Family & Companions
After nearly a half century as a working actor with credits on Broadway and TV as well as in features, Dominic Chianese finally achieved prominence as the embittered and ambitious would-be don Corrado 'Junior' Soprano, the uncle to mob boss Tony, on HBO's popular series "The Sopranos" (1999-2006).
The Bronx native began acting onstage in 1952 amassing credits in musicals and plays in regional theaters and on and off-Broadway, mostly in character parts. Chianese didn't start appearing in films until the 70s beginning with a small role as a panhandler in "Fuzz" (1972). He cites Al Pacino, with whom he has acted in four films, as "a very big influence on my life," and also worked on three films with director Sidney Lumet. Between appearing in such blockbusters as "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), "All the President's Men" (1976) and "Fort Apache, The Bronx" (1981), the actor squeezed in gigs as a singer and soap opera actor (on ABC's "Ryan's Hope"), often living the life of a struggling player. As he aged into character parts, he began to work with slightly more frequency, either playing figures of authority (i.e., judges on episodes of NBC's "Law & Order") or more likely, gangsters (e.g., the 1996 HBO biopic "Gotti").
It was in part because he had had so much experience essaying the latter that writer-producer David Chase hired him for what became his late-in-life breakthrough. Donning large prop glasses, the bald Chianese cut a fascinating figure as Junior Soprano. Jealous of his nephew's rise to power but shrewd enough not to cross him, Junior, in the actor's capable performance, sometimes came off as somewhat foolish. But underneath lay a petty man who demanded payment for any and all offenses. Walking the fine line of drama and comedy in each script, he etched a brilliant portrait of a relatively simple man with large ambitions. At an age when many of his contemporaries might consider retiring, Chianese became a familiar face and one that has a name.
Loving the recognition, he reported to People (September 13, 1999), "A construction crew in Times Square stopped working and said, 'There's Uncle Junior!' Before only people in theater knew who I was." He also received back-to-back Emmy nominations in 2000 and 2001 for his efforts in the series' second and third seasons. As a result of his late-life success, Chianese also appeared in the occasional big screen outing, including "Unfaithful" (2002) and, as an Italian count whose purchased the sexual services of Neve Campbell, writer-director James Toback's "When Will I Be Loved?" (2004).
The actor has also released two albums of traditional, popular and original Italian and American songs, the 2001 disc Hits and the 2003 follow-up Ungrateful Heart.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First professional job in a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore"
Had a small role as a panhandler in "Fuzz," adapted from an Ed McBain's "87th Precinct" story
Performed the role of Johnny Ola in "The Godfather, Part II" opposite Al Pacino
Second film with Pacino, Sidney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon"
Acted in Alan J Pakula's "All the President's Men"
Played Arthur Fox in James Toback's "Fingers"
Third film with Pacino, "...And Justice for All"
Acted in ABC special "A Time for Miracles"
Appeared in "Fort Apache, The Bronx"
Had recurring role of a gangster on the ABC daytime serial "Ryan's Hope"
Acted in the short-lived Broadway production of "Requiem for a Heavyweight"
Reteamed with Lumet for "Q&A"
First association with executive producer Dick Wolf, ABC series "H.E.L.P"
Portrayed Gabriel Capone, father of noted gangster Al Capone in the TNT movie "The Lost Capone"
Played Nicky Fish on unsold ABC pilot "Coconut Downs"
Made first of several appearances as guest actor on NBC's "Law & Order," created and executive produced by Wolf
Had featured role in the revival of Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo"
Fourth film with Pacino, "Looking for Richard"
Portrayed capo Joseph 'Joe Piney' Armone in HBO movie "Gotti"
Appeared in Eric Schaeffer's "If Lucy Fell"
Third film with Lumet, "Night Falls on Manhattan"
Acted in Tim Robbins' "Cradle Will Rock"
First regular role on a series as Corrado 'Junior' Soprano, Tony's mentor and wily don, on the HBO drama "The Sopranos"; received Emmy nominations in 2000 and 2001
Released album of English and Italian standards titled <i>Hits</i>
Starred opposite Neve Campbell in "When Will I Be Loved?"
Starred as Lou Wolfe in the play "A Second Hand Memory," directed by Woody Allen
Co-starred in Alfredo de Villa's "Adrift in Manhattan"
Landed a recurring role on FX's "Damages"
Played lawyer Leander Cephas Whitlock on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire"