Interviews

Published on February 11th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz

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Michael Imperioli On “Sinatra Meets The Sopranos,” His Creative Process As A Writer & More

While The Sopranos stopped making new episodes more than a decade ago, it is still widely considered to be one of the greatest television shows of all time. In turn, a lot of the Sopranos cast continues to work steadily, and Michael Imperioli — who portrayed Christopher Moltisanti — is one of them.

After the end of The SopranosMichael Imperioli was a regular on Life On Mars, then Detroit 1-8-7 and then Californication. And that is without factoring in multi-episode arcs on Hawaii Five-0Blue Bloodsor Lucifer, or Imperioli’s appearances in close to a dozen films over the last decade.

But not everyone realizes that Michael Imperioli — a Best Supporting Actor Emmy Award Winner, who appeared in GoodfellasBad BoysClockersand The Basketball Diaries prior to being cast as a series regular on The Sopranos — is also prolific as a writer, producer and director. He notably co-wrote and co-produced the hit 1999 film Summer Of Sam beyond writing a lot of episodes of The Sopranos. 2018 saw the release of his novel, titled The Perfume Burned His Eyes and published by Akashic Books.

Still notably associated with The Sopranos, Michael Imperioli will be performing as part of Sinatra Meets The Sopranos at New York’s NYCB Theatre at Westbury on May 4th. The Sopranos star will be seen alongside castmates Steve Schirripa and Vincent Pastore, in addition to singer Michael Martocci and host/comic Joey Kola; the Sopranos actors will be telling stories and answering audience questions about the acclaimed David Chase series while Martocci will be performing actual arrangements from Frank Sinatra’s long-time conductor and musical director Vincent Falcone.

Below are martial arts-related highlights from my phone chat with Michael Imperioli, while more of the February 2019 interview can be read online via Sportskeeda.

I believe that you previously did this show in Red Bank, New Jersey. Is that true?

Michael Imperioli: Yeah, that was the first time we did it, at the Count Basie Theatre. We’re actually doing it tonight at the Borgata in Atlantic City.

Is the plan to turn this into a long-term touring thing? Or something you do a few times a year?

Michael Imperioli: We’re doing it at the Fontainebleau in Miami… The first one was a big hit. It was sold-out, a pretty big theater, about 1,200 people. Tonight we’re expecting more than that, tonight’s a big crowd here. So we’ll see, there’s no plans now, just some limited engagements. We’re open to it.

When did you know that The Sopranos was really great? Because wasn’t Goodfellas your third or fourth project?

Michael Imperioli: Goodfellas was the fourth movie I was ever in. There were high expectations for it, obviously, because it was Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro doing a gangster movie. That carries a certain pedigree and expectations. You never know, time kind of tells whether something is a classic and lasting. With The Sopranos, when you do a pilot episode it’s very hard to tell what the scope of a show is just from the pilot. I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the pilot and say “This is the greatest TV show ever and it’s gonna be a smash hit.” I liked it. I thought it was good. I can’t say I was blown away by it.

But when we got picked up and started shooting the first season, script after script just kept getting better and more interesting, more intricate, the light and the dark humor, the tragedy and I knew we were onto something good. And then when we on the air, the reviews were just out of control. The reviews were so good that Saturday Night Live did a parody about the reviews. Before they did a spoof of The Sopranos they did a spoof of the reviews, and basically the public was kind of forced to watch it because they had to see what all the hype was about. And then it took off from there.

You yourself, interestingly, also wrote a lot of the episodes beyond acting on-camera. When you were growing up did you want to be more of a writer than an actor?

Michael Imperioli: When I was growing up I didn’t want to be either. It wasn’t until the end of high school when I started talking about writing and acting. I didn’t go to college, I went to acting school and started producing and directing theater and started writing. I really didn’t finish anything writing-wise until Summer Of Sam, when I was in my late 20s or early 30s. But I kind of always wore several hats from the beginning.

Beyond that you had your band La Dolce Vita. Was it the goal to be a musician and not an actor at any point?

Michael Imperioli: In the beginning, that band came later. I was in bands in my early 20s. There was a time I wasn’t sure which way it was gonna go, but then I got pretty busy as an actor and that kind of superseded music at the time. There was a brief point before I started doing a lot of movie work that I was with a pretty serious band and was considering committing to that. I kind of got sidetracked by acting.

Are you working on that band at the moment or any other musical projects?

Michael Imperioli: No, I haven’t been the last couple of years. I’ve been more focusing more, outside of my acting career, on writing. I published a novel last year that I’ve been touring both in the U.S. and Europe as it came out in French and Italian as well. Last year was more about the book [for me] than anything.

So it sounds like you’re always creating something.

Michael Imperioli: Yeah that’s how it goes, you know? Well like I said, when I started acting, I started producing and directing theater. My wife and I actually built a theater and ran it… But I have to stay creative, otherwise I’m not a happy camper. That means something high-profile in movies or theater, or something independent, it could be theater, it could be music… I just like to be creative.

When it comes to being creative, are you the sort of person that just wakes up with a blank page and says “I’m gonna write for the next four hours?” Or do you really need to feel inspired?

Michael Imperioli: Oh god, you have to be disciplined. If you have to wait to feel inspired you’ll never get anything done. Inspiration comes and you might jot down some ideas, the seed of something, but to actually complete a book, you have to be very disciplined and sit down every day and commit a certain chunk of time to it. To wait for inspiration, you’ll be dead before you get anything done. At least that’s my opinion.

Do you finish everything that you start working? Or are there things that you scrap in progress because you don’t think it’s going great?

Michael Imperioli: Yeah, there’s definitely things… When you start writing you want to see if it has the juice. An idea might seem good or an idea might seem not great, so you start playing with it to see if it has the juice to fulfill itself… I’ve also found that there have been projects I’ve abandoned that I’ve revisited and wound up using pieces or parts of it in other days, which is interesting. It’s like you’re building a car from scratch and you’ve abandoned it, yet you can use their hubcaps or the muffler on this new thing. It’s like that too.


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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident (and Long Island native) with over 15 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his favorite band Superdrag. In the years following, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer.Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World, TheStreet.com, Format Magazine, Businessweek, The Improper, the L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. He is a member of the SATW and the IFWTWA organizations as a food and travel writer.Darren is also the host the recently-launched "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" podcast, as co-produced with PureGrainAudio.


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