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Michael Imperioli Gets the Appeal of Method Acting: Movie Sets Are ‘Distracting’ Places to Get Into Character

Michael Imperioli is giving fans a further glimpse into his acting process, especially when it comes to the difficulty of being synonymous with an iconic character.

“The Sopranos” actor revealed to The New Yorker that he can understand why certain actors employ Method acting techniques as “being on a movie set is very fucking distracting” to get into character. However, Imperioli noted that on TV series, he opts not to have crew members “be exposed to my stuff” when it comes to how he transforms into roles.

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“First of all, to have a career in this business is extremely hard. To have a long career is even harder. To have a long career where you’re getting good work is almost impossible. To be remembered for something, to be identified with a character, is really difficult,” Imperioli said. “I’m not very public about what I do, process-wise. I don’t really let my crew people in on that. But I really put myself there. I can do it at will. That’s how I work. That’s how I’ve always worked. That’s the fun of it.”

He continued, “I can turn it on and off when I want to, but I choose to keep it on when I think it has to be on, which is throughout the performance, or when I’m on a set. […] It’s kind of like a magician who doesn’t want to reveal their tricks. And also, especially on TV, I don’t want the crew to have to be exposed to my stuff, I guess. But I get why some actors really want to be called by the character’s name. Being on a movie set is very fucking distracting. And then you have to just turn it on. So whatever you have to do, as long as it’s not disrespecting people, I get it. You can call me whatever you want. I don’t really care because it’s not going to affect me.”

Imperioli “Merchant of Venice” with Al Pacino at his home, which Imperioli called a “surreal” experience as the actor transformed into character.

“Probably out of any actor, he was the one that made me want to be an actor. I felt like I was playing basketball with Michael Jordan. He was, like, twenty steps ahead of me. I’ll never forget it,” Imperioli said. “He just became Shylock in front of my eyes. It was very strange. Everything about him, like, physically, he changed. The color of his skin changed. It was very, like, alchemical. It was magic. It was something great actors do, really.”

And Imperioli also pointed to how each production differs based on the director, something that Imperioli says affects his own acting process.

“The best ones make you feel like you belong there, give you a sense of freedom so you can feel comfortable, to be vulnerable and to express yourself,” Imperioli said. “The worst directors yell and they’re kind of gruff, or they’re critical, and that closes you. So you don’t want to take chances, you’ll make safer choices. It’ll be less interesting. I guess the great artists have, you know, compassion. They’re also usually good human beings. That’s what I’ve found.”

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