Family & Companions
For six seasons, Michael Imperioli was an explosive fixture on HBO's critically acclaimed Mafia chronicle "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), earning five Emmy nominations and one win for Outstanding Supporting Actor. Prior to making his mark on pop culture history with his finely drawn portrait of an Italian-American thug with suppressed artistic instincts, Imperioli was an active figure in the New York independent film scene of the 1990s. He was often seen in street-smart character roles for directors like Martin Scorsese, Hal Hartley and Spike Lee, with whom he also co-scripted and co-produced the crime feature, "Summer of Sam" (1999). Memorable for his ability to imbue a likeable quick wit into otherwise dark and dangerous characters, Imperioli also had significant talent off-camera, penning scripts for "The Sopranos," founding a New York theater company, and eventually writing and directing his own independent features.
James Michael Imperioli was born on Jan. 1, 1966 and raised in Mt. Vernon, NY. His father was a bus driver who was active in community theater, which inspired a young Imperioli to pursue the former of his father's talents by moving to New York City directly after high school to become an actor. He assumed he would be "discovered" almost immediately, but in truth, it took the actor four years to land in his first off-Broadway production and another year before he spoke his first line on a movie screen in the true story of an inner city teacher, "Lean on Me" (1989). Meanwhile, he worked odd jobs and studied acting at the acclaimed Stella Adler Conservatory. At the age of 23, Imperioli caught the attention of filmmaker Martin Scorsese and went on to score a breakout character role in the director's landmark film, "GoodFellas" (1990), where he gave a memorable performance as an aspiring mob errand boy who pays dearly for messing up Joe Pesci's drink order. The following year, Imperioli began an ongoing association with director Spike Lee when he appeared in a supporting role as Annabella Sciorra's brother in "Jungle Fever" (1991). He also played a reporter in the filmmaker's "Malcolm X" in 1992.
On stage at the John Houseman Theater, Imperioli earned positive notices for his role in Frank Pugliese's Brooklyn-set drama "Aven'U Boys," and over the next several years, became a steady player off-Broadway and in independent films. He was linked romantically on-screen (and off) with actress Lili Taylor in Nancy Savoca's coming-of-age drama, "Household Saints" (1993), made a strong turn as a hustler in "Postcards from America" (1994), and re-teamed with Lee to play a crooked cop in "Clockers" (1995). In his first big mainstream film appearance, Imperioli's street tough persona was tapped for Michael Bays' "Bad Boys" (1995) and again in the adaptation of Jim Carroll's memoir, "The Basketball Diaries" (1995), starring Leonardo DiCaprio. During that same busy year, Imperioli appeared in Hal Hartley's ensemble "Flirt" (1995) and enjoyed arguably one of his best film roles playing a Wall Street yuppie who becomes a crack addict in "Sweet Nothing" (1995). He followed up with a portrayal of flamboyant Andy Warhol film actor and Factory denizen Ondine (to whom he bore a striking resemblance) in Mary Harron's "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996). "Last Man Standing" (1996) offered Imperioli another mainstream turn as an Italian gang member in the midst of indie outings in actor Steve Buscemi's filmmaking debut "Trees Lounge" (1996). He also landed roles in the remarkably odd Cindy Sherman and Todd Haynes horror collaboration "Office Killer" (1997) and a co-starring role in the Robert De Niro-produced "Witness to the Mob" (1998).
By 1999, Imperioli was a fixture on the New York film scene, and with that toehold, he began to demonstrate that he had talents and aspirations beyond acting. He made his co-screenwriting and executive-producing debut on Lee's "Summer of Sam" (1999), his fifth collaboration with the director, which might have been his own directorial debut (with Lee as producer) had Disney been willing to take the risk. The same year, he landed the high profile role of Tony Soprano's hot-headed nephew, loyal Mafia soldier and aspiring filmmaker Christopher Moltisanti, on HBO's landmark drama "The Sopranos." Imperioli was a perfect fit in the talented ensemble cast, and his sensibility for the material went beyond his onscreen persona as he began writing episodes of the show by its second season. As a result of his "Sopranos" exposure, Imperioli landed a turn in the telepic "Disappearing Acts" (2000), a stint as Rosencrantz in actor-director Campbell Scott's TV version of "Hamlet" (2000), and a co-starring role opposite future "Sopranos" gunman, Steve Buscemi, in the dramedy "Love in the Time of Money" (2002). In an effort to remain connected to the creative community in New York and to stretch his production experience, Imperioli and his wife Victoria opened the Studio Dante Theater on New York's West Side in 2003, where the actor held a steady presence as a producer, director and actor.
