Armen Garo was born Armen Garo Harmaian to Vahan and Margaret Harmaian in Troy, NY, and was raised in Watervliet and Troy. He is a graduate of the Albany Academy where he earned his varsity letters in football, wrestling, and track. Two of the three years he played on the varsity football team resulted in undefeated seasons and statewide rankings of #1 and #6 in New York. He was also an active member of the Drama Club and the Drill Team. He graduated at the rank of Lieutenant.
He first attended Norwich University but only stayed there for one semester. He later earned a BS in Speech Communication from Emerson College graduating Magna Cum Laude. While at Emerson he was a member of the Gold Key Honor Society, was voted MVP on the wrestling team (wrestling under the tutelage of coach James Peckham), and served as pledge master for the fraternity Alpha Pi Theta. He was also was an active member of the Forensic Team, where he excelled in Off-Topic Debate and Impromptu Speaking, qualifying for the Nationals in his senior year. In his senior year in 1977 he was chosen to be listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities. He was a Graduate Teaching Assistant while enrolled in the Masters Degree Program in Speech Communications at the University of California at Santa Barbara but withdrew after his first semester. While there, he taught public speaking to undergraduates.
He later trained in self defense at George Pesare’s Karate Institute in Providence, RI where he earned his black belt and served as one of Mr. Pesare’s instructors. While there, he became a professional kick boxer, earning the title of New England Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion in 1978. He posted an 9-2 record with one of his only two losses coming at the hands (and feet) of #3 world ranked and United States Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion “Big” John Jackson of Gary, Indiana in a 7 round fight in Lynn, MA where he lost the fight on points. He was listed as “Honorable Mention” under the top ten fighters in the world in Official Karate Magazine from 1980 through 1982 by the governing body of the Professional Karate Association (PKA). He is currently a Ninth Degree Black Belt Grandmaster, under the tutelage of the only karate instructor he’s ever had, George Pesare.
In 1985 he joined the East Providence Police Department in East Providence, RI where he rose through the ranks to Lieutenant, serving as a Shift Commander in the Uniformed Patrol Division. While there he earned his BS Degree in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams College and MS Degree in the Administration of Justice from Salve Regina. He later attended Roger Williams University School of Law but had to drop out after his second year. He also worked in the Vice Unit, later headed the Traffic Division, and was a member of and later in charge of the Honor Guard.
Mr. Garo began his acting career in 1975 when he was a member of summer stock ensemble at Keene Summer Theatre in New Hampshire. He was a member of the chorus and also choreorgraphed the Frug Dance in “Sweet Charity” in which he played Charlie and also performed in “Mame” as Ralph Divine as well as being a member of the chorus.
He later received professional training at the Trinity Rep Conservatory in Providence, Rhode Island under the direction of Larry Arrick and David Eliott. While at the conservatory he studied acting under the tutelage of Suzanne Shepherd and Fred Kareman studying the Meisner Technique. He also studied acting under Larry Arrick, Richard Jenkins, and George Martin. He studied mime with Michael Grando and stage fighting under Bill Patton. He also studied ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance under Daniel Nagrin, Irene Feigenheimer, Ara Fitzgerald, and Mark Taylor. He studied voice and dialects under Barbara Damashek, Gordon Jacoby, and Brian McEleney. He also studied playwriting under David Eliott. He also studied lighting design under Eugene Lee and set design under Akira Yoshimura.
While at Trinity Rep he performed in a main stage production of “Dead Souls” as Mizhuyev under the direction of Adrian Hall at Trinity Square Repertory Company. He was also a member of the Rhode Island Shakespeare Company where he performed under the direction of Bob Colona. He appeared in “The Taming of the Shrew” as Curtis and in “Henry IV” as Poins where he appeared with Michael Corrente. He choreographed and performed in the fight scenes in “The Saint of Bleeker Street” for the Providence Opera Company at the Providence Performing Arts Center. He also appeared as Pedro in The Berkshire Repertory Company’s summer stock run of “The Man of La Mancha”. One of his more memorable performances was in Second Story Theatre’s production of “Bent” in which he played Greta, a transvestite cabaret owner in pre World War II Nazi Germany. He appeared in “Bent” with Richard Donnelly and Ed Shea. Mr. Garo’s most vivid memory of this production can be found in this novel discovery: “Hey, I never thought I looked THAT good in fishnets and stilettos”, he said after being posed the question. He also played Don in Studio “B” Production’s rendition of “American Buffalo” with fellow Conservatory graduates Michael Corrente and Robert Sacchetti. Dean Gregory, another fellow graduate of the Conservatory at Trinity Rep, directed the production.
