Actor MichaelImperioli (Christopher on The Sopranos) takes on the role of a Mets catcher inthe movie version of Mitch Albom's novel For One More Day, airing Dec. 9 onABC. The 41-year-old Mount Vernon, N.Y., native has a black belt intaekwondo.

SI: You met withYankees catcher Jorge Posada (below) to prepare for this movie, right?

Imperioli: Yes. Hewas my favorite player even before I did this. I wanted to talk about themental aspect of being a catcher. They're like shrinks, helping pitchers stayconnected to the game. Pitchers tend to be idiosyncratic, and there's asolitary aspect to the job. The catcher is kind of their lifeline.

SI: Is playing aMet heresy for a Yankees fan?

Imperioli: Inacting, everything is O.K. If it's all right that I put someone's head througha window, then I guess it's O.K. to wear a Mets uniform.

SI: How much of aYankees fan are you, anyway?

Imperioli: We wereshooting [For One More Day] near Massachusetts, and the Red Sox organizationcalled and asked if I wanted to throw out the first ball at Fenway. I said Iwould do it only if I could wear a Yankees uniform. They didn't go forthat.

SI: Did athletesreach out to you to say they liked The Sopranos?

Imperioli: Thebest was when I got a call two years ago from a lawyer for Muhammad Ali (right)saying, "Muhammad wants to meet you. He's a fan of the show." I wasstunned. I invited them to the set, but I kept thinking, This is not going tohappen. But Ali came! I brought him in, and he got an ovation from the wholecrew. Everyone stopped working for a half hour. Some people were crying. Hewent up to everyone, shook hands; it was unbelievable. I don't think peoplewould have reacted the same way if it were the Pope.

SI: Did Ali get anaudience with Tony Soprano?

Imperioli: It wasthe season when James Gandolfini was in the hospital with a coma. He was in bedand had all the tubes on him. Jimmy didn't know Ali was there, so Ali and Isnuck up on him. Gandolfini turned his head and said, "Holy, s---!"

The Pop CultureGrid

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