Al Sapienza played the character of Mikey Palmice in the first season of The Sopranos. One morning he left his wife Jo Jo Palmice to go out for a morning jog and test his new sneakers, and next thing he knows, he's being gunned down by Paulie Walnuts. Mikey wasn't the only one who suffered that day, Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) got a nasty case of poison ivy, as a result of tramping through the woods after Mikey.
How did you find out you’d gotten a role on the Sopranos?
I’ve been an actor for a long time. In 1992 I did a free play in LA, nice theatre Tiffany Theatre, on Sunset Blvd. It was an original comedy, very funny, I played a character of a burnt out comedian type guy. Jason Alexander and Julie Lewis Dryfess came there, before they were famous, first year of Seinfeld. Jason falls in love with the piece, he ends up becoming friends with the director and wants to direct it and make it into a movie. I talk with him for like an hour, he was a nice guy, down to earth from Jersey, FLASH!, 6 years later, I haven’t spoken to him since. I had a small part in the movie Godzilla.
I was a little depressed because of a recent break up with a girlfriend that I had been living with for 5 years, so I come to NY to go to the Premiere of Godzilla at Madison Square Garden and just to get away. It was a lot of fun and I get a call from my LA agent and he says that out of the blue, Jason Alexander called from a airplane and that he is doing a film and wants me to read for it, this is 6 years later, who remembers, that’s pretty cool. So I go and read for a movie called “Cherry Park” and as I am walking out he door, the casting director stands up and goes “Do you want to read for a television show?” So I was like yeah, I was so focused on the Jason thing, her exact words were “we can’t find this character” and they had trouble finding this Mickey Palmice character, I don’t know why. Maybe because he is not like a real goombah. The goombah they described him as a GQ clad sociopath who is Tony’s nemesis. So that was on a Wednesday, Georganne Walken was the casting director for the Sopranos. Remarkably they didn’t read in LA. I never would have been on the show if it wasn’t for the happenstance with Jason Alexander. So I read on Thursday, and they called me on that Tues night by the following Monday I was back living in NY and doing the show. We started the first episode right away.
I did the first audition, and asked for the pilot, that was filmed the year before. I starred in later episodes but the pilot had been done the year before in 1997, the series was filmed in 1998. Look how young Jamie Lynn Sigler was. Iler, they were little children. 1st season they were older children, now she is a adult. She was a child when I first met her.
How has it altered your life?
When I first saw that pilot, I watched it with my father, mother and oldest sister. I knew it was sensational. I just knew. A lot of people on the set didn’t know, but I just knew. It was different, it was sensational, and the fiber of the show was different. There were shots in that pilot that were 90 seconds long, they were not cut. Look at NYPD, there is a cut every 12 seconds to keep America’s attention span cause everyone is into the fast pace of McDonalds, this show was like BOOM! The show opens up focused on a statue in a psychiatrist’s office and it hold that shot for a minute. I just knew that this was a masterpiece. I love the psychiatry sessions cause they are so subtle, and they total relate to the scenes in such a subtle brilliant way. I think that David Chase is truly an artist, genius. Being with such talent pool like Robin Green, Mitch Burgess and all the other excellent writers is awesome. I mean that sincerely.
How has the Sopranos changed your life?
Honestly, in every way possible and everyway imaginable. I’m going to look back at my life and my life is going to be before the Sopranos and after the Sopranos. I have graduated from NYU, did 2 Broadway shows, and have been an actor for a very long time. I sing, I love to sing, absolutely love to sing, and anybody who wants me to sing, call me, hire me, you don’t have to pay me I want to sing
Sue: Like singing with the fishes?
Al: I sing with the fishes and I am sleeping with the fishes unfortunately
Sue: The dead come back to life, nobody is dead forever on the Sopranos
I was working with brilliant actors, these are theatre actors. If this show was done in LA everyone would have been different. These were people who had character, they had life experience and they were super talented. The day I showed up on the set I knew that I loved this, loved the people the crew”. NY crews are better because everyone is so down to earth, they are into the job intensely. I loved it. By luck I ended up in a masterpiece. I do believe that the first season was a masterpiece. Obviously I am working all the time because I was in the Sopranos. It was a landmark in my life, it changed my career forever, it changed the work opportunities that I was getting before. For a while I died in everything, 6 jobs in a row, I died in everything. In LA, I wasn’t typecast before I was on the Sopranos, I could speak like a real American. I was playing a lot of Dr.’s and lawyers, soldiers, and detectives. After the Sopranos everytime they needed a wiseguy, of course, I was on the list, which doesn’t bother me. It will be fine. It has changed my life in everyway. I was recognized almost instantly once the Sopranos was first showed. Mayor Guiliani came up to me and shook my hand. In NYC, being on the Sopranos, every cab driver, doorman, every cop knows you and it has changed my life permanently. Baccala did me justice by replacing me.
My favorite Sopranos memory?
We had been shooting for 5 hours and the owner of the funeral home comes up and says “I would appreciate if you would not use this language in this place, this is a funeral parlor” So I look at this guy thinking “You’re going to change David Chase’s work?” I was in shock, so the director at the time, the talented Allen Coulter, he was really nice about it, said just change it to “made out” and his idea was that we just do this and loop it in later, you just move your lips a lot and you can say anything. I was enraged, I couldn’t believe it, this is our art, Allen was not happy about this, obviously, but he didn’t have a choice, the guy owned the place. 15 minutes go by, now it costs a lot of money to go out on locations and all the sudden they start packing up. I’m like what is going on? David Chase apparently got word and decided in order to not to compromise his artistic creativity he would re create the funeral parlor in Silvercup studio in Queens. This is a testament to David Chase’s artistic credibility. I admire him for it.
