When I was a student at Mercer University, a private Baptist college here in Atlanta, I was very active in my church. I was also having my eyes opened to just how vast and diverse the world was. The provincialism of high school was in the rear view mirror and the notion of a world divided into mere right and wrong, black and white, was replaced by shades of gray and an accompanying palette of hues, for almost every situation.
Case in point, I was cast in my first college show, "The Shadow Box", in 1987. It was a very gripping, very candid play about how people deal with death, specifically cancer, as we meet three characters and their loved ones dealing with the waning days of life in a hospice environment. The candor of the play came very frank language and behavior, the kind that a good Southern Baptist boy didn't take part in. But, I was swept up in the chance to be onstage and to help tell such a compelling story.
Naturally, I invited my family and my church friends, with the caveat that things would get rough. The backlash was inevitable, I guess. You'd think I'd invited some folks to an interactive adaptation of "Caligula". On Ice.
Briefly in this article, actor Michael Imperioli addresses the challenge of being a spiritual person - whatever your path - and still being true to your art. Your story.
I've always believed that you have to tell the truth or people aren't going to buy it. A family member once referred to Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" as 'filth' because of all the profanity, but portray anything less than unflinching honesty and - to my ear, at least - you stop telling the truth.
It's why Scorsese can make "Goodfellas" (hell, "The Last Temptation of Christ", for that matter) and still be a good Catholic boy.
Speaking of "Goodfellas", here's the guy who played the ill-fated Spider in that cinematic morality tale. Check out Michael Imperioli's story of trying to keep it real, on the screen and on the meditation cushion.
Shambhala Sun - Wise Guy (November 2011)