smart spending

Michael Imperioli on living a happy life

While he's played detectives on shows such as "Law & Order," "Life on Mars" and "Detroit 1-8-7," actor Michael Imperioli is best known for his work on the other side of the law -- most prominently as Christopher on HBO series "The Sopranos." Imperioli spoke to Bankrate while awaiting word on his possible next project, a pilot for HBO by "Entourage" creator Doug Ellin. It's called "40," a show about men dealing with life on the cusp of middle age.

 
Michael Imperioli
Michael ImperioliPhoto by PR Photos
What jobs did you have before you began working steadily as an actor?

I worked mostly in the restaurant business. I did everything -- waiter, busboy, bartender, cook, food runner. All that stuff. I was also a messenger -- on foot, not on bicycle. I'm not that skilled on a bicycle. I moved furniture. I worked at (New York theater) La MaMa, hanging lights. I also did phone market research, which was the worst job I ever had.

So you really had the breadth of actor jobs.

Yeah. The restaurant business is really good because you can work nights and then go on auditions or to classes during the day. Then, if you get a job in a play or something, it's usually easy to switch shifts.

Did you enjoy the work itself?

There were times I enjoyed it a lot and times when I hated it a lot. When a restaurant is slammed and everybody wants everything at the same time, it's really, really difficult. That's why I'm a good tipper now, because I remember what it was like, and how much you rely on (tips).

Michael ImperioliPhoto by PR Photos
How did your family react when you hit it big with "The Sopranos" after spending years as a struggling actor?

They were always very proud. I went to acting school after high school, at like 17, and I didn't really start working for about five years after that. But I started making a living as an actor when I was 25, 26. "The Sopranos" hit when I was 33, so I had already been making a living at it. So they were already proud.

When "The Sopranos" hit big, did you splurge on anything crazy?

I took my whole family -- my in-laws, parents, brother, wife and kids - and rented a house in St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) for a week.

Michael ImperioliPhoto by PR Photos
So you went through a phase of expensive meals and hotels, things like that?

Yeah, I did. But I think it's much more important to keep things in perspective, because those things don't necessarily make you happy. There can be an endless chase for a better car, a better watch, better clothes, a better house, more money. In the end, it's not necessarily gonna make you happy.

So now you're more frugal?

I'm much more frugal now than I was when I was younger. I try to keep things very simple. I think you live a happier life when you keep things simple.

 
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