Everyone loves Alejandro. Steph Kaliner & Sara Hennessey - creators, writers and stars of the improv comedy turned CBC Comedy - love him. Director Ally Pankiw loves him. Nobody loves Alejandro more than actor Phil Luzi, in part because he is Alejandro. This bartending, joke-cracking, stylish-dressing character gives Luzi the opportunity to do what he loves the most…dressing up, wearing wigs, and being someone else. Known primarily for his comedy acting (he also dabbles in drama, as in Hellmington), Phil has the comic timing and sensibility to make the role great but he’s really involved because he loves playing dress-up. Okay, that’s an over simplification but Luzi is open in stating his love of inhabiting Alejandro who is the bartender for the fictitious cable access show depicted in “Terrific Women.” Taking place in the 70’s, “Terrific Women” perfectly nails the fashion, interior decorating, and social norms of 1974…much to the delight of Luzi. When the Canadian Broadcasting Company picked up the show, it was an affirmation that they understood the audience would see how Luzi and his cast members reveled in the comedy of the make believe production. “Terrific Women” is a vacation in a time capsule to the early 70’s. To witness Phil performing as Alejandro on this show is to watch an adolescent who has just begun summer break from school.
“Terrific Women” began as a sketch duo starring the talented comedy duo that is Sara Hennessey & Steph Kaliner. When they performed as the brash and edgy Terrific Women at the Comedy Bar, the audience immediately fell in love with them - As did Phil. “Terrific Women” was invited to perform at the legendary Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Sara and Steph created a full-length live show, asking Luzi to play Alejandro, their eccentric Latino personal bartender. Alejandro was fun, flirtatious; the kind of over-the-top character that Phil could really sink his teeth into. “Terrific Women” was picked up by CBC Comedy, optioned as a series and Phil was asked to reprise his role as Alejandro; a co-starring role that appears in every episode alongside the two Terrific Women! Steph Kaliner notes, “When we did our live Terrific Women Gala Extravaganza at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2015, it was a no-brainer to cast Phil to play our personal bartender Alejandro and have him on stage the whole time making us drinks and cracking saucy jokes. Phil proceeded to exceed all expectations, and was so exceptionally funny that he became a major star of the show! The audience completely fell in love with him. Phil's comedic expertise had everyone in the palm of his hand, erupting with laughter at even just a facial expression. Phil brought so much energy and hilarity to the show, we wanted him in each and every episode.” Sara Hennessey adds, “On set, Phil is a delight to watch and work with. He has an undeniable comedic gift, but also a unique generosity to his performance that elevates everyone else’s work around him. Phil is not afraid to make bold, hilarious, creative choices with his character work, and his commitment is amazing and inspiring to be around. Phil is an exceptional comedic artist, and his contributions made ‘Terrific Women’ a huge success! Phil Luzi is a one of a kind talent, both on screen and behind the scenes. We want to work with him forever!"
Part of what makes the character, and Luzi’s portrayal, so enchanting is a random quality. For all of his presence, you never know when he will chime in or how he will react; like a sexy comedy bomb (with a lot of body hair) waiting to be set off and cause the audience to erupt. In the best way, Alejandro is an enigma. His backstory is never really addressed in the show. He’s a dreamy Latin lover with a talented wrist and a flare for shaking up the most delicious and exotic cocktails. Joy and Linda (the Terrific Women) met Alejandro in Acapulco while he was diving off the cliff of La Quebrada during their vacation there in ’72. They loved his dive and bought him a drink when he came back up on the rocks all wet and in his Speedo. He looked like Elvis the way the sun was shining off his hairy thighs. At night, Alejandro was the bartender at the LaPalapa and according to Linda, “makes the most incredibly delicious Piña Colada on the goddam planet!” It was love at first sip, and after months of postcards, Alejandro decided to pack up his Speedo and cocktail shaker and make these Terrific Women a more permanent part of his life! What took place before that fateful meeting…only God and the stars know. When it comes to this character, what isn’t defined makes him even funnier. Although the ladies aren’t rich, they certainly take every opportunity to grab life by the horns…and if life gives you a personal bartender named Alejandro, then you have him make some cocktails! We don’t know where Alejandro lives, how he earns his living, if he is involved in a relationship; he is always present and yet so little is known about him. In fact, there is more information about his signature drinks than the man himself.
Performing as a character like Alejandro is so enjoyable to Phil primarily because he feels it gives him the permission to do and say almost anything. If his cast members turn him loose, he will run. It’s obvious that the producers of “Terrific Women” have given Luzi ample latitude to improvise and he delivers often and effortlessly. Discovering who this character was came easy for Phil, who reveals: “Creating Alejandro came very naturally to me. I’d been asked to play a flamboyant Latino character before in an American Idol commercial, and I had the opportunity to flesh him out as a human being in the live production of ‘Terrific Women’ at Buddies and Bad Times Theatre, before the show was picked up for TV. I also grew up loving ‘Three’s Company’, and when I heard ‘bartender’, that scene with Jack getting drunk and ending up with a plant on his head while shaking a cocktail immediately popped to mind. Also, the character of Philippe on ‘Three’s Company’ (the low-status Latino sous-chef at Jack’s work) inspired me and Alejandro’s accent. It’s great that ‘Terrific Women’ takes place in 1974, because that was an era in television overflowing with over-the-top characters played by some of the most legendary comedians of all time, like John Ritter and Robin Williams.”
Those who know Luzi will understand when he states, “The part I looked forward to every morning on set was checking out the magnificent and authentic wardrobe I got to wear every single day. The 70’s was a colorful era when it came to fashion, lots of pattern and lots of polyester. I’m pretty obsessed with costumes. A lot of the time they serve as the primary inspiration for my characters. When I saw my countless wardrobe changes on set, I used them as inspiration for how I would approach what we were shooting that day. Luckily, I got to go home with a few pieces to keep for my own collection. I’m just waiting for the day when they all come back in style. Wait…will camel toe ever come back in style?”