- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

NEW YORK — This guy is a screw-up. Thats the first thing to understand about Christopher Moltisanti. And to savor.
As crime boss Tony Sopranos nephew and the guy being groomed to take over the family, Christopher is a hothead. A showboat. A textbook case of arrested adolescence who feels underrewarded and put-upon. "Ya see the [stuff] I go through?" he whines to anyone wholl listen.
Raising doubts about the wisdom of his recent "made" status, not to mention Tonys devotion, Christopher screws things up. Then, unrepentant, he screws them up again.
Missed appointments. Unnecessary violence. A problem taking orders. A pesky drug habit. "Whats wrong with that boy?" Tony sighed to his capo Paulie Walnuts a while back. "Whens he gonna grow up?"
On that occasion, Paulie tried to explain away Christophers deficiencies. More recently, however, he and Chris have had a falling out.
Thus does Christopher turn even allies into enemies. Still, his own worst enemy remains himself. No wonder hes so much fun to watch. ("The Sopranos" airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.)
Chris, although a ciuccio, is no caricature, as Michael Imperioli, who brings him vividly to life, points out.
"I think on television, sometimes the character serves a specific function and you get trapped there," Mr. Imperioli says in an understated tone quite distinct from Chris bluster.
"For instance, youre the wacko whos always up, and its funny, and that works for the show. So you stay there. But for an actor, that can get kind of tired. How you avoid that is to make the character a full human being. You figure out whats really inside his heart."
One thing inside Chris heart is a gnawing need for celebrity. It drove him to risk Tonys wrath by writing about "the life" in a screenplay he hoped would be the next "GoodFellas."
"He sat himself down, he got a computer and software which he didnt know how to use, and he wrote a script," Mr. Imperioli says almost proudly. "I dont know if it was any good or not, but he did it."
On completing that screenplay last season, however, Christopher ran up against a movie world of lies and treachery beyond his ken as a New Jersey wiseguy. He gave up hopes of the Hollywood high life and stayed put.
"He chose a place that had meaning for him, where he felt he was needed," Mr. Imperioli says. "Theres a certain nobility in that."
At 35, the Manhattan-based Mr. Imperioli has been more fortunate in following his bliss. A native of nearby Mount Vernon, N.Y., he discovered his love of acting in high school.
Since then, he has had lots of work on the stage, along with movie roles in the Martin Scorsese classic "GoodFellas" (in which he played Spider, the kid shot in the foot by Joe Pescis character), as well as the Spike Lee films "Jungle Fever," "Malcolm X" and "Summer of Sam."
Meanwhile, unlike Chris, Mr. Imperioli has found success as a screenwriter. "But I wrote for 10 years and all I had was garbage," he admits. "I had nothing to say."
Then he hit on the idea of capturing the era of 1970s serial killer David Berkowitz. He was a co-writer of the 1999 film "Summer of Sam."
He also has written two scripts for "The Sopranos."
In "The Telltale Moozadell," Christopher gives fiancee Adriana her own music club after its repossessed. This script follows Mr. Imperiolis memorable "Sopranos" contribution last season, "From Where to Eternity," which found Chris gravely wounded in an attempted hit.
During this hour, Chris became the center of attention as everyone huddled to hear what he could tell them. He knew, for once, that he had tasted what he always had longed for: special recognition.
Thats the kind of respect Mr. Imperioli lavishes on him every week.


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