So a personÕs name is important?
My grandfather was a stonemason and he was very proud of his name. IÕll never forget when I was 19 years old and I was asked to go up and sing [at an audition]. [Talent manager] Charlie Rapp said, ÒDominic, you could have a career as a singer, but we only have one little problem: Would you mind changing your name?Ó I remember walking out of the office kind of sad, because I knew I couldnÕt do it. My life flashed before my eyes when he asked me that. Now, itÕs just a small thing to some people, but to me it was important because I respected my grandfather and my father.
The answer to self-respect is to find out who you really are.
How did you learn about respect?
In my culture, respect was the number one thing. I learned most of it by watching my father. When I was a kid in the subway, when a young woman came on, he would give his seat to a lady and to an older person.
Is there a difference between fear and respect?
Well, respect is not based upon fear. Respect is really based upon love, and thereÕs a very fine line between fear and love. But youÕve got to feel that you are loved and that you love back for there to be respect. Respect is very important, because itÕs really about love.
Do you react differently to disrespect now than when you were younger?
IÕve never been a confrontational type. When I was younger I would withdraw and brood about it. But as I get older, if IÕm disrespected as a human being, I walk away. I realize there is no sense in confronting it. If anybodyÕs gonna disrespect you, the best thing is to walk away. I think itÕs very important to walk away if youÕre disrespected.
Do you take it as disrespect when people call you Junior?
I donÕt feel itÕs disrespect. Even my own family, my own cousins, my own sister will tease meÑÓYouÕre being Uncle Junior again,Ó they say. I understand it, and to me itÕs gratifying and a sign that youÕre doing your job right. Junior is a mask, and theyÕre looking at the mask. You know, Luigi Perendola was a great playwright who realized that we are constantly playing roles in life, and different people can perceive us so differently. If you could take off a mask, thereÕs gonna be another mask there. We play roles in life, and weÕre different at all times, and the answer to self-respect is to find out who you really are. ItÕs like Socrates said thousands of years ago: knowing yourself is whatÕs important.
What do you think of people who criticize the portrayal of Italian-Americans in The Sopranos as disrespectful?
There is a very easy answer to that. ItÕs called freedom of speech, the First Amendment. I disagree with 99.9 percent of censorship. If a man wants to write a story from his imagination, like [SopranosÕs creator] David Chase did, heÕs got the perfect right to do that.
But isnÕt the storyline disrespectful to Italian-Americans? DonÕt people have a right to feel disrespected?
Well thatÕs a loaded question. A guy has to write what he wants to write and the subject matter is his alone. ItÕs about respecting the artist and the writer. The important thing is to tell a story and tell it well. If you start criticizing the subject matter, where does it end? And anyway, The Sopranos is about a familyÑa guy with a wife, two kids, a mother, an uncle, cousins, aunts. ItÕs about his predicament in the modern world. ItÕs a story about a man.
Do you know much about whatÕs going on in rap and hip-hop?
IÕm learning about it. I love it because there is a musicality to it. I think there is a commonality amongst all people. I mean, everybody raps, whether they know it or not. Everybody has a rhythm, a music, and something to say. And as Nas taught me today, when you say something in rap music, itÕs gotta have a meaning. ItÕs not just for the sake of rhyme, itÕs for the sake of meaning, and thatÕs an important thing.
Have you heard about the Nas / Jay-Z beef?
No, I donÕt know about it, but IÕm not much one for gossip.
What will respect mean in the future?
The future really is about learning. There are so many different cultures with different ideas of respect, so we will have to learn and teach each other. ThereÕs no question about it. There are more opportunities to meet different kinds of people and the world is becoming a family. We should get more understanding of each otherÕs cultures. ItÕs gonna have to be that way for survival. ItÕs idealistic, but at least itÕs better than nothing.
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (STYLING) Jason Farrer. (HAIR) Dennis Lani at Frame. (GROOMING) Marcos Smith. (MAKEUP) Devra Kinery at Frame. COVER AND FIRST IMAGE: (Nas) Leather shirt and jacket by Issey Miyake Men / (Dominic) Suit, shirt, and tie from Y's For Men by Yohji Yamamoto / hat from Savoia NYC / sunglasses by Selima. SECOND IMAGE: (Nas) "Necessary Means" sweatshirt by SSUR / coverall by Dickies / hat by Kangol. (Nicola) Leather lace-back shirt, trousers, and sunglasses by Versace. THIRD IMAGE: (Dominic) Shirt by Commes de Garcons Homme Plus / trousers, cane, hat, and money clip by Savoia NYC / necklace by Versace. (Nicole) Bustier and trousers by Versus / sunglasses, earrings, necklace, rings, and bracelet by Versace. FOURTH IMAGE: (Nas) Suit by Francis Hendy NYC / shirt by Issey Miyake Men / scarf from Y's for Men by Yohji Yamamoto / cane and hat by Savoia NYC. FIFTH IMAGE: (Dominic) Shirt by Sean John / tank top by CK Calvin Klein / hat by Kangol / necklace by Versace. SIXTH IMAGE: (Dominic) Shirt and jacket by Comme Des Garcons Homme Plus / sunglasses by Cazal. (Nas) Leather jacket by Avirex / hoodie by SSUR.