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The Sopranos: The Final Season

After more than eight years and six seasons, the saga of the New Jersey crime family will come to a close after nine more episodes.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Sopranos, Mar/Apr 2007

(continued from page 3)

Three years ago, Imperioli returned to his Off Broadway roots. He and his wife, Victoria, laid out more than $1 million of his hard-earned "Sopranos" loot to buy a four-story building on West 29th Street in Manhattan. On the ground floor, they built a 65-seat theater for Studio Dante, their not-for-profit theater company.

"It was my wife's idea," he says. "She said she knew that theater was something I really loved and that I would really be into it. Also, she's a designer, and she wanted to build a place. She also does sets and costumes."

She was right. They've put on seven plays; Imperioli has been involved in directing and producing, and in March, after "The Sopranos" wraps, he will be acting—in a play called Chicken, about cockfighting. "I play a guy who knows a lot about cockfighting and wants to make a big score in that world." Sort of like Christopher and Hollywood.

Imperioli has also gotten into music—he has a rock band called La Dolce Vita, and he plays guitar. "I've been doing it for a year, and I plan to keep on doing it."

Something else he plans to keep working at is writing. He co-wrote (and costarred in) Summer of Sam in 1999, and he has written five "Sopranos" episodes. "I don't know which direction I'll go in," he says, "but I'll be writing."

Imperioli says he also has no idea about which direction Chase will choose for the final scenes of "The Sopranos." "If I had to guess, though," he says, "it's not going to end 'happily ever after.' That's not David Chase. Knowing the way David does things, I would bet money that not everyone's going to make it."

David Chase's road to "The Sopranos" began in the mid-1950s, when he was a very young Italian-American guy—eight or nine years old—growing up in New Jersey. He enjoyed watching old films on television, and one evening he came upon his first gangster movie: The Public Enemy, the classic 1931 film starring James Cagney as Tom Powers, a crime boss who rises and falls during the Roaring Twenties.

There was a program on WOR-TV, Channel 9, in New York, called "Million Dollar Movie." It showed the same film five times a week. The Public Enemy was one of those films—and Chase watched it every night. He was scared. He cried. "The last 15, 20 minutes was very frightening," he recalled. And he was hooked.

He could compare what he saw on the large screen with the small taste of Mafia life that he acquired in his neighborhood. In the suburbs of his childhood, mobsters lurked. Chase (the family name was originally DeCesare) often heard tales of them, but he had little contact with actual mafiosi, except for the husband of a cousin. "No one ever says this," he recalled. "They don't tell you this. I didn't know that when I was little." But he could see that his cousin's family "always had Cadillacs." Then the husband "got busted one day. The kids were going off to school. He was taken away by the FBI."

Chase's mobster connection, however, wouldn't fully assert itself in his television work until more than 40 years later, after more than two decades as a journeyman TV writer, producer and director ("The Rockford Files," "I'll Fly Away," "Northern Exposure"). And the idea for doing a TV series essentially inspired by The Godfather wasn't his—it actually came from Brad Grey, one of the series' producers.

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