Michael Imperioli may best be known for his ferocious portrayal of Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos, but this Friday he’ll be tackling a more amiable role — that of grand marshal of the Downtown Holiday Parade, now in its 61st year.
A transplant from New York City, Imperioli and his family moved to Santa Barbara in 2012 and quickly made a home of their adopted seaside town. “It’s a friendly community, and I find people really easy to meet,” he said in a recent interview with The Independent. “It’s been really welcoming.” The Imperiolis even have a presence on State Street, where his wife, interior designer Victoria, owns and operates Metropolitan showroom and boutique.
It was film that initially brought Imperioli to town. “In 2010, I wrote and directed a movie, and my wife did production design. We had the U.S. premiere in the Santa Barbara Film Festival,” he said. “At that time, we were just starting to think about maybe getting out of [New York City], and we thought, ‘This place might be kinda cool’ … because I could still do business in L.A. For my work, I have to be either at one coast or the other. I go back and forth quite a bit, which is great because I love New York. We were just ready to not live in a big city for a while. I mean if you want to live in a big city, New York is the best in the world. But if you need a break from a big city, then, you know, [Santa Barbara] is perfect.”
Imperioli’s new home has proved an easy fit for him. “This summer, I worked a lot in L.A. on Californication. I did a whole season of that show,” he said. “And [Santa Barbara] is a great place for kids to grow up,” he added. “It’s very different [than New York], but we wanted something different, so it made sense for us, and we’ve been very happy since we’ve been here.”
In addition to riding in the parade, the function of the grand marshal is mostly a symbolic gesture of the choice’s connection to the community. “I think it just adds a little bit of cache or coolness to have a celebrity grand marshal,” said Downtown Organization’s Kate Schwab. “It’s been such a great pleasure working with [Imperioli]. He was honored as heck. We asked him way back in May and then invited him as sort of a reveal to the Wine Tour. He came to the tour and walked around to the venues and then came to the final party at the Historical Museum. … He is really the ultimate celebrity grand marshal.”
Imperioli joins a distinguished list of celebrity grand marshals that has included pro surfer Lakey Peterson and actors Dennis Franz and Christopher Lloyd.
The Downtown Holiday Parade takes place Friday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m., beginning at State and Sola streets. For more information, call 962-2098 x22.