The Sopranos

The Sopranos’ Christopher Actor Recalls Initial Reaction To HBO Script

The Sopranos' Christopher actor Michael Imperioli recalls his initial reaction to the HBO script and what sold him on starring in the show.

Michael Imperioli, who memorably portrayed Christopher on The Sopranoswasn’t all that impressed with the HBO show’s pilot. It was, of course, in that debut episode that viewers meet James Gandolfini’s indelible Tony Soprano. As written and directed by series creator David Chase, mobster Tony has been referred to the psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) after he has a panic attack. Although their session starts with lies and reluctance on the part of Gandolfini’s character, he slowly begins to open up once Melfi establishes the specifics of confidentiality.

It’s a setup that helps to establish what would become a drama that helped to fundamentally alter television as a storytelling medium, but not everyone was convinced that The Sopranos was going to be a hit. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Imperioli readily reveals that he wasn’t blown away by the script for the pilot. The actor, who starred in The White Lotus season 2, explained that he wasn’t sure if the project was meant to be a spoof or a comedy, and added that HBO, at that point in time, did not have the air of prestige that it does now. Still, in the quote below, he mentions how his opinion changed as more scripts came in:

When I read the pilot, I wasn’t like ‘This is gonna change television.’ I mean, it was okay! I’m not being facetious, really. The idea of a series on HBO did not have any prestige to actors at all at that time—it actually was the opposite. Being on a series didn’t really interest me, because I had mostly done movies and plays. But I thought [Christopher Moltisanti] was kind of interesting in the pilot, he had some interesting things to do, and I really liked who they were casting, a lot of people who I had worked with before and who I knew.

Are people gonna wanna watch a show about mobsters? Are they gonna watch a TV show with sex, violence, and profanity? When we started doing the episode 2, episode 3, every script was better and more complex. Then we really started seeing ‘Whoa, this is really special.’

RELATED:Sopranos: What The Finale’s Cat Really Means And How It Links To Christopher

How Imperioli Was Proven Wrong By The Sopranos’ Run

Dante Tony and Christopher at the casino in The Sopranos

As noted by Imperioli himself, he was quickly proven wrong about The Sopranos. The first season cleaned up at the subsequent Emmy Awards, earning an Outstanding Drama nomination and winning for Edie Falco’s performance as Carmela. Of course, by the time it ended, the mob drama would be an awards mainstay and Imperioli would also win an Emmy for his portrayal. But more than the awards recognition, The Sopranos has a far more enduring reputation for the way it helped to challenge and change what television was capable of.

Chase, his cast, and crew collaborated to accomplish this by highlighting that the visual language of TV could be just as rich and immersive as anything on the big screen. The Sopranos also helped to usher in the era of prestige anti-heroes, the Walter Whites and Don Drapers who did their own part in pushing the medium forward. The Sopranos was not alone in these qualities, as genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and younger-skewed programs like Freaks and Geeks likewise worked to redefine the expectations of viewers and audiences. But thanks to a combination of factors, namely timing and the talent of those involved, The Sopranos is largely seen as the first and most notable in a list of series that elevated television.

The Sopranos Future, Explained

Dickie squeezes Tony's cheek in The Many Saints of Newark

Terence Winter, a screenwriter who penned iconic episodes of the HBO mob saga, like “Members Only”, recently gave an optimistic update about the future of The Sopranos. The writer echoed Chase’s desire to do a sequel to The Many Saints of Newark film, while Chase further clarified that, though he’s not interested in doing another season of the show, which he was offered, he’d be happy to make one more movie that’s set in the same universe. But at this stage, nothing has been confirmed, leaving viewers to revisit The Sopranos franchise as it streams on HBO Max.

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