Chianese: 'Script Itself is What Counts' in HBO Series 'The Sopranos'Aired January 21, 2000 - 2:28 p.m. ET
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LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Television critics face a tough new task: It's hard to find new ways to praise the HBO series "The Sopranos." In its breakout season, the mob-inspired drama won plaudits that ran the gamut, from "best new show on cable" to "most riveting series of all time." If you haven't seen "The Sopranos," you could say it's a show about family values; that and the perils of doing business with your closest friends and relatives.
In the case of mobsters Tony Soprano and his graying Uncle Junior, it seems they're either breaking bread or making threats to break each other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SOPRANOS")
DOMINIC CHIANESE, ACTOR: I show you my hand and you slap it away.
JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: What's the matter with you? Why can't we talk like adults any more, huh?
CHIANESE: Out. Next time you come in, you come heavy or not at all.
GANDOLFINI: You don't mean that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATERS: And joining us now is Dominic Chianese. He's the actor who plays Uncle Junior, or as Tom Shales calls you, the "sinister and murderous" Uncle Junior.
CHIANESE: Uncle Junior, yes.
WATERS: You do that well.
CHIANESE: Thank you. It's great to play villains, isn't it, Lou? It's great to play a villain.
WATERS: You've been a sensation for 40 years on Broadway and in the movies, and how would you characterize this? I've never seen such a tumult over a television thing since, I think, probably "Star Trek."
CHIANESE: Right. I feel it's a great script. And to me as an actor, I think the script itself is what counts. It's where I get my inspiration from. The first time I read this script, I said: This is a good script. There are three-dimensional characters, there's -- people either are going to be interested in relationship, for example, between, you know, myself and my nephew and his dilemma with his wonderful mother and his wonderful wife and kids.
WATERS: So you're in prison right now. You were last seen in prison orange.
CHIANESE: Right. And, this Sunday, you'll see what happens, if that's going to change or not. I can't tell you, Mr. Waters.
WATERS: Forget about it, huh?
CHIANESE: Forget about it, right.
WATERS: You were in "The Godfather."
WATERS: Do you gravitate to these parts or do they gravitate to you? What...
CHIANESE: No, they -- I've filmed -- they like me to play mobsters, but I've also played lawyers and judges and, you know, people a certain amount. I guess it's in the face, whatever, I don't know. I enjoy it.
WATERS: And I'm told what you like to do most of all is sing and play your guitar.
CHIANESE: That's the most important thing to me, I think. It's self-therapeutic, but also I'll play it for other people if they want to listen, you know. Music, I think, is the language of the world.
WATERS: So what do you make of all these reviews? The one by Tom Shales is the one that popped out at me: "This is one of the most unpretentiously profound and troubling dramas in the history of American television." That's pretty heavy.
CHIANESE: That's incredible. That is heavy.
WATERS: You saw that.
CHIANESE: And I think we owe it to David Chase, the writer, the creative vision of this man. I think he wrote this right from the gut. he wrote about his -- his inspiration is pretty strong, I think. He's developed some wonderful characters. And then Georgianne Walken in New York City, along with David, they put together a great cast.
So there's your secret: Good writing, good cast, good chemistry between the people, and a good story -- great story.
WATERS: And you're now in your second season. Little by little, people are catching on to what this is all about, spreading by word of mouth, almost.
WATERS: Sixteen Emmy nominations, four Emmys, five Golden Globe nominations. It's a -- you're an overnight sensation.
CHIANESE: Happy -- happily shocked, believe me. We're very happy.
WATERS: Well, congratulations. Good luck with everything.
CHIANESE: Thanks, Lou. Thank you.
WATERS: Dominic Chianese joining us here.
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