The Jersey Boys

Peter Yang

Michael Imperioli (5 noms, 1 win) and David Chase (23 noms, 6 wins)

In some ways, I would have been just as happy if we had never won," says David Chase, whose game-changing HBO epic The Sopranos (1998-2007) netted him four Emmys, including two for outstanding drama, during its six-season run. "We would have been in good company: Jackie Gleason never won. Twin Peaks never won." Michael Imperioli, 45, who was nominated five times for his work as mob boss Tony Soprano's firebrand capo Christopher Moltisanti -- and won the supporting actor Emmy in 2004 -- says he worked hard to keep his focus on the craft. "Awards and acclaim are very seductive," says Imperioli. "If you're going to give credence to that, then you have to give credence to the opposite, which is criticism or people ignoring your work. You have to keep perspective." These days, Imperioli, who enjoyed a critically acclaimed run last season on the ABC drama Detroit 1-8-7 and directed the indie feature The Hungry Ghosts, is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism and wears a lapel pin with a Buddhist cleansing mantra. Chase also exudes a philosophical air about showbiz but offers a more blunt appraisal of Hollywood's penchant for self-congratulation. "It's like being a rat in a box," he says. "It's like drugs, a real rush of endorphins. If it goes on too long, it can actually become habit-forming." With such intense outlooks, it's no wonder that both New Yorkers have moved on from the searing legacy of Sopranos. Chase, 66, has vowed never to do another TV series -- "It was just so overwhelming," he says -- though he has written and directed his first feature, Paramount Vantage's New Jersey-set coming-of-age tale Twylight Zones starring his erstwhile Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini. Says Imperioli: "I don't think anything I'll do will match the success of [Sopranos]. The key is to not think, 'I did this show, I made this much money, I had this type of role, and the next thing has to be better.' If you do think that way, you're toast."

Photographed by Peter Yang on Sept. 9 at Drive In 24 Studio in New York City.

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