In the new season of HBO Max’s The White Lotus, Michael Imperioli plays Dominic Di Grasso, a Hollywood hotshot on a downward spiral. His marriage imploding over his infidelity, he has traveled to Sicily with his flirtatious, widowed father Bert (F. Murray Abraham) and his disapproving son Albie (Adam DiMarco) to reconnect with their family’s Italian roots. (Dominic’s wife and daughter should come, too, but they want nothing to do with him now.) Dominic harbors a hidden sex addiction and is desperate to win back Albie’s respect, trying to be a good father when he’s not busy Smuggling prostitutes into his hotel room at night.
It’s a great, weather-beaten performance – not that Imperioli has any interest in seeing it.
“My wife saw the first two [episodes] and she loves it,” he says on a video call from his New York home in mid-October. “I don’t really monitor myself much anymore — I usually let a lot of time pass before I do.” He’s traded long enough to know that revisiting his recent work too soon isn’t good for him. “I get into my head and I can’t be objective,” he says. “I’m starting to dislike what I’m doing and I’m questioning things. This is not fun.”
At 56, Imperioli is no longer the scrawny kid who dared stand up to Joe Pesci’s Vulcan gangster in Goodfellas. Probably still best known for his Emmy-winning role as Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos, he is withdrawn and sincere in conversation, his gray hair and black-rimmed glasses frame his handsome face, that unmistakably streetwise voice is unmistakable . Between completing his popular podcast, Talking Sopranos, and recording a new album with his rock band Zopa, he’s had a busy life of late aside from acting, although you can tell he’s just as proud of his rich family life at 26- year-old wife is years Victoria and their three adult children. But with The White Lotus, Imperioli is enjoying one of his most iconic projects in years, portraying a damaged character filled with middle-aged weariness and disarming vulnerability.
However, when Imperioli was approached about the audition, he was unfamiliar with the work of writer, director and creator Mike White. “They wanted me to shoot two scenes,” he recalls, “which I understand because they may not have seen me in anything for a while — they want to see what I look like and where I stand.” But after watching the video After watching his client, Imperioli’s manager gave him a hard affection: “She said, ‘You should watch the show and then repeat this audition. You’re not getting the tone right.’”
Imperioli took her advice and immediately realized what he had done wrong after devouring Season 1. “I didn’t realize how funny the show was,” he admits. “As I started watching it, I thought, ‘Is this going to be a cynical statement about how horrible everyone is?’ But Mike brought a lot of humanity and a lot of compassion. [The show] basically saying, “We are all flawed and we struggle with ourselves.” He made it very entertaining and compelling and really funny and really touching. I thought, ‘This is the work of someone who is really brilliant.’”
Now aware of the exact balance of light and dark on the show, he mastered the audition. Soon after, he flew to Italy for four months with the rest of the cast, who set up camp in the small town of Taormina.
Season 1, set at a posh Hawaiian resort, aimed for its privileged one-percent marks, but Imperioli appreciated the new season expanding its thematic reach. “I think this season’s themes are a bit more timeless,” he says, “which is cool for the setting because Sicily has so much of the ancient world present. Much revolves around generational issues and families, but also around role shifts [with] Masculinity/Femininity.” But a constant throughout both seasons has been a scrutiny of paternity. It’s a subject Imperioli knows intimately.
“I’m both father and son,” he says. “[My] The plot is very loosely based on a trip Mike took to Sweden with his father, but I was definitely thinking about my own relationship with my father, who is 81 years old – he’s getting older. Most of the time my dad and I had a really good relationship, but sometimes I was angry and frustrated with him and vice versa. And yet there is a love and caring that is very deep and very instinctive. That was really important to this story because [Dominic] is very frustrated with his father – he sees himself in his father, which he doesn’t like. But despite all this tension, he takes [Bert] on a really expensive trip to Italy. So obviously there’s still that desire to make his dad happy – there’s something noble about that.”
Over the course of the season, Dominic will confront Bert about his old man’s infidelities, which he says fuels his own stormy relationships with women. But Dominic’s sex addiction complicates matters. Imperioli wanted to know more about the condition, his compassion growing the more he researched. “I know people who have struggled with that,” he says quietly. “Like food, it’s a particularly tricky addiction to build into your life. It’s not like cocaine where it just says, “I should never do that.” Of course you have to have food, and sex is something you want to have in your life in a healthy way.”
Fighting the stigma surrounding sex addiction was important to Imperioli: “’Oh, you just want to fool around. You want to be married and have the security and love of a steady partner, and just f— whatever you can.’ But that’s not what sex addiction is. Sex addiction is something that can be rooted in trauma, shame, and guilt. You have that very brief, fleeting moment of pleasure, but once that’s gone, it’s anxiety, depression, regret, guilt, regret. Those cycles, those ups and downs, get drastically higher and lower as the disease progresses.”
Unlike his tormented White Lotus character, Imperioli is in a good place. Although being a parent means the world to him, he and his wife relish their status as empty nesters. (“It’s almost like we’re dating again,” he says, amused. “You can be spontaneous. We went on vacation and bought a one-way ticket: ‘We’ll go again when we feel like it .'”) And as viewers prepare to dive into another batch of “The White Lotus,” which premiered late last month, he’s content to trust Victoria’s judgment of the show. Someday he will see it. But now he remembers some wise advice he received long ago.
“My [acting] Teacher, she was very smart, her name was Elaine Aiken,” says Imperioli. “Her thing was always, when you were shooting a scene, the only two questions that really mattered were, ‘Did you do what you set out to do? And if not, why?’ And with that, I’ve done what I set out to do. That’s always a good feeling.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-11-21/michael-imperioli-white-lotus-season-2 How Michael Imperioli nearly tanked his ‘White Lotus’ Season 2 audition