new series, The Good Cop, in 2018.
Apart from acting, the 66-year-old Danza stays incredibly busy with his music career and has spent quite a bit of time on the stage in New York City where he’s launched his cabaret show, Standards & Stories. For Danza, the best part is sharing some of his favorite tunes while surprising audiences who only see him as his characters from Taxi or Who’s the Boss? “I think that’s the best part, surprising people,” he says. “People are used to seeing you a certain way and it’s really hard to break through that unless you have a hit record or something… But there’s a good side to that. You know what the good side is? There’s surprise. You shock them.” Still full of surprises, we can’t wait to see Danza back in the driver’s seat of his career!