Michael Imperioli

Michael Imperioli stars in "Detroit 1-8-7" Tuesdays on ABC.

Michael Imperioli became noticed as Spider, whom Joe Pesci's character shoots in the foot, in "GoodFellas." Spider tended bar for mobsters. Though there were many parts in between, Imperioli became famous playing Christopher, Tony Soprano's driver, confidant and eventual victim in "The Sopranos."

After all these years of playing mobsters, one might expect Imperioli to have more swagger. Instead he's soft-spoken and comes off more as the writer he is, having written five scripts for "The Sopranos" and a movie, "The Hungry Ghosts."

He's quite at ease playing Detective Louis Fitch in ABC's "Detroit 1-8-7." Fitch is a sardonic, impatient and very effective homicide detective. Last season, Imperioli also played a detective on an ABC adaptation of a British series, "Life on Mars."

"I get offered detectives," he says. "I guess they see me as a detective. As long as they see me as something."

Imperioli has the true actor's sense that jobs are temporary. When talking about the theater that he and his wife had built in Manhattan, he says, "We had five good years." It has since closed.

When discussing "Life on Mars," he says, "We did 17 episodes. I look it as a job. It didn't fail me. I worked for a year."

For Imperioli, working also includes directing and writing. And he discusses books and character development with the enthusiasm of a writer. The intense production schedule of the cop drama he's now on won't allow for him to spend much time writing.

Ultimately, he hopes to do more behind-the-scenes work. "When I was in my early 20s, I started a theater company with some friends," he says. "I was kind of producing, and directing a lot. I like bringing people together. That makes me really happy."