Uncle Junior Sings!
With Dominic Chianese, aka Junior Soprano
Actor and Singer/Songwriter
Wednesday, June 20, 2001; Noon EDT
"Music and acting have always been part of the same thing for me," said Dominic Chianese, mob boss Corrado "Uncle" Junior to fans of the HBO series, "The Sopranos." "Maybe it sounds crazy that I'm a 70-year-old guy who's just made his first album. But I'm basically a troubadour at heart and always have been."
Dominic Chianese will be online Wednesday, June 20, at 12 Noon EDT, to talk about "Hits," his first CD of songs of traditional Italian and American tunes and pop standards.
Chianese (pronounced Key-a-NAY-see), "a sentimental guy from the Bronx," grew up in a close-knit Italian family and credits his love for music to his grandfather who used to sing his favorite Neapolitan songs and took the young Dominic to concerts in the neighborhood. The son and grandson of tradesmen who specialized in stone masonry and brick, Chianese knew at an early age he wanted to perform and toyed with the idea of becoming a professional musician.
He began his acting career in 1952 in dramas and regional theaters and made it to Broadway. He launched his film career in l971 with roles in "The Godfather, Part II," "Dog Day Afternoon," "And Justice For All," and "All The President's Men," among others. His other television credits include "Law & Order," "Kojak" and "Dark Shadows."
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control
over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
With this new album, will you continue to act? Will you be singing more in the show?
Dominic Chianese: I will continue to act, but I will continue to sing. Really, I want to talk about the fact that we don't know what's gonna happen on the show ever. We know about a week ahead of time.
Hey there Dominic!
Looking forward to seeing you June 30th at your book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Clifton, N.J.!
I was wondering if you had any plans to do any live shows to support the album, small club dates in seedy, smoky dives or anything like that?
Dominic Chianese: I do plan to do live performances on concert stages and auditoriums in many cities in the U.S.
Who are your musical influences?
Dominic Chianese: There was Carlo Buti. There was Bing Crosby. There was Jimmy Rodgers. Hank Williams. Mixture. Perry Como. Nat King Cole.
Were you a fan of Perry Como?
Dominic Chianese: Big fan of Perry Como. He influenced my singing tremendously.
Thoughts on the flack that the show is getting from Italian Americans on the portrayal of the Italian Americans.
Dominic Chianese: I think that the writing and the acting is a wonderful marriage to show this wonderful story of Italian Americans who happen to be outlaws. But the outlaw aspect is not going to hurt anyone.
Does it surprise you that people are surprised that you've recorded a legitimate album of songs?
Dominic Chianese: No, it doesn't surprise me, because, first of all, I've been doing it all my life.
Congrats on beating the "Big Casino". I am a big Sopranos fan.
Last year for Halloween I went as Uncle Junior. I had the perfect pair of glasses, a Bada-Bing shirt (I found on the web), and a cap.
I even wore a home-arrest device on my ankle all night.
The costume was a big hit.
Keep the great one-liners coming. Thanks.
Dominic Chianese: Glad you're enjoying it. I lived in Washington, D.C. for two years when I was a kid. I loved it.
Any concerts in the D.C area? Also, when does the 4th season start? Thanks, Uncle Jun!
Dominic Chianese: Thank you for the good words. The season won't start until late spring as far as I know.
I do plan to come to the D.C. area to sing live. I spent two years of my boyhood in D.C.
Dear Mr. Chianese,
You are so convincing and wonderfully multi-faceted in your Junior Soprano role that I must address you in character. At the end of the first season your nephew Tony assured his wife that he would get satisfaction against you for trying to whack him; yet, two seasons later, you're still alive! How much longer will it be before you will be made to pay the ultimate price for your treachery?
Dominic Chianese: This depends upon David Chase's imagination.
Why did you wait so long to record an album?
Dominic Chianese: I never had the means to record and I knew someday deep in my heart that my dream could come true.
Why kill off Pussy? I am hoping that he really had on a bullet proof vest and that's why he told them not to shoot him in the face. PLEASE BRING PUSSY BACK SOMEHOW.
Dominic Chianese: (LAUGHS) We all cried when Vinny died. I should make song out of that. May even do that. Make a good country song.
Mr. Chianese: Do you ever get accused by Italian Americans of "helping to perpetuate a stereotype" in "The Sopranos?"
