Sixth Season Kicks Off
Actor, "Uncle Junior" Monday, March 13, 2006; 11:30 AM
Uncle Junior shot Tony. Why?
Dominic Chianese , aka Uncle Junior , was online Monday, March 13, at 11:30 a.m. ET to talk the day-after about what happened last night on "The Sopranos" (the season premiere of the HBO series, Sunday, 9 p.m. ET).
According to HBO, Tony (James Gandolfini) ponders an associate's retirement request and shares a recent windfall with Carmela (Edie Falco). Junior (Dominic Chianese) takes Tony on a backyard treasure hunt and Hesh (Jerry Adler) seeks restitution for a wrong perpetrated on his son-in-law.
Guest stars abound this season: Tim Daly ("Wings"), Frankie Valli (The Four Seasons), Hal Holbrook ("Men of Honor"), Ben Kingsley ("House of Sand and Fog"), Julianna Margulies ("ER"), Treach (HBO's "First Time Felon"), Ron Leibman ("Garden State"), Elizabeth Bracco ("Analyze This") and Lord Jamar (HBO's "Oz").
A transcript follows.
washingtonpost.com: The interview will begin momentarily.
Washington, D.C.: Why did you shoot Tony? What did you say to him when you pulled the trigger? Did you find your teeth?
Dominic Chianese: I think there was something on my mind more important than finding my teeth and there was no logic at all to the actual incident. I think he was strictly acting on emotion and fear.
I called out a name Malanga, Pussy Malanga, somebody known by Uncle Junior in a former time. In other words it was threat to Malanga. I thought I was shooting him.
No, didn't find my teeth. I ran into a closet.
Alexandria, Va.: Will the character of Junior remain mentally disabled for the remaining time of the series orwill he regain his mental health?
Dominic Chianese: The answer to that is with David Chase. The ongoing disability itself is part of Junior's character now and how it ends is David's call.
Washington, D.C.: Given the secrecy behind all of the scripts; what was your and the cast's reaction when you read that you would be shooting Tony (James Gandolfini)?
Dominic Chianese: It was actually kept a secret during the shooting the season. Very few knew about it at all. Of course, Jimmy knew about it and I knew about it and the writers knew about it and the cameramen but we kept it from most of the actors. It was essential that it be kept secret. There was an obfuscation going on, a smoke screen because we tried to keep it from people.
Dominic Chianese: He, Junior, was disco-bobulated. I like that word. It's kinda funny. I mean mental confusion.
Alexandria, Va.: I have always liked your character, and think you are a wonderful actor. I am wondering if Junior is hiding from the police or the family, when he runs to the closet?
Dominic Chianese: That I think is a sign of a childhood fear of some kind. I think that's really an emotional reaction to what he did. I think he knows he did something wrong but he's not sure what it is and it's frightened him and so he hides. It's kind of pathetic -- at least that's the way I played it.
The result is pathetic but I played it in a state of desperation.
West Virginia: Sopranos are back with a bang! I love this storyline of a relative with dementia because so many of us are dealing with it. I love your character but in the world of the Sopranos, you've just committed a mortal sin. I don't see a nursing home in your future, do you? We'll miss you!
Dominic Chianese: I think that Uncle Junior fate has to be dealt with. He has to be confined in some manner. He's dangerous even to himself. He may burn the house down. Of course, the memory loss is getting worse. Personally, I think, Alzheimer's is on the horizon.
Dominic Chianese: But I, myself (the actor Dominic) have no clue as to the outcome of Junior's condition yet. That could change, according to the script.
Bethesda, Md.: Mr. Chianese,
How do you prepare, as an actor, for the role of Junior?
Dominic Chianese: It's a broad question. Like I prepare for any role, I depend upon emotional images from my own life experiences which leads to motivation of the character within each scene of the script, because it changes. It depends on the kind of emotion one portrays in each scene, whether Junior is happy or not. It depends on the subtext of the script. The emotional underpinning of the dialogue.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi. Thanks so much for answering our questions (how many "Is Tony dead" queries have you had to field so far, anyway?).
You are incredible on this show, and I mean no disrespect, but ... you know that dancing guy on the Six Flags commercials? Do you see a certain resemblance to yourself?
