Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa sat down with The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk in the latest episode of “At Home With The Creative Coalition,” a podcast featuring unplugged and uncensored conversations with today’s biggest stars. In the newest episode, Imperioli and Schirripa open up about their iconic roles on “The Sopranos,” the murderous advice they received from real-life mobsters about playing their roles, the show’s authentic portrayal of Italian Americans, James Gandolfini’s unexpected acts of generosity, and much more. Highlights below.
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Highlights from “At Home With The Creative Coalition” featuring Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa —
Steve Schirripa on why he took the role on “The Sopranos” and whether the show felt authentic:
“I mean, most of the actors, almost every actor, was Italian. That was a thing David [Chase] insisted on. Except for, I think the kids… Most of them were Italian, half-Italian. Some of the writers were Italian, David was. I think it was a slice of Italian American life that exists and needs to be told. It’s real, that thing. That’s not make-believe. That’s not someone’s fictional thoughts of, ‘Well, maybe this is what goes on.’ This was real… Very real, very real. I mean, I come from a neighborhood where those guys are around, and I thought it was very real. The way they talked, the way they moved, the things they did, absolutely.”
Steve Schirripa on whether the real-life mobsters he knows like “The Sopranos”:
“I think they liked it, because it was authentic, the ones we talked to. I mean, I grew up, at the time, in Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn, this is where I grew up. They were all over the place, you know? They were your Little League coach. A guy that I played Little League with, lived across the street from me, he did 25 years for murder. You know? I just kind of come from that place. Some guys turned out to be doctors, some guys turned out to be mobsters. But the ones we know now, I mean, you know, they’re friends, and I think they like the show a lot.”
Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa on the “advice” they received from real-life mobsters about playing their characters:
Imperioli: “I had a guy come to me in Rao’s, who I didn’t know. But I was at a table with Tony Sirico, and Tony knew the guy at the other table, and he was a captain I think in the Genovese or the Colombo family, I forget which. And he offered to show me the correct way to strangle someone with a piano wire. I didn’t take him up on it, because we were in the middle of a meal. Yeah, by the time dessert came, he was gone.”
Schirripa: “Yeah, yeah. I lived in Little Italy for a couple years, early on in a show. A guy told me, ‘Hey, you know I love the show — but anybody who’s ever whacked anyone, that’s not how you do it.’ So yeah, you got some of that. But for the most part — once in a blue moon, you would get a guy like, ‘Yeah, you guys think you’re tough, I’ll show you a real mob guy!’ You know, there’s people that love it, if you’re out. You know, they love it, ‘Yeah, great, get him a drink.’ Then there’s, once in a blue moon, you get that other guy, that ‘Oh yeah, you guys think you’re tough.’ I say, ‘I don’t think I’m tough, I’m just an actor.’”
Steve Schirripa on James Gandolfini’s kindness:
“I mean, we also found out about Jim, after he passed away, you know, I’ve talked about his generosity, where he gave us $33,333 each, 16 of us, after his contract dispute. We found out that he paid off people’s mortgages anonymously, he gave people money, he showed up at a funeral. A police officer he did not know had died, natural causes, and his wife had contacted him. Jim, by himself, got in his car and went to the guy’s wake.”
Steve Schirripa on the current attitude towards sensitive subjects such as weight in television:
“As the years have gone on, including Tony Soprano, here’s an overweight, balding guy as the lead guy. If the show is made ten years earlier, you get some guy from ‘Dynasty,’ or one of those shows, you know? A soap opera guy. Real people, this is what we look like.”
Michael Imperioli on his opinion on the portrayal of Italian-Americans and meeting Andrew Cuomo:
“I think there’s obviously a lot more diversity now, which is good. You know, the thing with Italian Americans — you know, I played Andrew Cuomo in ‘Escape at Dannemora,’ and I went to meet him before I played him. And the first thing he said to me was, ‘You know, I never watched ‘The Sopranos.’ My father never watched ‘The Godfather,’ and I never watched ‘The Sopranos.’’ I said, ‘You know what? I know where you’re going, and you should watch ‘The Sopranos,’ because it’s beloved by Italian Americans and it’s a great work of art created by Italian Americans.’ And, to be honest, Italians assimilated so long ago that negative portrayals — even if there were negative portrayals of Italians, which ‘The Sopranos’ is not– it’s not like it’s going to keep us from getting — I mean, I’m talking to the governor of New York State at that point.”
More about “At Home With The Creative Coalition”
Hosted by The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk, “At Home With The Creative Coalition” brings listeners intimate portraits, key moments of discovery, and “art and soul” conversations with iconic entertainment industry personalities from the big screen to the boardroom, from L.A. to D.C. Listen now at http://thecreativecoalition.org/podcast.
Upcoming guests include Justin Bartha (“The Hangover,” “National Treasure”), Kerry Ehrin (“The Morning Show”), Evan Handler (“And Just Like That…,” “Californication”), Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Isaacs (“Compromising Positions”), Aasif Mandvi (“Evil”), Rachel Mason (“Circus of Books”), International Bestselling Author Patrick McGinnis (“The 10% Entrepreneur,” “Fear of Missing Out”), Ken Olin (“This is Us,” “Thirtysomething”), Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos,” “The Matrix”), Yolonda Ross (“The Chi”), Reid Scott (“Echo”), and Alena Smith (“Dickinson”).
Previous guests include Jason Alexander (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Shiri Appleby (“UnREAL”), David Alan Basche (“The Exes”), Asante Blackk (“This Is Us”), Carly Chaikin (“Mr. Robot”), Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Alan Cumming (“Briarpatch”), Ethan Cutkosky (“Shameless”), The Creative Coalition President and actor Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary”), Lea DeLaria (“Orange Is the New Black”), Griffin Dunne (“This Is Us”), Michael Fishman (“Roseanne,” “The Conners”), Jim Gaffigan (“The Jim Gaffigan Show”), Willie Garson (“Just Like That”), Judy Gold (“The Other F Word”), Nicholas Gonzalez (“The Good Doctor”), Clark Gregg (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Tony Hale (“Veep,” “Arrested Development”), Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Middle”), Jon Huertas (“This Is Us,” “Castle”), Jason Isaacs (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Chad Lowe (“Supergirl”), Marlee Matlin (“CODA,” “The West Wing”), AnnaLynne McCord (“Let’s Get Physical”), Eric McCormack (“Will and Grace”), Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs”), Katherine McNamara (“Shadowhunters”), Marta Milans (“Shazam!”), Rob Morrow (“Billions”), Kathy Najimy (“Duncanville”), Haley Joel Osment (“Future Man,” “Entourage”), Bill Prady (“The Big Bang Theory”), Jessica Queller (“Supergirl”), Anthony Rapp (“Rent”), Mona Scott-Young (“Love & Hip Hop”), Julie Taymor (“The Lion King”), Krista Vernoff (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Matt Walsh (“Veep”), Alfre Woodard (“Clemency,” “Luke Cage”), Constance Zimmer (“Good Trouble”), and David Zucker (“Airplane!,” “Scary Movie”).
More about The Creative Coalition
The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating its members on issues of public importance. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns including #RightToBearArts to promote the efficacy of the arts. For more information, visit https://thecreativecoalition.org.