Dominic Chianese Answers
The Sopranoland Seven Questions
Dominic Chianese’s professional acting career began in 1952 at the Jan Lees Off-Broadway theater, leading to U.S. tours in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado and Patience. He was awarded an undergraduate prize for acting at Brooklyn College, his alma mater. He went on to act in dramas and musicals at regional theaters, including Arena Stage, Center Stage, Yale Repertory, Long Wharf Theater, Walnut St. Theater, and the NY Shakespeare Festival, from 1958 to 1998. His Broadway appearances include David Mamet’s Water Engine, Archibald MacLeslie’s Scratch, and The Rose Tattoo.
Chianese’s film career began in 1971 with Fuzz, then he landed the role of Johnny Ola in The Godfather Part II, which led to more Sidney Lumet films, including Dog Day Afternoon and Night Falls On Manhattan with James Gandolfini. His TV credits include a recurring role on Law & Order, Kojak and Dark Shadows.
1. How did you find out you’d gotten a role on the Sopranos?
- I found out from the audition process. I was called up by an actor who said, “Dominic, I heard you got the role ” I said to myself, I’ll believe it when they call me and sure enough, my agent called and said, “Congratulations!” Of course, I was ecstatic.
2. How has working on The Sopranos altered your life?
- It’s altered it, of course, first of all in giving me a voice that would have been unheard if it weren’t for The Sopranos. So I welcome that and I’m grateful for that. It’s given me a lot of opportunities. As an artist, it encourages me to take all the old stuff out of the trunk and realize, “Let me take a look at it again because maybe there’s something there that I can put into a piece.” It’s given me the ability to now talk to writers and directors about projects they may have and I can help or that I may have and they can help me. It’s very exciting. Very encouraging.
- 3. Tell us about your favorite Sopranos memory?
- One of my favorite Sopranos memories is working with a great actress, who unfortunately has passed away, Nancy Marchand. My memory of working with Nancy and her gestures, her face, her looks and her sense of acting was incredible. I find that to be memorable mostly. She’s number one and everyone else comes along with it.
- 4. Do you have any similarities to your character, Uncle Junior?
- Very little, except that we may have the New York accent and we may have a certain sensibility as an Italian-American to deliver lines in a certain way but that’s as far as it goes. After that, nothing. I don’t like the way he dresses. He loves it.
- 5. What made you choose to become an actor?
- I think an actor is someone who performs. When I was a child, the family would always encourage me to sing. Growing up in a very demonstrative kind of culture, Italian-Americans would sing a lot, and I think possibly, my grandfather singing out the window probably had the greatest influence in my life. I would say, “Why is he singing out the window?” He was singing about Naples and Italy and just enjoying himself and there was theater because my grandmother would say, “Open the window, open the window with that cigar smoke!” and there was a little scenario going on. As a child, I enjoyed my grandparents very much. My mother and father would always allow me to stay with them. So I think they were my earliest influence and the radio was my big influence. There were a lot of things to be done and comedy came from the instinctual feel I had for language. There would be a station called WOV and it would start like this, “Signore Signori presentiamo cuesta Domenica de Brooklyn Seventeen New York,” and I thought the juxtaposition of those things were quite funny. I had no idea what they were saying in Italian as a child, they spoke too quickly on the radio. But I realized that language was very funny.
- 6. What role would you most like to play?
- Don Quixote always comes out at me. I’ve always wanted to play Don Quixote in some way, form or another; musically or whatever. It’s a great role and I think the idealism of the man shows a courage, that hope that we have in the human breast to achieve something, which would benefit not only yourself but everybody else.
- 7. What is in your future?
- This opportunity to be in short films like The White Rose with Nathan Nazario which people can see at Alwaysi.com and to make films, that’s exciting to me. Also, the CD that I have coming out, Dominic Chianese Hits, which features folk songs, Italian songs, Spanish songs, a song by Kris Kristofferson, a song by Randy Newman, four original songs with one by singer-songwriter Bob Batch and three written by me. That’s exciting to me. Also the possibility of doing a play about Luigi Pirandello. I think he had something important to say to the world as a playwright and I don’t know if he’s been completely formulated as far as the world telling us what kind of contribution he made. I think it was a very strong contribution, a mixture of intellect and passion. I think Pirandello had something to say to people about what truth really is. So those projects are very exciting to me. And of course working on a play like Oedipus with wonderful actors like Al Pacino and the people he would bring together. So the Oedipus project excites me because I love that play.
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Dominic Chianese Hits
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