After a leading turn in the acclaimed film fest screener "High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story" (2003) and penning three more scripts for "The Sopranos," Imperioli finally took home an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2004, after having been nominated three times. His film profile continued to rise with appearances alongside Eddie Griffin and Anthony Anderson in the urban comedy "My Baby's Daddy" (2004) and a distinctive voice role in the CGI-animated underwater mob spoof, "Shark Tale" (2004). While in the midst of playing a career criminal on "The Sopranos," Imperioli also took a moonlighting gig on the other side of the law with a recurring role on the venerable crime series, "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-10) during the 2004-05 season, subbing for series co-star Jesse L. Martin. As Det. Nick Falco, Imperioli played the nephew and temporary partner of Det. Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina) in six episodes. Imperioli was nominated again in 2006 and 2007 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series before the "Sopranos" finally gave its maddeningly enigmatic swan song later that year. Imperioli immediately followed up with a markedly softer performance as a grieving son in the TV movie, "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's 'For One More Day'" (ABC, 2007).
Imperioli was back in primetime in the fall of 2008 as co-star of "Life on Mars" (ABC, 2008-09), a gritty, 1970s-set New York police drama where he played a crass detective and underling of an irascible lieutenant played by Harvey Keitel. He returned to theaters the following year in the Peter Jackson-directed adaptation of Alice Sebold's bestseller "The Lovely Bones" (2009), starring in the role of police detective, Len Fenerman. The actor made his feature writing and directing debut the same year with the indie "The Hungry Ghosts" (2009), an ensemble drama pleasantly devoid of organized crime or detectives.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made film debut with one-line role in "Lean on Me"
Landed featured role in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas"
First collaboration with Spike Lee, "Jungle Fever"; cast as Annabella Sciorra's brother
Played a reporter in Lee's "Malcolm X"
First screen collaboration with Lili Taylor, "Household Saints"
Cast in small role in Hal Hartley's "Amateur"
Made TV debut as guest actor on ABC series "NYPD Blue"
Re-teamed with Taylor for Abel Ferrara's "The Addiction"; also featured future "The Sopranos" (HBO) co-star Edie Falco
Played first leading role in independent film "Sweet Nothing"
Re-teamed with Spike Lee to portray a crooked cop in "Clockers"
Cast as part of the Italian gang in Walter Hill's lackluster "Last Man Standing"
Essayed Scary Caller No. 30 in Spike Lee's "Girl 6"
Appeared in New York segment of Hartley's "Flirt"
Appeared in Jim McKay's "Girls Town," co-scripted by and co-starring Lili Taylor
Portrayed Ondine in Mary Harron's "I Shot Andy Warhol"; co-starred Taylor as Valerie Solanas
Acted in NBC miniseries "Witness to the Mob"
Re-teamed with Sorvino for "Too Tired to Die"
Co-penned (also executive produced and acted) screenplay for Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam"; originally set to direct before handing project over to Lee; third film with Sorvino
Co-starred as Christopher Moltisanti on acclaimed HBO series "The Sopranos"; also wrote a number of episodes
Cast as Rosencrantz in Campbell Scott's adaptation of "Hamlet"; aired as miniseries in Odyssey TV before playing selected theatrical venues
Landed featured role in ensemble romance "Love in the Time of Money"
Co-starred in comedy "My Baby's Daddy"
Lent voice to animated character Frankie in "Shark Tale"
Guest starred as a detective on final four "Law & Order" (NBC) episodes of season, filling in for actor Jesse L. Martin
Played a police detective in film adaptation of Alice Sebold's bestseller "The Lovely Bones"
Cast as Detective Louis Fitch on ABC drama "Detroit 1-8-7"
Guest starred on HBO's "Girls"
Acted opposite Halle Berry in thriller "The Call"