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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 33 PHOTO©ROBKIM/RETNALTD/CORBIS smiling faces of Burke, his ex-wife whom he recent- ly pumped full of bullets, and their two children. “These are your kids, James, your beautiful kids.” Burke points his gun at Fitch. “Don’t come any closer.” “Give me the gun, James.” “Stop,” he chokes. “I’m not gonna stop, James. Give me the gun.” Fitch takes the weapon; James sobs. “God, forgive me,” says James. Later that night, Fitch is back at the office with his new partner, Detective Washington, and they’re looking at a white board filled with murder cases. Washington’s voice is soft. “All that stuff you said... is it true?” Fitch shoots him a hard look. “It was true when I said it.” And that’s how it is with Michael Imperioli. On screen, when he says anything, it’s true. When he says it. I ask Imperioli how he does it—how he manages to make his lines sound so real—even when he’s been repeating them take after take. “You have to keep focusing on the elements of the scene and the objective of the character,” Imperioli says. “Every time you do the scene, you have to take in the real- ity of what you’re doing and be in the moment. The most important thing for an actor is to be in the moment.” After finishing high school, Imperioli studied method acting in Manhattan at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. “The first thing they teach you is relaxation,” Imperioli tells me. “Basi- cally, you sit in a chair and don’t really do anything. Then you might start adding sound or a physical movement.” You might work to recreate the physi- cal sensations of holding an object, such as a pen- cil or a cup of tea. The idea is to focus on reliving the actual sensation, rather than simply miming what it looks like to hold the object. When Imperi- oli thinks back on his studies at Lee Strasberg, he sees a lot of similarities between the techniques he learned and Vajrayana Buddhist practice, with its visualizations and mantras. “When I went to acting school,” says Imperioli, “I thought that in a couple of months I’d start work- ing on TV and be making all kinds of money—I Left: Michael Imperioli on the set of his film Hungry Ghosts. Middle: Imperioli playing Detective Fitch, in the third episode of the TV show Detroit 1-8-7. Right: Michael and Victoria Imperioli at a charity dinner celebrating Tibetan culture, at the Pierre hotel in New York City. ➢ page 89