Michael Imperioli won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in 2004 for his iconic role as Christopher Motlisanti on The Sopranos. But despite the honor, his statue ended up in a hotel room trash bin by the end of the night — or so he says on Rolling Stone‘s The First Time.
“We were up all night, because like I said, we won best show,” explains Imperioli. (The Sopranos also took home Outstanding Drama Series that year, a first for a cable show.) “By five in the morning, we were drunk out of our minds. My wife and I go back to our room. We get in bed, she says, ‘You know what, you won this Emmy, everybody you know, kissing your ass, gushing all over you. I’m not impressed.’ She said, ‘If you had any balls you’d take that statue and throw it in the garbage.’ I was pretty drunk, and I was like, ‘Fuck this thing,’ and I take the Emmy, throw it in the garbage. We go to bed, pass out until like noon. She wakes me up and is like, ‘Why don’t you call room service, get some coffee and some breakfast. I’m like, ‘OK.’ She goes, ‘Oh. Don’t forget to take your Emmy out of the garbage pail.'”
Despite his success on the HBO show, Imperioli has had some bad luck landing parts in mobster movies, like when he lied to say he could sing opera trying to get a role in The Godfather Part III. But he’s also had success, landing a memorable role as the bartender Spider in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.
“I met Martin Scorsese at the audition for Goodfellas, which was a big deal for a young Italian-American actor from New York,” says Imperioli, who had read up on Scorsese’s process before going out for the role. “Weirdly enough I felt very free around him. And even when I got to the set and after I got cast, and was with you know, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta and those guys… I just felt like he would get me.”
Imperioli recounts many other stories from The Sopranos days in his new book with fellow alum Steve Schirripa, Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos. The two also host the popular Talking Sopranos podcast, which they started making remotely during the pandemic.
On The First Time, Imperioli also discusses his screenplays and novels, Buddhism studies, and the meditation classes he teaches on Zoom — as well as Taekwondo and his love of the band Queen. He bought their record A Night at the Opera after hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the radio. “It was very strange hearing a song about someone who was gonna be executed,” says Imperioli.
The actor went on to learn the guitar and write his own rock music. Sometime around 1986, he wrote a song called “Roll It Off Your Skin,” which his garage art-rock trio, Zopa, recorded for their album La Dolce Vita.
“The guys in my band, they went to high school together, but they’re both 17 years younger than I am,” says Imperioli. “So they were probably four when I wrote that song.”