He Played SNL’s Chef Boyardee Opposite Sydney Sweeney: Here’s How it Came Together

Though he’s probably most familiar to TV viewers as mob boss Carmine Patriccia in HBO’s Deuce, character actor James Ciccone has appeared in dozens of other shows and movies, including The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Joker, and The Irishman.

But he says working with Please Don’t Destroy on Saturday Night Live may be the most fun he’s ever had on camera.

On Saturday he made his second appearance with the trio, playing opposite host Sydney Sweeney as none other than Chef Boyardee:

YouTube player

LateNighter caught up with the actor to get the inside scoop on what it’s like working with the PDD boys and how his appearance in this weekend’s sketch came together.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Judging from your social media, you’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of attaboys since your SNL appearance this weekend. What’s the reaction been?

It seems to have been well received, but you know… what you see on my social media is mostly a lot of friends of mine.  It was a very small moment, but I’m happy to have had it.

I know this isn’t your first appearance in a Please Don’t Destroy sketch. You were great in their 2021 sketch  “Future Selves,” in which you played Future John Higgins. How did you end up getting that first part?

I just auditioned–it came in through my agent. It was during Covid, so the audition wasn’t in person. It was a self-tape. I remember I was teaching a class that night (I’m an acting teacher in Manhattan) and I only had about an hour to tape the audition so I didn’t have time to overthink it. 

I sent the tape in, and pretty quickly we got a “hey, we’d like to have him–we shoot Monday.” I think I just looked like future John. Sometimes it’s just the physicality of the role. Like with Chef Boyardee, you know, I fit the costume, so to speak. 

YouTube player

When did you get the call to appear in this weekend’s sketch?

I got the call on Thursday. They were like,”hey, can you come down to 30 Rock in two hours? The Please Dont Destroy guys want you in a skit.” It was very spur of the moment. I had to cancel a class, jump into the shower, and get down to 30 Rock.

Do you have a sense of how they landed on including Chef Boyardee as a character in the sketch, and on you to play him?

I have no idea. [Considering how late the call came in], that might have been written just then and they said, “oh this is a good idea, let’s go with this ending–who can we get to do it?” And, you know, my name got drawn from a hat, or someone mentioned me, and they said “yeah, let’s see if he’s available.” 

Were you given any direction on how to play Chef Boyardee?

Not really. After I got to 30 Rock and they put the costume on me, I saw Martin [Herlihy] and John [Higgins] in the hallway and they told me I was playing Chef Boyardee. And I’m like, “OK” [he laughs]. So, of course I went to the phone [to do some research] and it turns out that Chef Boyardee has a very long history. 

Eventually they walked me in to shoot the skit and they’re like “alright, are you ready?” and I’m like, “ready for what?” Nobody had given me the script. I said what are my lines, what’s the subtext–you know, what are the circumstances, and they explained the circumstances and I did what an actor does: make choices.

I learned that it was my son [who died] so obviously, it was a somber moment. And just small. You have to trust the writing. As an actor you just gotta get out of the way.

What was it like shooting with PDD and Sydney Sweeney? 

They were very informal. They’re just regular guys who like to joke around and stuff, so it doesn’t feel like work when you’re around them. Sydney was very nice, sweet, had a very laid back dynamic even though I’m sure she was under a lot of pressure.

Was there anything that got left on the cutting room floor?

We did shoot a couple of different versions of my part, with slightly different punchlines. They ended up going with the quickest one, which is fine. I was just happy to be in it.

Can we expect a sequel? Might Chef Boyardee become a running character on the show? 

I don’t know.

I think they should invite Ayo Edebiri back and include a Bear parody where Ayo’s character on The Bear is forced to work with another mercurial chef: Chef Boyardee.

[Laughs ] Who knows? That would be wonderful if she ever comes back.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *