|Small-screen mobster Michael Imperioli is ready to play a character who's more interested in enforcing the law than breaking it. |
No, Tony Soprano's nephew Christopher hasn't had a massive change of heart, but given the long hiatus before the sixth and final season of The Sopranos, Imperioli is picking up a little extra work on the side.
The thesp is taking up the shield to play the younger detective partner and nephew of Detective Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina) for the final few episodes of Law & Order's 15th season, the show's creator, Dick Wolf, announced Thursday.
Imperioli will be temporarily filling in for Jesse L. Martin, who has played Detective Ed Green on the show since 1999. Martin is taking a hiatus to star in the upcoming film version of Rent, in the role of Tom Collins, which he portrayed in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning Broadway musical.
"For the past six years, Jesse has been an 'actor's actor'-- an incredible performer, total professional and he is liked by everyone," Wolf said in a statement.
"He had an opportunity to reprise a career-making role that is very important to him, and we wanted to make it work. We look forward to his return to Law & Order for season 16."
Martin said that he was very excited by the chance to pursue the "once in a lifetime opportunity" and that he "can't wait to return next year."
For his part, Imperioli seemed to welcome the change of pace.
"Dick and his team tell great New York stories and I am excited to be a part of it...and I'm glad to be on the right side of the law," Imperioli said.
In September, Imperioli won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on The Sopranos.
In addition to his upcoming L&O stint, he will also be seen in the ABC telepic The Five People You Meet in Heaven airing Sunday
Meanwhile, in other Law & Order casting news, Chris Noth is due to return to the set of Law & Order: Criminal Intent to reprise his role as Detective Mike Logan, which he portrayed on the original L&O from 1990 to 1995.
Though Noth is officially slated to return for only a single episode, industry insiders have speculated that NBC execs are considering him as a backup lead for the show, due to the recent erratic behavior of Criminal Intent's star, Vincent D'Onofrio, who has been hospitalized twice for fainting and has reportedly become difficult to work with.
A spokesperson for Wolf Films refused to comment on the speculations, while NBC denied that any casting changes were in the works.