In the award wining film Green Book, the late Don Shirley, a real-life jazz musician, hires a white bodyguard to drive him from New York City, where he lives, for a dangerous concert tour of the segregated South. Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali and his bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen, form an unlikely friendship. On the trip, the two refer to The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guidebook published for black travelers in segregated America that detailed where it was safe to stop. Although the subject matter is heartbreaking — and a shameful reminder of racism in America — the movie still manages to have heartwarming moments as the two main characters bond and overcome their differences.
Dimiter Marinov, who plays a member of Shirley’s jazz trio named Oleg, actually knew of the character he portrays in real life and tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY what he felt when he first realized the connection. “I was shocked when they sent me the lines for the first audition because I knew the name. This is the guy I studied in my music school way back. He’s an extraordinary cello player and his dream was to play all over the world. He then managed to escape to the United States and play musical jazz.”
Just like the character he portrays, Marinov is also trained as a classical musician — but the similarities don’t stop there. “My father is an Orthodox Jew and my mother is Orthodox Christian which makes no sense. They eloped although they were never married and the same happened to that extraordinary cello player (that I portray). So there’s a lot of resemblance. If you look at us, we are literally twin brothers except he wears glasses.”
Green Book is up for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. But for Dimitri, who defected to America in 1990 as a political refugee, the chance to be a part of the film is award enough. “I grew up in a communist world where awards meant nothing. We just had to do our job. My award was already being a part of this extraordinary project. If we win, whatever we win as we’ve been winning so far, it’s marvelous of course, but again, my biggest award will be when the audience goes and sees this film and takes this message to heart and tries to apply it to their everyday life. I will be the very first Bulgarian actor on the red carpet at the Oscars and I’m the very first Bulgarian actor as a supporting actor in a major film. My role in this film is exceptional. I’m proud I came this far.” We agree, Academy Award or not he is already winning.Click to Subscribe to Get Our Free HollywoodLife Daily Newsletter to get the hottest celeb news.