‘The Sopranos’: The Actors Michael Imperioli Would Have Loved to See on the Mob Show

Over the eight years (86 episodes) The Sopranos was on the air, fans got one great cameo and guest-star performance after another. Take the season 3 episode in which Bobby Baccala Sr. had to take care of the Mustang Sally problem. Burt Young (Rocky, Chinatown) stepped into that role brilliantly.

In “D-Girl,” the season 2 installment that featured a film within the show, Jon Favreau came aboard as the film’s director with Janeane Garofalo and Sandra Bernhard playing actors in the movie’s starring roles. Favreau in particular hammed it up for that part.

Meanwhile, director Peter Bogdanovich made 14 appearances playing Dr. Eliot Kupferberg, psychiatrist to another shrink, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). The embarrassment of riches continued into the final season, when Ben Kingsley and Lauren Bacall appeared as themselves in the same episode.

Looking back on his time on the classic mob series for the Talking Sopranos podcast, Emmy-winner Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti, spoke about which actors he would love to have seen on the show. And podcast co-host Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccala) did the same.

Michael Imperioli went with 1 of his favorite actors: Ben Gazzara

Fran Drescher Ben Gazzara
Fran Drescher and Ben Gazzara attend “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” party in New York. | G. Gershoff/WireImage

At the end of every Talking Sopranos episode, Schirripa and Imperioli field a question from listeners. And on the July 26 edition of the podcast the pair got asked to pick an actor they would have liked to see on The Sopranos.

For Imperioli, who frequently speaks about his admiration for Ben Gazzara (Husbands, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie), it didn’t take long for him to come up with his answer. “Ben Gazzara, obviously, is a no-brainer,” he said. “I would have loved for him to be on.”

Gazzara, who passed away in 2012, could have done something on The Sopranos (1999-2007) had the stars aligned. Unfortunately for fans of the great actor, that never happened. Imperioli didn’t stop at one pick, though; he named another actor he admired who he’d have liked to see on The Sopranos.

His second pick was Oscar-winning film legend Sidney Poitier. Once again, Poitier theoretically could have made an appearance on The Sopranos. Poitier, born in 1927, is still alive as of August 2020, though he made his most recent screen appearance in 2001.

Imperioli raved about Sydney Poitier’s work in ‘Edge of the City’

Sidney Poitier works on 'The Jackal.'
Sidney Poitier and Richard Gere in a scene from the film ‘The Jackal’, 1997. | Universal/Getty Images

After describing Poitier as another of his very favorite actors, Imperioli pointed to a film that remains riveting to him to this day. “Man, Poitier did this movie with John Cassavetes called Edge of the City,” Imperioli began.

“Sydney is phenomenal — just incredible. He’s so full of life and plays this character — I just saw the movie recently so it’s in my head — he plays this character so beautifully. I think he’s just one of the best we’ve ever had.”

After making his second pick, Imperioli tossed the question over to Schirripa, who took a minute to think about it. Finally, he came up with his answer. “I’m a huge Burt Lancaster fan,” Schirripa said, pointing to the Oscar winner’s work in Atlantic City (1980) and Field of Dreams (1989).

In this case, the timing would not have worked. Lancaster, whose six-decade included the stunning Brute Force (1947) and Sweet Smell of Success (1957), passed away at the age of 80 in 1994.