THE SOPRANOS’ Al Sapienza Takes Political Stance
March 28, 2013 by Cheryl Hollar
In his own words, Al Sapienza tells me, “I made my mark in The Sopranos a long time ago, so people think of me as a hood. You know, I have that Mafia look and name.”
His role as Marty Spinella in House of Cards breaks that mold.
Sapienza’s A Good Guy
As I speak with Sapienza, he is shooting Person of Interest, on which he has a recurring role as Detective Terney.
He’s also starring with Kevin Spacey on the Netflix political series House of Cards, where dirty politics reigns strong.
Sapienza says, “What I love about the show and what I hold dear is that the character I play is actually a public servant, and he wants to do the right thing for the children of America, the students of America, and the teachers of America. He’s actually an honest man.” He quickly adds, “And I enjoy playing an honest man ‘cos I’ve played so many criminals.”
He continues, “But this guy’s a very moral guy, a good guy, and he’s trying to get a fair shake for American teachers with the new Education Bill that’s going on in Washington in the series.”
Stand for What’s Right
Since Sapienza is himself quite vocal on certain political issues, I wonder if he sees a bit of himself in Spinella, so I ask.
“I think I’m a person who generally wants everyone to do well and looks at the greater picture and thinks there’s enough for everybody,” he says. “I’m not greedy at all, so yeah I think there’s a lot of me in that guy.”
Wanting to take his feel for politics a step further, I ask specifics on what he feels strongly about. He says, “I feel that our government is completely breaking down. When it was formed, it was to be for the people, by the people, and it said nothing about political parties. It seems there’s no more individuals in Washington that believe in their cause and trying to do right by America.”
The Politics at Hand
“Every time there’s an issue that comes up, whether it’s an Education Bill like in my TV show or whether it’s a Drug Control Bill, the Republicans miraculously all agree on the exact same thing, and the Democrats all agree on the exact same thing. I can’t get three people in a room to agree on anything. Yet the Republicans and Democrats seem to look at what’s good for each party instead of what’s good for the American taxpaying worker. I think American politicians should be public servants first.
“When the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written, and the President had to be 35 years old in order to run, the average American died at 50. So, if we agreed with the concept of what Thomas Jefferson thought and what John Adams thought, since men live on average today of around 78 or so, the President should have to be 50 in order to run. The man who held the Office would be older, less self-serving, and less ambitious. The same should be said for Senators and Congressmen.”
A Dark Truth
Another project of Sapienza’s, A Dark Truth (released to DVD on March 5, 2013) exposes a corporation that makes money from selling water to Third World countries.
The film, which also stars Forest Whitaker, Eva Longoria, and Andy Garcia, is “about the coporations of America and how they have become so unbelievably powerful with the amount of money they can spend on elections without practically any restrictions. A coporation has the same rights as an individual, and it can give as much money as it wants to a candidate for some freedom of speech. It’s an insane law that corporations are there to make money.”
Sapienza says, “A Dark Truth is based on a true story where farmers weren’t allowed to gather water anymore. They had to buy it. It’s about how far a company will go to keep making money, including going so far as to secretly murder people.”
The sad thing is, in this film, Sapienza is, again, one of the bad guys. He’s, in his own words, “one of the slimebags from the corporation.”
Drawing from the Past
Sapienza has been known for many great roles over the years. When I ask if his 30 years in acting enable him to look back on past roles to play newer ones, he tells me, “That’s the cool thing about being an actor. I draw on everything. I love acting.
“I do think about those old roles. I watch them once in a while, and I see how I could have done them better.
“But, I do draw on everything. I have from the time I was a little kid. That’s what’s great about being an actor. You can make something positive from every experience you’ve had, whether good or bad.”
His Favorite Characters
And does he have any favorite characters he’s played over the years? He says, “I loved The Sopranos, though that was a violent show. I loved that character a lot. I loved Brotherhood. I think that was one of the best shows ever written. Unfortunately, nobody watched. But, it was such an intelligent show.”
And now, we can see Sapienza in House of Cards, Person of Interest and A Dark Truth.
Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at suite101.com, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover.