Michael Imperioli Is Making His Broadway Debut, But He Actually Used to Run a Theatre | Playbill

Special Features Michael Imperioli Is Making His Broadway Debut, But He Actually Used to Run a Theatre

The White Lotus and Sopranos Emmy winner stars alongside Jeremy Strong in An Enemy of the People at Circle in the Square Theatre.

Michael Imperioli photographed at Scarlet Lounge Heather Gershonowitz

Actor Michael Imperioli admits—that to his “own personal detriment”—he is a follower of politics and current events. But during tech week and first previews of his Broadway debut, he put himself on a media embargo. “There’s an addiction to constantly looking and checking the news and checking your feed. It becomes less about being informed and more about being distracted,” says the actor. “I’ve given myself a break so I can just focus on what we’re doing here.”

That, of course, is the revival production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, which opened in March at Circle in the Square Theatre. In the new adaptation by Amy Herzog, Imperioli stars opposite Jeremy Strong as brothers at odds over a public crisis. Imperioli, as mayor of their small town, fights to protect the local economy when his scientist brother threatens to expose his discovery of contamination in the water supply.

The Emmy-winning actor, known primarily for his work on The Sopranos and The White Lotus, has met with fans at the stage door who have been astonished by how relevant the play, written in 1882, feels. “People are really affected by seeing how little things have changed—how power and politics really can dictate decisions, policy, what we know, what we’re allowed to know, what we choose to believe, and what we choose not to believe,” he says. “You know the examples—climate change is the obvious one. Flint, Michigan, is an obvious one. Vax or no vax? Shut down the economy for quarantine or not? All these arguments where politics and science clash are drawn so clearly in this play.”

READ: Climate Protesters Disrupt Broadway Performance of An Enemy of the People

In An Enemy of the People, the doctor plans to disclose his findings in the local newspaper. And though no characters spit out the phrase “fake news” in Ibsen’s play, it’s difficult not to draw a line to a former U.S. president calling the media “the enemy of the people.” Of course, the tools of communication have changed since the play was written. A modern whistleblower would have a larger, immediate audience on the internet. Though the challenge of how to effectively, and convincingly, communicate your message remains.

Prior to working on the play (and his self-imposed social media embargo), Imperioli had already begun to examine how he was using social media after joining Instagram in 2020. It was an election year and he was sharing a lot of political opinions. He began to question himself and his interactions. “What’s the most effective thing you can share with your followers—people who are actually kind of interested in what you have to say? I’m trying to be more constructive and productive about it rather than just venting,” he says.

A glance at his Instagram now will find birthday wishes to friends, R.I.P.’s to admired celebrities, and announcements of his own current events (like his casting in this show). There’s also a hilarious series of his “Current Mood” photos, all featuring Gena Rowlands from her 1977 film Opening Night, where Rowlands plays beleaguered actress Myrtle Gordon on the verge of a breakdown as she approaches the premiere of her new Broadway play.

Michael Imperioli photographed at Scarlet Lounge Heather Gershonowitz

While it is Imperioli’s Broadway debut, don’t let his Instagram nerves and his television fame fool you. He’s long been a downtown theatre guy. In fact, he and his wife, interior designer Victoria Imperioli, founded Studio Dante in 2004, a small jewel box theatre on 29th Street. Victoria named the theatre after the 14th-century Divine Comedy poet, but Imperioli had his own connections to the name: “When I was in my early 20s, I lived in the Village in the mid-’80s, and there was Café Dante on MacDougal Street. Before it became what it is now, it was a real Italian cafe that this Italian family owned for many years. That was the hangout for a lot of my colleagues and we’d be up all night drinking cafe latte—before cafe latte was everywhere—and talking about art.”

Studio Dante is also where Imperioli met An Enemy of the People director Sam Gold, who directed a show there in 2007, prior to his Tony-winning Broadway career. The theatre shuttered in 2010 when it could no longer withstand the economic recession and the loss of corporate funding, but “we did 12 world premiere plays,” Imperioli says proudly.

As empty nesters with three adult children out of the house, the Imperiolis have a new venture: Scarlet Lounge, a cocktail and live music bar on the Upper West Side “where stories are spun, and elegance meets artistry,” says an Instagram post.

An Enemy of the People runs through June 16 only. After that, Imperioli is scheduled to film a movie this summer, but he doesn’t have much planned after. “I kinda wanted to keep the slate open a bit, and just really dive into this and see where this takes me,” he says. “I walk to work sometimes, and it’s gonna be spring soon. Doing a play in New York, with such esteemed collaborators and talented people is just a thrill. I’m as happy as I can be, I think.”

Photos: Jeremy Strong, Michael Imperioli, Victoria Pedretti, More Open An Enemy of the People On Broadway

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