Dominic Chianese: LAUGHS. No resemblance whatsover but it makes me laugh. I can see why. It's the glasses and the bald head. I definitely relate to that. It's probably a young kid dressed up like that guy. I've heard that from bus drivers in New York too.
Monroe, Mich.: Uncle June,
Good morning. Have you gotten any feedback from real-life mafia members on your character portrayal? You character seems to have mimicked Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, at times. Also, great job singing during last year's finale, do you have an album?
Dominic Chianese: Of course, people don't come up to you and say I'm a member of the Mafia, here's my feedback. I've never met a Mafia member, period.
The end of the third season, I sang. I do have an album called Ungrateful Heart and then I have an older album made six years ago in Nashville with some country songs on it and some originals. Heart is about two years old now and can be bought on Amazon.com. It's all Italian songs and one original that I wrote.
Washington , D.C.: Are you going to jail?
Dominic Chianese: The character is still in a state of disability. That hasn't been determined yet.
Vienna, Va.: I saw someone who could be your twin in the Cafe Orleans in Arlington, Va., or was it you?
Dominic Chianese: No, must've been my "twin."
Washington, D.C.: Which is your favorite Episode of the Series so far?
Dominic Chianese: I guess when I sang the song "Core'n Grato" which means ungrateful heart." When I sang that at Jackie Aprile's funeral. I think it was the third season. It was David Chase's idea to have Uncle Junior sing at a social occasion.
Washington, D.C.: How has the passage of so much time in between seasons affected the storyline and the characters?
Dominic Chianese: No, it doesn't. It's strictly up to the writers. Doesn't affect me at all.
North Hollywood, Calif.: I caught your singing show a few years ago: you are an excellent singer. How long have you sung professionally, and did you start out singing or acting first?
Dominic Chianese: I started out first in Gilbert and Sullivan repertory so essentially I started as a singer. That's about 50 years ago.
Washington, D.C. : Did you take on a role in one of the Godfather sagas? If so, who?
Dominic Chianese: Yes, in Godfather I played Johnny Ola.
Cape Cod, Mass.: What are the feelings of Junior for Tony? Is there real love there or just fondness subsumed in competition for power and respect?
Dominic Chianese: There's the real love and endangered by unforeseen events. It's real love though. That's what I love about the show; it's real life.
Washington, D.C.: To what do you attribute the insurmountable amount of "snitches" or "rats" within Tony's organization currently? What happened to the loyalty amongst the family?
Dominic Chianese: I think that's one of the themes of David Chase's epic here, implying that the values of modern American society are being examined. That's the way I take it, in my opinion.
Atlanta, Ga.: Leaving a space of 18 months or so off between season runs would seem to be the perfect way to continue the show for years. Writers and cast aren't burned out and it leaves time for other artistic endeavors.
Any chance the show will continue on after this season?
Dominic Chianese: From your mouth to God's ears. I have no idea really.
Baltimore, Md.: Hi Dominic, how did you happen to hook up to the show? Was Jr. the only part you tried out for? Are you married in real life? Who is your favorite character on the show and why? Do you see the actors socially? Thanks!
Dominic Chianese: I auditioned for David Chase and the casting directors in a normal, every day audition. Junior was the only part I tried out for.
I am now married in real life. I recently married in June of 2003.
I really like, it's hard for me to choose my favorite character, but because I work so much with Jimmy ... It's Jimmy, Tony Soprano.
We socialize on occasion, yes we do. But because of the heavy work schedule it's limited. The social occasions are limited. We see each other on the set but our weekends are for ourselves. We shoot everything in New Jersey and in the studio in Long Island City in New York.
Bethesda, Md.: Mr. Chianese,
When you're not busy with The Sopranos how do you spend your spare time? Are you working on other projects?
Dominic Chianese: I'm writing an autobiography and I'm preparing music with my band and I've learned new songs and I try to visit as many grandchildren as I can. (I have 12.)
Washington, D.C. : I have noticed in the previous episodes that the character of Junior's mental state is deteriorating. Last night's episode, Junior has Tony digging up $40,000 that he probably buried and redug years ago and of course shoots Tony. Is the character of Junior modeled behind a real wise guy up in years who has perhaps gone to those extremes? I can't imagine, the character of Junior getting someone whacked unwarrantedly.
