John Ventimiglia would be the first person to tell you he's nothing like the Italian tough guys he's played in everything from "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) to "Mickey Blue Eyes" (1999). The Queens-born, New Jersey-bred actor studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City and honed his acting chops on the stage before turning to film and TV in the 1990s. A student of classic '70s films and indie icon John Cassavetes, Ventimiglia parlayed his wiseguy looks into early roles as a dock-dwelling hoodlum in Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994) and a criminal lowlife on "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99). But it was his portrayal of a sadsack mechanic in "Trees Lounge" (1996), Steve Buscemi's directorial debut, that eventually led to Ventimiglia's best-known role; restaurateur Artie Bucco on the critically-acclaimed "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007). His self-pitying but good-natured entrepreneur quickly became a fan favorite, giving the show several memorable moments. After the award-winning show went off the air, Ventimiglia, who once played in an '80s metal band called Zuzu's Petals, played against type with roles as a centuries-old vampire in the horror-comedy "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead" (2009), and as a beleaguered superhero in the small-scale "Alter Egos" (2012). A recurring performer on the primetime procedural "Blue Bloods" (CBS, 2010- ) since 2011, Ventimiglia later appeared opposite Michael Shannon in the real-life Mafia hitman film "The Iceman." As intentional as he is thoughtful, John Ventimiglia is much more than meets the eye.
Ventimiglia was born in Queens in 1963 but grew up on the other side of the Hudson River in Teaneck, NJ. Though he played football on his high school team, his real passion was for drama, and after graduation he moved to New York City to study at the famed Lee Strasberg Institute. It was there that he met Michael Imperioli, another struggling actor who became his close friend, roommate and eventual "Sopranos" co-star. After plying his stagecraft for a few years, Ventimiglia landed his debut film role as a prison guard in "Swoon" (1992), based on the real-life love story of kidnappers Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr. He next appeared in the '20s crime-comedy "Bullets Over Broadway," and transitioned to TV with a guest role on an episode of the critically-acclaimed cop drama "Homicide: Life on the Street."
His supporting role as a small-town mechanic in Buscemi's well-received "Trees Lounge," centered on Buscemi's aimless barfly, caught the eye of TV writer and producer David Chase, who was in the process of putting together what would become his signature series, "The Sopranos." Chase hired the casting directors behind "Trees" and eventually cast four actors, including Ventimiglia, from the film. His portrayal of the loyal but insecure Bucco, Tony Soprano's childhood friend and proprietor of popular mob hangout Nuovo Vesuvio, served as a much-needed civilian counterpoint to the hotheaded mob boss. The hardworking actor, who almost left the show to care for his two young daughters, was upgraded from supporting actor to series regular in the beginning of the third season and given several major storylines before the show ended in 2007. It was during this time that he returned to the stage, performing in a Jack Kerouac-inspired piece as well as "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui."
Ventimiglia's post-"Sopranos" career has been marked by a variety of performances in both indie films and primetime TV series. After a string of guest roles on shows such as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), he was cast as a hardened Brooklyn cop in the Biggie Smalls biopic "Notorious" (2009). He next appeared as an Off-Broadway-loving vampire in the occasionally clever "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead," and was featured as a racetrack hustler in the Cassavetes-inspired "Ponies" (2011). That same year he landed a supporting role on "Blue Bloods," following a family of New York City police officers, and has since appeared as a mafioso in "The Iceman," about real-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski.
Cast (Feature Film)
Made feature film debut in "Swoon" as a Prison Guard
Played the stable father Andrew in Rebecca Miller's directorial debut, "Angela"
Cast in "Cop Land" a crime thriller starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro
Appeared in the mob comedy, "Mickey Blue Eyes"
Cast as Artie Bucco, the proprietor of the Nuovo Vesuvio restaurant and close personal friend of Tony Soprano on the HBO series "The Sopranos"
Co-starred in the crime comedy "On the Run," opposite fellow Sopranos cast member Michael Imperioli
Joined several other New York actors and writers for "DV Workshop," a feature film collection of 24 short films for the Internet
Featured in a recurring role on CBS' "Blue Bloods"
Cast opposite Michael Shannon in "The Iceman"