Updated: Feb 24
Before Mr. Imperioli (often known as Christopher Moltisanti, nephew to Tony Soprano) shared his top three acting tips, he told me about his most embarrassing moment on stage.
The actor recalled a cringeworthy story about an off-Broadway play he singlehandedly ruined by David Mamet called “The Woods”.
“The play only had two acts and two characters, a man and a woman at a lakeside cabin and we were on stage the entire time”, Michael explained.
“There was a short intermission and we were approaching the end of first act and I’m getting really into the moment. I notice The actress is freezing up and looking at me like a deer in the headlights and I’m kind of drilling her and forcing the issue, repeating the line. I think she’s fucking up, forgetting it, she’s lost, choking, she’s hesitating and still looking at me so I repeat the line again trying to push this scene forward, and finally, she goes with me and we do it.”
“The lights come down, act one is over, I walk off stage and...I realize we just did the end of the play!”
“I was lost. It was me.“ “I started performing the end of the play!”
“We come out to do act two and when we come to the point where I veered off we had to improvise a new ending and it was probably horrendous and horrible. I don’t even remember it. The worst part was that I was SURE it was her that was fucking up. I was mad at HER!"
He repeats the word horrible as he shakes his head.
Image via @sopranosstyle
“ I hold my hand over the next line and I drill it, drill it, drill it. It’s the only way."
That was a long time ago but he learned to never be too sure of himself. Confidence is one thing but cockiness is another. Even the most seasoned of actors can make mistakes and that leads us to the audition tips.
Every aspiring actor or actress starts their career with an audition and if they are persistent they will go on many. More often than not the number of auditions surpasses the number of roles played and that’s the name of the showbiz game.
So you’re going on an audition or you're one of the lucky ones who has gotten a callback. Here is some advice from a guy who has been around the block a few times and has an Emmy on the shelf to prove it.
1) Get a sense of what you think they want, what they are looking for, what energy the character has. Find out who is already cast and fit into that puzzle.
2) Know the material really well. “I always have the page in my hand just in case."
3) “Be a decent person.” These people are going to have to work with you, maybe for a long time. Aside from gaging your acting chops, they're determining whether they want to be around you for an extended period of time.
As we continued our conversation he shared that there are no shortcuts when it comes to acting. It takes work to memorize your lines. He does it the same way now as he did when he was a kid.
“ I hold my hand over the next line and I drill it, drill it, drill it. It’s the only way. Sometimes if dealing with procedural stuff I’ll use mnemonics, using the first letter of each word to help remember something. There are just no shortcuts.”
So there you have it, people. Some advice from one of the greats and an embarrassing story to boot. Moral of the story? Hard work pays off.
Be sure to catch Michael on the Talking Sopranos Podcast and look for his return to HBO in a new series based on his experiences as a Buddhist.