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Christopher of The Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli recalls his initial reaction to HBO’s script and what convinced him to star in the show.
Michael Imperioli, who memorably played Christopher in The Sopranos, was not at all impressed with the HBO show’s pilot. It is of course in this first episode that viewers meet James Gandolfini’s indelible Tony Soprano. As written and directed by series creator David Chase, mobster Tony was referred to psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) after having a panic attack. Although their session begins with lies and reluctance from Gandolfini’s character, it slowly begins to open up once Melfi establishes the specifics of confidentiality.
It’s a setup that helps establish what would become a drama that helped fundamentally alter television as a storytelling medium, but not everyone was convinced The Sopranos was going to be a hit. In an interview with The AV Club, Imperioli readily reveals that he wasn’t blown away by the pilot’s script. The actor, who starred in The White Lotus season 2, explained he wasn’t sure if the project was meant to be a parody or a comedy, and added that HBO, at the time, had no the air of prestige that it does now. Yet, in the quote below, he mentions how his opinion changed as new scripts came along:
When I read the pilot, I wasn’t like, “This is going to change television.” I mean, it was good! I’m not facetious, really. The idea of a series on HBO held no prestige for actors at that time – it was actually the opposite. Being in a series didn’t really interest me, because I had mostly done films and plays. But I thought [Christopher Moltisanti] was pretty interesting in the pilot, it had some interesting things to do, and I really liked who they were casting, a lot of people I had worked with before and knew.
Are people going to want to watch a show about gangsters? Will they watch a TV show with sex, violence and profanity? When we started doing Episode 2, Episode 3, every script was better and more complex. Then we really started seeing “Whoa, that’s really special”.
How Imperioli Was Proved Wrong By The Sopranos Race
As Imperioli himself noted, he quickly got The Sopranos wrong. The first season cleaned up at the Emmys that followed, earning an Outstanding Drama nomination and winning for Edie Falco’s performance as Carmela. Of course, in the end, the mob drama would be an awards mainstay, and Imperioli would also win an Emmy for his portrayal. But more than the recognition of awards, The Sopranos have a far more enduring reputation for how they helped challenge and change what television was capable of.
Chase, his cast and crew collaborated to achieve this by emphasizing that the visual language of television could be just as rich and immersive as anything on the big screen. The Sopranos also helped usher in the era of prestige anti-heroes, the Walter Whites and Don Drapers who did their part to push the medium forward. The Sopranos weren’t alone in these qualities, as genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and younger programs like Freaks and Geeks also worked to redefine viewer and audience expectations. But thanks to a combination of factors, namely timing and the talent of those involved, The Sopranos is widely considered the first and most notable in a list of series that have elevated television.
The Future of The Sopranos, Explained
Terence Winter, a screenwriter who penned iconic episodes of the HBO mob saga, like “Members Only,” recently gave an upbeat update on the Sopranos’ future. The writer echoed Chase’s desire to do a sequel to The Many Saints of Newark movie, while Chase clarified that while he’s not interested in doing another season of the show, he was proposed, he would be happy to make another film. which takes place in the same universe. But at this point, nothing has been confirmed, leaving viewers to rewatch The Sopranos franchise streaming on HBO Max.