Michael Imperioli Recalled 1 of the Few Times He Ever Asked for a ‘Sopranos’ Line to Be Changed
When actors look back on their years working on The Sopranos, they all agree that getting a change to the script was tough. In fact, you might say it was unheard of. Tony Sirico, who played Paulie Walnuts so well, tried his best once when the script called for him to kill an elderly lady.
But Sirico did not get his wish. After hearing him out, Sopranos creator David Chase said he had to whack the lady more or less as scripted. (Chase did allow Sirico to have Paulie use a pillow rather than strangle her.)
On the other hand, if an actor was requesting a line change, Sopranos writers might at least consider it. Looking back on his time on the show, Michael Imperioli recalled a rare concession writers made to Sirico, who objected to Paulie being called a bully.
That wasn’t the only time. On another occasion, Imperioli asked Chase if he’d rethink a line he didn’t understand. It came during the shoot for the season 1 finale, “I Dream of Jeanie Cusamano.”
Michael Imperioli didn’t understand a line about ‘politically correct’ hitmen
Chase and his team of Sopranos writers could drop some obscure references into the dialogue. You’d often see it in lines spoken by Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), the wise-cracking character from a bygone era. Once, James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) wanted a line changed because he thought no one would get Junior’s reference to Matt Helm.
But the line stayed in the episode and worked fine. Speaking on the June 22 edition of the Talking Sopranos podcast, Imperioli recalled coming across a line in “I Dream of Jeanie Cusamano” he just couldn’t make sense of. It was a reference his Christopher character made to the hitmen who botched the hit on Tony.
“Originally, the line was, ‘Next time [Junior] won’t use the politically correct,'” Imperioli recalled. “And I didn’t understand it. I said, ‘What do you mean by that — politically correct?’ And [Chase] goes, ‘He means the Black guys who tried to kill him.'”
Writers came up with a ‘Boys II Men’ line that fit the Christopher character
With the line, Chase was trying to give the Christopher character a racially tinged way of referring to the hitmen. But it didn’t come off. And Imperioli didn’t even know what the reference was. So Chase went away and thought up a replacement for “politically correct.”
“‘Boys II Men,'” Imperioli recalled Chase telling him a few minutes later. And that solved the problem. So when it came time for the line, Christopher had his racially coded reference that viewers and characters alike would get. “Next time, [Junior’s] not going to use Boys II Men,” he said.
The biases of the Sopranos characters are on display early on in the series and pretty much never go away. (Tony’s season 2 clash with Meadow’s boyfriend Noah particularly stands out.) As offensive as the references can be, it makes the characters believable. “Boys II Men” is most likely how Christopher Moltisanti would refer to the underachieving hitmen.