Tony Soprano Protégé
“Only a genius can play a fool.” Michael Imperioli
Emmy winning and Golden Globe Award nominated Italian-American actor Michael Imperioli is familiar among TV viewers as Christopher Moltisanti, Tony Soprano's (played by James Gandolfini) protégé and a Capo in the DiMeo Crime Family, in the long-running, critically acclaimed HBO mafia series, "The Sopranos" (1999-2007). He also played Detective Nick Falco on the final four episodes of the 2005 season of NBC's cop/legal drama series, "Law & Order."
On the big screen, the actor, who has been acting since the late 1980s, could be seen in the films "Goodfellas" (1990), "Malcolm X" (1992), "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996), "Last Man Standing" (1996), "Summer of Sam" (1999), "Love in the Time of Money" (2002), "My Baby's Daddy" (2004) and "Shark Tale" (2004; voice).
More personally, the 5' 8'' charismatic dark-haired actor was engaged to actress Lili Taylor (together 1991-1995) before marrying his present wife, Victoria Chlebowski, with whom he has two children.
Childhood and Family:
In Mount Vernon, New York, James Michael Imperioli was born on March 26, 1966, to a father named Dan Imperioli, who acted in community theater. He has a brother named John Imperioli who attended Mount Vernon High School. Michael Imperioli himself was a student at Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers, New York. He also sharpened his skills at New York City's Stella Adler Conservatory.
Imperioli was engaged to actress Lili Taylor (born on February 20, 1967) before marrying his present wife, Victoria Chlebowski, in 1995. They have two children, Vadim Imperioli (born in 1998) and David Imperioli (born in 2001). Imperioli also became the stepfather to Victoria's daughter, Isabella (born in 1991).
Sharpening his acting skills at New York City's Stella Adler Conservatory, Michael Imperioli worked numerous jobs to support himself, including waiting tables in New York restaurants. In the late 1980s, he landed his earliest film roles, playing bit parts in an independent film starring Christine Moore, "Alexa" (1988), and in director John G. Avildsen's biographical-drama film "Lean on Me" (1989), which is loosely based on the true story of high school principal Joe Clark (portrayed by Morgan Freeman).
In the early 1990s, Imperioli got his first big break when acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese cast him as Spider, an innocent and unarmed young man who was humiliated and murdered by Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito, in the Academy Award-winning mafia film "GoodFellas," which was adapted from the book "Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi and also stars Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro.
He subsequently played Annabella Sciorra's brother in his first collaboration with writer/director Spike Lee in "Jungle Fever" (1991; also starring Wesley Snipes). He also played a reporter in Lee's biographical film about the African-American activist and nationalist, "Malcolm X" (1992; Denzel Washington starred in the title role) before making his first screen collaboration with actress/girlfriend Lili Taylor in Nancy Savoca's unsettling drama inspired by Francine Prose's novel, "Household Saints" (1993; also starring Tracey Ullman and Vincent D'Onofrio). On stage, he played Charlie in Frank Pugliese's "Aven' U Boys" (February 1993-April 1993) at the John Houseman Theatre in New York City.
After scoring his first leading role, that of Mira Sorvino's crack-addict husband, in Gary Winick's fact-based independent film "Sweet Nothing" (filmed in 1993), and playing a small role as a doorman in writer/director Hal Hartley's dark comedy "Amateur" (1994; starring Isabelle Huppert, Martin Donovan and Elina Löwensohn), Imperioli made a TV debut as a guest actor in a November 1994 episode of the ABC cop/crime drama series "NYPD Blue." He was then reunited with Spike Lee to portray a corrupt cop in the film version of Richard Price's 1992 novel, "Clockers" (1995; with Harvey Keitel, John Turturro, Delroy Lindo and Mekhi Phifer), and teamed up again with Lili Taylor for Abel Ferrara's unconventional vampire film "The Addiction" (1995; also featured Paul Calderon, Christopher Walken, and future "The Sopranos" co-star Edie Falco).
1996 saw Imperioli appear in Jim McKay's painful view of juvenile girl delinquency in "Girls Town," which was co-scripted and co-starred in by Lili Taylor, and in the New York segment of Hartley's anthology film "Flirt." He was also cast as a hotheaded Italian gang member in Walter Hill's lackluster Irish mob movie starring Bruce Willis, "Last Man Standing," portrayed scary caller #30 in Lee's film about a phone sex operator, "Girl 6," and portrayed Ondine in Mary Harron's directorial debut, "I Shot Andy Warhol.”
Imperioli spent the rest of the decade acting in the NBC true story-based mafia miniseries "Witness to the Mob" (1998; starring Nicholas Turturro and Tom Sizemore) and teamed up again with Sorvino for Korean writer/director Wonsuk Chin's independent tragic comedy "Too Tired to Die" (1998). He also co-wrote the screenplay, executive produced and acted in Spike Lee's crime-drama-romance-thriller film about the Son of Sam serial murders, "Summer of Sam" (1999), his third film with Sorvino for which he originally was set to direct before handing the project over to Lee.
In 1999, Imperioli became familiar to TV viewers as Christopher Moltisanti, Tony Soprano's (played by James Gandolfini) protégé, in the long-running, critically acclaimed HBO mafia series, "The Sopranos." He began appearing in the show in its pilot in 1999 and made his last appearance in episode 18 of its last season in 2007. Imperioli, who also penned a number of episodes for the series, received several Emmy (2001, 2003, 2006 and 2007) and Golden Globe (2003 and 2005) nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. He won Emmy's Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2004 and Screen Actors Guild's Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2000.
About his character in the show, Imperioli described, “When he started, Christopher was really like a kid. He's had, over the years, more and more adult responsibilities and adult experiences. He's kind of closed some of the generation gap with Tony. But to play a character that actually progresses throughout time and matures is a luxury.”
During his “Sopranos” stint, Imperioli was cast as Rosencrantz in Campbell Scott's adaptation of William Shakespeare's play "Hamlet," which aired as a miniseries in 2000 on Odyssey TV before playing selected theatres, and had a featured role in writer/director Peter Mattei's ensemble romantic drama/comedy "Love in the Time of Money" (2002). He provided the voice of the animated character Frankie in the Academy Award-nominated computer-animated film "Shark Tale" (2004) and played a father in the Cheryl Dunye comedy "My Baby's Daddy" (2004; alongside Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson, and Method Man). He was also spotted as a guest, filling in for actor Jesse Martin as Detective Nick Falco, on the final four episodes of the 2005 season of NBC's cop/legal drama series, "Law & Order," and appeared in a TV commercial for Sirius Satellite Radio (as the voice of the Sirius Big Dog), the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and Toshiba.
Michael also directed stage plays with The Machine Full Theater and served as an artistic director of an Off-Broadway theater, which he created together with his wife Victoria. He has also tried his hand at music and is now the lead singer/guitarist for a rock band named La Dolce Vita (Italian for "the sweet life" and the title of a famous Federico Fellini film).
“I love the show. It's going to be sad to leave it. But I think the timing is right to end it.” Michael Imperioli (on ending “The Sopranos” after six seasons)
After “The Sopranos” ended in 2007, Imperioli starred in a Portugal film called "The Lovebirds" (2007) and appeared in the Iceland film "Stóra planið" (2008), a comedy/action movie directed by Olaf de Fleur Johannesson. He is currently on set filming his upcoming project, "The Lovely Bones," Peter Jackson's film adaptation of Alice Sebold's horror/thriller novel starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon.
Emmy: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, "The Sopranos," 2004
Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "The Sopranos," 2000