Dominic Chianese: Only David Chase can really answer that. Papers reported that Vincent Gigante tried to pose as a disabled man and it's possible that this might have triggerred some response from David Chase, the idea of it but I'm not sure because I have no control. In other words, I only act what's on the page.
Fairfax, Va.: What's Jamie-Lynn Sigler like?
Dominic Chianese: I think she's delightful, extremely talented and a lovely young woman.
Moscow, Idaho: I'm a big fan, but still have gaps in my understanding of the business. Does Junior still have a say in the family, and if so how can that play out with the dementia?
Dominic Chianese: This is an essential plot device being used by David Chase according to his imagination.
Dominic Chianese: And where it goes, nobody knows. It's true.
Silver Spring, Md.: Do you feel like you are a cult hero to the over 70 set? Love the glasses!
Dominic Chianese: LAUGHS. I engage senior citizens many times through my music and I play in many senior centers because, being seniors, we have a lot in common and share the same songs. And I remember Silver Spring when it was a swamp and my father was coming home from a hard day's work and we lived in Washington, D.C. and that was 1941. I can just see pop coming out of a barren field carrying his tools; it was kind of marshy, swampy. He was a bricklayer.
Toronto, Canada: Hi, Mr. Chianese. I really enjoyed the song "Core'n Grato". Do you know what part of Italy the Soprano family is supposed to originate from? Also, were did your family originate from? I'm guessing Naples area??? Have you visited Italy resently? Love the show and your character!!!!
Dominic Chianese: Avellino, it's a province of Campania. And Naples is part of Campania too. Yes, Naples on my father's side and Sorrento my mother's side. Neopolitan. Within the last six years I've been there three times and just recently to make a movie about four months ago. We filmed in Venice. It's an independent film called The Last New Yorker. It's an independent so you know it's going to appear in some festival. Should be out the end of this year. My characater is a man in his seventies whose buddy is played by Dick Latessa. It's a buddy movie.
Washington, D.C.: Sir: Thanks for all your great work. How did you enjoy your experience working on the Godfather, Part II with Lee Strasburg and Al Pacino? Do you suscribe to Strasburg's Method approach to acting?
Dominic Chianese: I had a wonderful time working with Lee and especially with Al Pacino. I do not subscibe to the theory of Method Acting. The reason is that each actor has his or her own method and if it is organic, it will work. That actor or actress's instrument will interpret the text in a proper manner. If their technique is strong enough and they're tapping into their psyches that thing which is called talent will help get the result that is needed and the outcome depends upon each individual's talent plug technique. Lee Strasburg and the method has value in that it showed or demonstrated that one must focus on an interior psyche; however, the "method" can be dangerous unless understood and since no one knows what the psyche of each individual really is, there is no teaching that can be administered. There are generalizations to be made. There is no criteria for criticism of the acting instrument!!! My opinion anyway.
Dominic Chianese: The word "educate" mean to draw forth and that which is in each individual actor can be plumbed and brought forth; however only each individual actor will know when the result is real. And that's a defnition of the word "talent." If they don't it, nobody's gonna teach it.
Dominic Chianese: The Actors Studio has a value in that it is a place where actors can congregate and compare notes.
Annapolis, Md.: Mr Chianese --
How do you pronounce your last name? Key-ah-NAY-see?If I'm going to talk about you, I want to say it right. Thanks.
Dominic Chianese: At the end instead of an "see" it should be "zay." So it's Key-Ah-NAY-zay. Genovese, Calabrese. It means "people of." Just like New Yorker.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Strictly shallow question: What's up with Uncle Jun's glasses? How come Tony doesn't get his uncle new specs? They're horrible. Even for an old mob boss, he can do better than that. On a semi-serious note: They look blindingly real. How can you see out of those things?
Dominic Chianese: LAUGHS. I think it was the choice of a look that David Chase wanted. I finally figured it out after five years, all the actors have large eyes in the show and my eyes are deep set and he wanted them to pop out. If you look at Jimmy and if you look Michael Imperioli and Stevie Van Zandt and Tony Sirico and Steve Schirippa, most of the men, including A.J., Robert Iler ... they all have large eyes. So they purposely gave me the glases to give me that large eye look, at least that's my guess.