Mr. Garo began his film career working with William Conrad in the 1983 American Playhouse production of “The Great Whodunit” in which he played a police officer. This was a PBS production done in partnership with Creative Television Associates. Later in the same year he appeared as Stosh Cosnowski in Jean Shepherd’s “The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski”. He worked with Jean Shepherd, Barbara Bolton, Peter Kowanko, and Katherine Kamhi. This was another PBS production. One of the NBC Sunday Night Movie features that year was “The Demon Murder Case” in which he played Father Lombino. This was a special treat as he had the opportunity with childhood icon Andy Griffith along with such notables as Kevin Bacon, Eddie Albert, Harvey Fierstein, Beverlee McKinsey, Joyce Van Patten, Cloris Leachman, Ken Kercheval and Peter Gerety.
His first full length feature film cast him in the role of a corrupt police officer in Michael Corrente’s critically acclaimed film “Federal Hill” in a scene with Nicholas Turturro. This was the film that Corrente made as a new film maker that established his home of Rhode Island as a new hotbed for film making for both new and well established producers in the entertainment industry. This was the first time Armen shared cast credits with Frank Vincent, Phyllis Kay, Robert Turano, Michael Corrente, Anthony DeSando, and Michael Raynor.
His other works include “A Wake In Providence”, “Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2”, “Thirteen Days”, “First Affair”, “Third Watch” and “Jesus, Mary and Joey” in which he played various uncredited bit parts and worked as an extra. His commentary on such work: “Hey, work is a good thing and I learned quite a bit from great people as an extra. It was a great opportunity to network. I can’t stress enough what an important part of the process working as an extra is”.
His next work was on an independent film called “No Providence” in which he played Willie, a seedy drug dealer. This was the first time he worked with writer/director Justin Lundstrom, another young new film maker from Rhode Island.
In 2006 Garo was cast in Showtimes’s Peabody Award winning original drama series “Brotherhood” as the Police Lieutenant. This was the first time he worked with creator/writer Blake Masters, Executive Producer Henry Bromell, and director Edward Bianchi. He was brought back in the second season as Det. Lt. Gillardino working with Anabeth Gish, Jason Isaacs, Billy Smith, and Brian Scannell. That same year he had the good fortune of being cast as one of the two Providence Gangsters in Warner Brothers’ “The Departed” directed by Martin Scorsese. The picture won 4 out of the 5 nominations for an Academy Award (Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Achievement in Editing, and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay). He worked with, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and fellow Providence Gangster John Cenatiempo. After being seen in “The Departed” Mr. Garo was invited to read for the role of Salvatore “Coco” Cogliano for what was to be the Final Season of the Emmy Awarding winning “The Sopranos”. He was hired as the menacing “Coco”, whose actions with Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) earned him a non-consensual dental appointment at no charge with her father, Tony (James Gandolfini). Later that year he appeared as one of two police officers on a stake-out trying to catch the cat burglar in Walt Disney’s “Underdog” only to have his doughnut taken and coffee spilled. He also made a brief appearance in “The Game Plan” as a Cabbie with Madison Bettis and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
He has booked many national and regional on camera television commercials for several corporate concerns including Cingular Wireless, AT&T Wireless, Nike, Geico, ESPN Winter “X” Games, and an internet production for Proctor & Gamble. A regional public service announcement featuring him as the principal actor for the local chapter of Keep America Beautiful (Keep Providence Beautiful) was a finalist for a Clio Award in 1984. He was also featured as a principal actor in a national commercial in Norway in 2005 for the chain of Narvesen convenience stores.
Most recently, Garo served as the Honorary Chairperson for the RI Chapter of The Make A Wish Foundation and is now their Ambassador For Life. The Foundation raises monies to finance the wishes of children who are suffering from life threatening illnesses and diseases.