Imposingly built, Bronx-born character Domenick Lombardozzi seemed destined to play tough guys on both sides of the law, so it was fortuitous that he landed on one of the best police shows, if not one of the most acclaimed television series ever: HBO's "The Wire" (HBO, 2002-08). Lombardozzi played Detective Thomas "Herc" Hauk, a no-nonsense lawman whose punch-first-ask-questions-later style frequently landed him in hot water. The role was the high point of a two-decade career that began with "A Bronx Tale" (1993) when Lombardozzi was a teenager, and soon included appearances on "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003) and "61*" (HBO, 2001), among other projects. After "The Wire," Lombardozzi found himself essaying more cops and gunmen in bigger projects like "Miami Vice" (2006) and "Public Enemies" (2009) before earning his first turn as a series lead in "Breakout Kings" (A&E, 2011-12). The action-drama allowed Lombardozzi to play to his strengths - innate street sense and physical prowess - while imbuing his character with a layer of sensitivity as a caring father. Projects like these helped to give Lombardozzi the boost he needed to eclipse the character actor mantle and break out into possible leading man status.
Born Domenico Lombardozzi on March 25, 1976 in the Bronx, New York, Domenick Lombardozzi was the youngest of three children by Italian-American parents. His initial interest was baseball, but at age 16, he answered an open call for non-professional young men to appear in Robert De Niro's "A Bronx Tale." Billed as Dominick Lombardozzi, he landed the minor role of a neighborhood thief whose own mother thought so little of him that she dubbed him "Nicky Zero." After the film's completion, Lombardozzi returned to his day-to-day existence, but hoped for another acting opportunity that would take him out of his home turf. A solution came via a call from independent filmmaker Tony Vitale, who had served as location manager on "A Bronx Tale." Vitale was making his directorial debut with "Kiss Me, Guido" (1997), an indie comedy about a pizza maker and aspiring actor who moves in with a gay roommate. Lombardozzi played Joey Chips, a friend of the pizza maker who kept his clothes in pizza boxes. Though only a minor box office hit, "Guido" proved that Lombardozzi could handle more substantive parts, and with his mother's encouragement, he began auditioning for more roles. He soon found himself in demand as working class New Yorkers, often with short fuses. Independent features led to supporting turns in studio films and television series, including a stint on "Oz" as an imprisoned contractor whose refusal to side with the Italian and Russian factions in Emerald City led to his murder. Billy Crystal's "61*" allowed him to work outside of his usual roles as Polish-American Bill "Moose" Skowron, a first baseman for the New York Yankees during Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris' pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record.
In 2002, Lombardozzi earned his breakout role as Thomas "Herc" Hauk on "The Wire." Initially viewed as a thuggish narcotics cop with a penchant for brutalizing suspects, Hauk developed into much-needed comic relief for the series through his squabbling relationship with Detective Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam). The pair proved invaluable to the show's central investigation of a sprawling Baltimore drug empire, but also found themselves unable to stay out of trouble. In the first season, Hauk and Carver were suspected of stealing a large cache of drug money, which torpedoed Hauk's attempt to gain the rank of sergeant. The pair eventually became the wiretap unit's key surveillance team, but grew disenchanted by the lack of appreciation from their superiors, and transferred to other departments. The move proved to be the start of a lengthy streak of bad luck for the burly detective; after catching the mayor (Glynn Turman) in a compromising position, Hauk was promoted to sergeant, but soon found himself outgunned by a powerful, if strongly disliked superior. His attempt to return to the wiretap led to more trouble over a missing surveillance camera, and he was eventually suspended due to misinformation that led to the accidental arrest of a minister. Hauk attempted to redeem himself in the final season by stealing valuable information from a lawyer's drug dealer client, but the material was declared illegal.
Though never a ratings hit, "The Wire" became one of the most critically acclaimed and respected series in television history, and Lombardozzi's connection to the show helped to boost his profile in features and television. Fans of his "Wire" work soon found him playing intimidating figures in the film version of "S.W.A.T." (2003), Sidney Lumet's "Find Me Guilty" (2006) and Michael Mann's feature adaptation of his "Miami Vice" (2006) 1980s series. He earned a memorable showcase in a pair of "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-11) as Dom, a wildcard friend of movie star Vincent Chase who emerges from prison after having taken a rap for Chase and enjoys his newfound fortune. In 2009, he reunited with Mann to play Gilbert Catena, a bookie and associate of Johnny Depp's John Dillinger in "Public Enemies" (2009).
In 2011, Lombardozzi made the leap to series lead with "Breakout Kings," an action-crime series from "Prison Break" (Fox, 2005-09) producers Nick Santora and Matt Olmstead. Lombardozzi played Ray Zancanelli, a former Deputy U.S. Marshal who lost his job over money he stole to provide for his daughter. After serving his time, he teamed with fellow Marshal Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonzo) to form a special task force that used incarcerated criminals to track down escaped fugitives. Though Lombardozzi earned strong reviews for his performance, the show received mixed critical response during its first season, which concluded in mid-2011.