Dominic Chianese: I got a letter once from somebody which was signed, "A Friend" and I was hoping that he would put his or her real name down so I could communicate with this person, but it was not forthcoming. I respond to people. I don't respond to phantom names.
I very much enjoy your work and your character on The Sopranos. And I loved the scene after Jackie Junior's funeral where your character sang some old songs and the generational divide in the reaction to them was so obvious. Is this something you've seen in your own experience, of young people's reactions to that music? Over the years, have you observed that young people who once rejected those cultural traditions come to appreciate them as they get older and have children of their own?
Dominic Chianese: In response to your insight, you've hit the nail on the head.
Loved your performance on the season finale of the Sopranos. I don't remember the name of the song you sang, but...is it available on your album, "Hits"? (I'd buy it just for that!)
Dominic Chianese: I appreciate that. It will be on my next album. You can hear it on the Sony album of The Sopranos. (Core'n Grado, which means "ungrateful heart."
Why do you think "The Sopranos" is so popular?
Dominic Chianese: Tony Soprano's dilemma in philosophical terms is universal. His need to know himself is paramount and agonizing and like the story Oedipus, all of us need to know ourselves.
Do people recognize you when you're out and about? What do they say? Would you rather be incognito?
Dominic Chianese: They do recognize me. I don't mind it in public, however, sometimes in restaurants it inhibits my enjoyment of the food.
I do wear my baseball cap sometimes to cover up my bald head which is somehow associated with Uncle Junior.
Silver Spring, Md.:
Being an avid fan of your show, there are rumors that David Chase and HBO are having difficulties. In the event that the show must (uunfortunately end, how do you see a "happy ending" coming? Since Tony Soprano tries to be a good family man, in both senses of the word family, there cannot be a total happy ending.
Dominic Chianese: I trust that the resolution will be dramatic but I don't know the outcome.
How do you get into character? Is Junior really you?
Dominic Chianese: My dad was a bricklayer. He used to tell me lay one brick at at time and lay it right. I think acting is a craft like playing scales on a piano. The more you do it, the more accomplished you are at performing. Each line of dialogue has a subtext. That subtext is your emotional world. That emotional world made up of your own personal images is something you bank on for inspiration. The stuff of inspiration is your emotions. You fit the emotions to the character's intentions and intentions depend upon the circumstances of the scene. Therefore, it all depends on the writing. Pay close attention to the text. There's gold in them there hills, somebody once said. In other words, it's all in the writing. That's where the craft is.
No, Junior is not me. But I can interpret Junior with my imagination. And imagination is the key to effective acting.
Is there much improvising on the set? Do you vary from the script much?
Dominic Chianese: The answer's no. Absolutely not.
Describe the songs on your album?
Dominic Chianese: It's an eclectic mix. There are folk songs, country songs, ethnic songs. There are cover songs. There are original songs. And there's a traditional spiritual song, "Amazing Grace."
Falls Church, Va.:
Congrats on your success. Your delivery of your now-famous one-liners is perfect. Have you ever considered stand up comedy?
Dominic Chianese: Yes. My son Dominic Chianese Jr. does stand-up comedy. He's gonna introduce me at my album launching party in New York next week.
Your bio says that you come from a close-knit Italian family. How do they feel about The Sopranos and your role? Is the Italian-American family portrayed authentically?
Dominic Chianese: It's a story and they know it's a story and they know their son is an actor. The only shock that came to my mom when she was 93-years-old was that her son Dominic curses too much. She had never heard me curse because I never did, ever curse in front of my mom.
Do you think the other networks will copy The Sopranos?
Dominic Chianese: My only answer to that is that artistic endeavor is separate from a commercial enterprise and they're two different thing. What is commercial is not always artistic and what is artistic is not always commercial. I think it's safe to say this. You cannot imitate David Chase. You can't imitate a Shakespeare; you have to be one.
I thoroughly enjoy "The Sopranos", especially your portrayal of Uncle Junior. Have you ever traveled to Italy?
Dominic Chianese: Yes, twice. Only recently. Twice in the last five years.
Any movies in your future? Do you like doing them or TV better?
Dominic Chianese: It depends on the role.
I have a cameo appearance in Richard Gere's new film called "Unfaithful," directed by Adrian Lyne.
Dominic Chianese: Thank you for your interest in The Sopranos. Thank you for your interest in my singing. God bless you.
That was our last question today. Thanks to everyone who joined the
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