Do you have any similarities to your character Mikey Palmice?
I do, unfortunately, that guy was an arrogant animal, savage, but I don’t have to say I do. Matter of fact, every character I do, I bring myself completely into it and say to myself if my circumstances in life were different. I gave him an ironic sense of humor, a good one. I gave him part of what I am when I am in the mood. He was a little sneaky, and deep down I am a little sneaky, (Al laughs) which I like.
Are you Italian?
100 percent, all 4 grandparents are from different regions of Italy.
What made you become an actor?
No idea, I got hit in the head. I went and I saw the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and I said “I want to do that, it looks like they are having so much fun”. Work sucks no matter what you do.
And I thought that what I would do is what I hated the least. I figured acting would be the most fun. If I could do it all again, I don’t know if I would do it the same way. I have fun some of the time and I love what I do most of the time. There are some hard moments.
What role would you most want to play?
Marlo Brando as Micheal Corleon in the Godfather, Robert DeNiro in The DeerHunter, Sam Wallerston role in the Killing Fields. Those type of roles. I’d love to do some crazy comedy; I would have loved to be in Blazing Saddles, playing Gene Wilder’s character. Mostly, Micheal Corleon in the Godfather would be #1.
What is something that Sopranos Fans didn’t know about?
I was supposed to be on the show for the Christmas episode in season 3. I was in England with Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft) doing a movie. My mother gets a call from wardrobe for me to do the Christmas episode but I was in England. I couldn’t do it even it I wanted to. I was heartbroken cause it would have been fun. I really wish I could have been there with Big Pussy and Micheal Rispoli.
What is in your future?
100 Centre Street, Federal Penitenary and lots of IRS problems (with a big smile). Other than that an eminent divorce. I am running for the board of directors in the Screen Actors Guild with Valerie Harper. I’ve done 6 movies in a row thanks to the Sopranos. 3 are to be released soon. A Month of Sunday’s with Rod Steiger, Hollywood Sign, with Burt Reynolds are some of them. I just finished a film “Weekend with Eric Roberts” which is real good. I did a sci fi film called Maglodon about a prehistoric giant shark.
Do you still jog?
I jog, but I always do it with a bulletproof vest on.
What was your favorite food from the catering truck?
The whipped cream, I would put it on fresh fruit and it was fantastic!
Are you involved with any charities?
No particular one but I do give back whenever I am asked, usually when there is children involved. I participate in celebrity softball games. It is great to be with the kids, I try to talk to them as much as I can.
A little side note that, Al was down at the WTC on Sept 11 helping the volunteers move some of the debris physically.
Do you have anything to say to your fans?
Thank you very much for your loyalty and viewer ship. We wouldn’t be anything without the fans. I am very grateful for the fans.
Some biographical information about Al Sapienza
Birthdate: July 31, 1962
Resides in New York and Los Angeles
Education: B.S. New York University
Family: Three sisters, Joanne, Lois, and Debbie. I have a brother, Joseph, a very rich cop. I am the youngest
Hobbies: Hard work and god exercise. Flying single engine planes, speed boats, skiing, touch footballTalents: I like to make collagesMessage to young actors: You are living in the worlds of non-artists for the most part. Don't pay attention to the words "no" or "it can't be done". It can always be done. If there is a will there is a way. Have faith in yourself and keep growing in your craft. You will get there!
Al's Lads (2001)-Georgio
Megalodon (2001)-ElliotThe Week-End (2001)-Micheal Green
A Month of Sundays (2001)-Stephen McCabe
The Hollywood Sign (2001)
Himmel von Hollywood (2002)
Blind Heat (2000)Sin's Kitchen (2000)-
JoeThe Gifted (1999)-Nick Fontaine
Supreme Sanction (1999)-Holman
Thick as thieves (1999)-McNamara
The Sopranos (1999)-Mikey Palmice
Lethal Weapon 4 (1999)- Detective
Godzilla (1998)-Taxi Cab Driver
Port Charles (1997) TV series-Mario
Making the Rules (1996)-Adam
Soviet Strike (1996)-Nick Arnold
Coed Girl (1996)-Darren Bronson
Dance of the Pendulum (1995)
Joe's Rotten World (1995)
Mr. Stitch (1995)-Clay Gardener
Ultimate Taboo (1995)
Free Willie 2, The adventure Home (1995)-
EngineerUnder Siege, Dark Territory (1995)-Captian #2
Animal Instincts (1994)-Eric
Ladies in Waiting (1994)-Rick
Perfect Gift (1994)-Ted
Blindfold: Acts of obsession (1994)-Sid Murphy
Road to Revenge (1993) Ramirez
Frankie and Johnny (1991)-Peter's Roommate
Strangers (1990) Reece
Veiled Threat (1989)- Sgt. Dimona
Sin's Kitchen (2000)-Associate Producer
The Gifted (1999)- Producer
Soprano Sue's Sightings ©2005
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