NIAGARA FALLS – Rick Primerano regularly competes in bodybuilding to show his current and future personal-training clients what can be achieved through dedication to the right diet and exercise program.
Come summer, he’ll show they can even become an action hero.
Primerano, 30, a former football and track athlete at Niagara Falls High School and the 2012 Mr. Buffalo bodybuilding champion, will make his acting debut next year when the independent film “Call of Duty: Undead” is released.
The action/horror movie – shot last month at various Western New York locations, including Primerano Fitness on Military Road – features Primerano as “Steel,” a half-man, half-mutant described as “the unstoppable force of power.”
“It’s been a great ride, very euphoric,” Primerano said. “I grew up watching action movies – Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Those guys were my idols growing up. I never thought in a million years, I would be in an action flick like this, throwing people through walls.”
Bodybuilding allowed Primerano to break into show business.
In 2010, five years after entering his first bodybuilding contest, Primerano won an online contest to appear on the cover of Fitness Star magazine. The next year, he placed first in the Fitness Star World Championships in Toronto and earned his professional fitness model accreditation.
Primerano has since appeared on the cover of two paperback novels and in several more fitness magazines and online publications. The modeling work eventually caught the attention of a former co-worker, Kevin Tanski, the star and executive producer of “Call of Duty: Undead.”
“We had a part that we knew would be difficult to fill because of the physicality and the look it demanded,” Tanski said. “I had been following Rick’s career as a bodybuilder and a fitness model, and as far as the physicality, his photos speak for themselves.
“But I also knew that he is extremely personable. I knew that he would be easy to work with and that even though he had never acted before, he would pick things up easily and really be an asset to the movie.”
At first, Primerano was reluctant.
“I didn’t know if I was the acting kind of guy,” he said.
“But it’s been a great ride. I’ve had a lot of fun working with the guys and doing the fight scenes.”
While Primerano describes his physique as “not very intimidating” by bodybuilding standards, film director Aleksandar Ivicic said, “I’ve never felt so intimidated giving direction to somebody.”
“He was beyond perfect for the role,” Ivicic said. “Not only his look, but his personality and his dedication.”
“Call of Duty: Undead” does not yet have a release date, but Ivicic said he plans to premiere it in time for summer film festivals and will have a local screening soon after that. A film trailer is currently online.
Rick Primerano’s older brother and gym owner, Ron, the 2011 Mr. Buffalo champion, said the film’s release will enhance the reputation of Primerano Fitness.
“Rick isn’t doing this to have a new career in acting or modeling. He does this for the business,” Ron Primerano said. “His heart and soul is based in the gym, serving others.”
As a senior in high school, Rick Primerano was an all-league fullback and North MVP of the Kiwanis Classic. He played one year of football at Alfred University before suffering a knee injury and transferring to Niagara County Community College.
Soon afterward, the Primerano brothers began bodybuilding together.
Together, they have trained more than 50 amateur bodybuilding title-winners since 2005, as well as International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation professional Corinna Booth.
Rick Primerano is also still active in competitive bodybuilding. In June, he won the open heavyweight class at a National Physique Committee contest in Rochester and placed second overall behind a professional bodybuilder from Texas.
“I’ll get him next year,” Rick Primerano said.
Both Primeranos are qualified through the end of 2014 to compete at the national level and try to obtain a pro card.
And Ivicic, who will soon be relocating to Hollywood, is hoping to get Rick Primerano more acting work.
But business in Niagara Falls will always be Primerano’s No. 1 priority.
“Training clients, bettering people’s lives, what I do here every day; that’s my livelihood.,” Rick Primerano said.
“Acting and bodybuilding are 2 and 3, but they are really the same. They’re fun, they’re passions, but they’re things I do to get our name out there and show clients what is possible.”