HOLLY BYRNES

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

MICHAEL Im­pe­ri­oli wants you to know he doesn’t wear Fila track­suits, he isn’t a mob­ster and he wasn’t born in New Jer­sey.

For fans of The So­pra­nos, the long-run­ning mafia se­ries that put Im­pe­ri­oli on the TV map, that may come as a shock.

Un­til his sticky end by the side of a high­way, suf­fo­cated by Tony So­prano to stop his dru­gad­dled foot sol­dier singing to the authorities, Im­pe­ri­oli was Christo­pher Molti­santi for the seven years of the ac­claimed show.

Even now, switch­ing sides of the law in new po­lice drama Detroit 1-8-7, the 45-year-old ad­mits he strug­gles to con­vince some he’s not some hood from the ’ burbs.

Step­ping out of the shadow of So­pra­nos costar James Gan­dolfini to lead the cast as de­tec­tive Louis Finch has given Im­pe­ri­oli the chance to prove him­self and shine.

‘‘ I think it’s helped peo­ple who have seen my work to re­mem­ber that I’m an ac­tor and not some mob­ster guy from New Jer­sey,’’ he says.

Pok­ing fun at the Hol­ly­wood stereo­type of ac­tors of Ital­ian de­scent and MTV se­ries Jer­sey Shore are not help­ing mat­ters, he says. ‘‘ I think a lot of peo­ple thought that some­one found me in a shop­ping mall or in a tan­ning sa­lon and said, ‘ Come and be on TV’, and didn’t know I’d been an ac­tor for 13 years be­fore (The So­pra­nos). This helps shat­ter that per­cep­tion,’’ he says.

There’s no deny­ing his tal­ent in Detroit, play­ing Finch, the head de­tec­tive of an over­worked homi­cide squad.

Tap­ping his funny side at­tracted Im­pe­ri­oli to the role.

‘‘ I thought the show had a lot of hu­mour, which I think is re­ally im­por­tant and very lack­ing from a lot of cop shows. Homi­cide de­tec­tives are some of the fun­ni­est peo­ple you’ll ever meet. They have so much tragedy and pain and dark­ness all the time that hu­mour is a cru­cial el­e­ment of their lives,’’ he says.

Also crit­i­cal to the show’s au­then­tic­ity is a com­mit­ment by pro­duc­ers to film on the streets of Detroit. Once the home of Mo­town and puls­ing as the car-man­u­fac­tur­ing hub of the US, the city built its name on hard work.

Now, as the coun­try’s mur­der cap­i­tal, comes with other chal­lenges.

Film­ing around aban­doned ware­houses or torched pub­lic hous­ing, it’s nec­es­sary for po­lice to guard the pro­duc­tion. It’s for traf­fic con­trol and ‘‘ just to make sure ev­ery­thing’s safe’’, Im­pe­ri­oli says. Hes­i­tant to move his fam­ily to the city at first, Im­pe­ri­oli now sees its po­ten­tial as a metaphor for the US.

‘‘ For the most part, a lot of these build­ings have fallen into dis­re­pair, but are start­ing to now be ren­o­vated. I think there’s been long pe­ri­ods of time where a lot of these neigh­bour­hoods have re­ally suf­fered . . . it’s an in­ter­est­ing point in the his­tory of the city that they’re kind of start­ing to res­ur­rect them­selves from dif­fi­cul­ties,’’ he says.

it Detroit 1-8-7, Chan­nel 7, Wed­nes­day, 9pm Other side now: Michael Im­pe­ri­oli has gone from hood to cop in his new show

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