Meet The Rizzuto Family, The Subject Of Netflix's Bad Blood

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb.
Crime lovers, rejoice. If you've caught up on Narcos: Mexico and are itching for more organized-crime stories, Netflix has the cure for you in its latest series, Bad Blood. The show, which originally aired on City TV in Canada, loosely tells the true story of a Montreal mafia led by infamous gangster, Vito Rizzuto.
The six-part first season is based off of Business of Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto's Last War by Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards, which delves into the final, violent years of the vicious mafioso's life. Throughout the action-packed series, viewers follow Rizzuto and his clan of loyal thugs as they run one of the biggest and most successful international drug smuggling operations out of the Port of Montreal and distribute cocaine and heroin across North America, Europe, and Asia.
Advertisement
Things get messy for the Montreal Mafia, however, when Rizzuto is extradited to the United States to serve prison time for his involvement in a 1981 triple murder connected to New York's Bonanno Mafia. While he's away, his right-hand man, Declan Gardiner, takes over the operation, and from there unfolds a story of greed and revenge.
Like any great mob story, you can expect all sorts of drama from Bad Blood, as Rizzuto and Co. square off with their adversaries, try to stay off of the Quebec Superior Court's radar, struggle to maintain their lucrative relationships with rival crime units, and battle growing tensions within the family.
Though much has changed since Rizzuto died in 2013, the Mafia still operates today. In fact, Edwards claimed in a piece he wrote for The Star that "a Rizzuto-related mob hit" took place in Montreal "the night before principal filming began there."
Read on to learn more about the characters running the Montreal Mafia. Bad Blood debuts on Netflix on December 7.
1 of 9
Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images.
Declan Gardiner

Declan Gardiner is a fictional character played by Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy, Godless) who serves as Vito Rizzuto's right-hand man and most loyal ally. In the series, Rizzuto tasks Gardiner with overseeing the Mafia's inner and outer workings, trusting him to keep the family and business in check during troublesome and tumultuous times.

Some people believe Gardiner might be loosely based on Raynald Desjardins, who was long heralded as one of the most influential figures in the Montreal Mafia, despite not being a Rizzuto or of Italian heritage.

Coates, who has experience portraying a drug- and weapons-smuggling criminal as Tig Trager in Sons, described his character as dependable and scrappy during an interview with Canadian entertainment site, The Televixen.

"Declan had no family, came from nowhere," Coates said. "He was a street thug, and Vito saw very early on something that was beyond brawn and muscle — the 'smarts.' Like Robert Duvall in The Godfather, Declan's not Italian; he's Irish. But [the Rizzutos] bring him in, and it's the first time he's had a family in his life. Declan would cut his own head off to save Vito, Nico, and even Nico Jr., who Declan has barbs with."
2 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of IMDb.
Vito Rizzuto

Vito Rizzuto, portrayed by Anthony LaPaglia, is a skillful negotiator and Mafiia kingpin who took over his Sicilian-born father Nicolo Rizzuto Sr.'s organization and transformed it into one of the most notorious organized crime operations in history. He prides himself on being a diplomatic man who was able to negotiate and work with rival crime units, such as the Hells Angels, to minimize the number of bloody disputes and maximize profits.

For decades, he put Montreal and Ontario on the map as a drug-smuggling hotspot. His good fortune came to a halt, however, in 2006, when he was locked up for a triple murder committed in 1981. While in prison, a series of tragedies struck his family, and he left prison more vindictive than ever.

The real Rizzuto died in 2013 of natural causes; though, his demise is far more dramatic in Bad Blood.
Advertisement
3 of 9
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.
Nicolo Rizzuto

Nicolo Rizzuto, portrayed by Paul Sorvino, is the highly esteemed Rizzuto patriarch credited with founding the Montreal Mafia. As an immigrant from Sicily, he values his Italian roots and is extremely protective of his family.

Rizzuto was shot and killed in his home in 2010; he was 86 when died.

At the time, Nicaso lauded Rizzuto as "a combination of old and new, the last true godfather who was still alive and outside jail."
4 of 9
Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images.
Nico Rizutto Jr.

Brett Donahue portrays Nico Rizzuto Jr., Vito's outspoken and cocky son who, like his father and grandfather, values the Rizzuto family name and its history of illicit endeavors. Despite Vito's disapproval, Nico Jr. tries to escape the life of a legitimate businessman and establish himself as a worthy successor for his father when the time is right.

In the series, Nico Jr. and Gardiner often butt heads, as they have different ideas on how best to run the drug-smuggling operation.

The real Nico Jr. was murdered in Montreal in 2009 while his father served a five-year prison sentence in Colorado.
5 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of IMDb.
Bruno Bonsignori

Bruno Bonsignori is a fictional character played by Enrico Colantoni; though, he does share the same nickname, "Peacemaker," with one of Rizzuto's real-life former associates (some believe the character is based off of infamous mobster Joe Di Maulo.)

Netflix describes Bonsignori's character as a "charming and effusive" negotiator who prefers communication to violence whenever possible.
6 of 9
Photo: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy Stock Photo.
Gio

Gio, played by the ever-intimidating Tony Nappo, is a fictional character who serves as Rizzuto's driver and bodyguard. His extreme loyalty has awarded him a part of Rizzuto's most trusted inner-circle. If you cross Rizzuto, you cross Gio — and, that's something even the most hardened criminals don't want to do.
7 of 9
Photo: Sonia Recchia/WireImage/Getty Images.
Sal Montagna

Sal Montagna, portrayed by Joris Jarsky, is a key player of the New York Mafia who is forced out of the United States and moves to Montreal. While there, he tries to take over the Rizzuto's lucrative narcotics smuggling operation and stirs up drama with the Montreal Mafia. Formerly known as "Sal the Iron Worker" in the States, Montagna was seen more as a villain in Canada.

The real Montagna was murdered in 2011. At least one member of the Rizzuto mafia network pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.
8 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Yan Turcotte/IMDb.
Michelle

Michelle, played by Maxim Roy, is one of Vito's closest confidants. Smart, sexy, and incredibly loyal, she works with Vito to keep the operation and the family running smoothly.
9 of 9
Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images.
Sophie

Vito's much younger mistress Sophie, played by Michelle Mylett, is what Netflix describes as "free-spirited." Despite her "seemingly harmless" nature, Sophie interjects herself into family matters and is often the cause of drama. But what else would you expect from a mafioso's mistress?
Advertisement

More from Pop Culture

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Documentary
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
Fashion
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Beauty
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
Documentary
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Documentary
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
Documentary
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Comedy
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Documentary
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Politics
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
Film
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.