Soprano Sue's Sightings
 

Nick Santora
I recently read an excellent book by one of the writers from The Sopranos, who went one to be a writer for the Fox televison series, Prison Break. The story is based in Brooklyn and I was simply amazed on the author's uncanny ability to acurately disccrobe the neighborhood. The main character of the book is Robert Principe, who even though he is no way academically challenged in Law School, the poor guy forgot to take a few marketing classes and his sense of candor, just aren't the perfect combination for a prosperous law practice (I have one question why do lawyers always have practices, haven't they gotten it perfect yet?) Driven to desperation, Nick comes up with a plan, which stretches the code of ethics a lawyer upholds to the point of fissure. It only gets worse when he adds his cousin Jackie as a partner to his firm. The only shingle this guy hangs is one on his roof.. But it was such a brilliant idea, until the cards started tumbling...

I recently read your book, “Slip & Fall” what was the inspiration for writing the book?

I was the first male Santora to go to college. And that happened because I was blessed with amazing parents that did everything they could for me to make sure I got a great life, a great education, made sure I got every advantage they could possibly give me so I could have opportunities they didn't necessarily have. So after college, I went to law school – even though I had no desire to be a lawyer. I felt I had to really try to make something of myself to show my parents that all their sacrifice wasn't in vain. Problem was, I hated being a lawyer. Wasn't in my nature. And I knew after years and years of practicing law that if I kept it up, I would have a miserable life, because I was a miserable person.

But how do you tell your family you are going to just walk away from all they had given you – an education, a chance at a comfortable life, an easier life than they had? It was that time in my life when I started thinking about writing a character who was in the same position that I was in … someone who didn't want to let down his family, did want to fail them. And I thought: “What would happen to that guy if he, in order not to let his family down, made one really bad decision that spirals out of control and almost costs him and his family their lives?” That idea turned into my thriller, “Slip & Fall.”

Your book is only available from one of over a thousand Borders Book Stores, how did that come about?

My agent told me that Borders, an incredible book and media store, had decided to get into the publishing game and they were conducting a massive search for a manuscript to be the first novel they published. So my agent, Brian Lipson, a great guy who believed in “Slip & Fall” from Day One, met with Borders, convinced them to read my manuscript and, thank God, they chose my book. How lucky is that?!

Having spent a lot of time in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn , with one of the actors from The Sopranos, I found your narrative of the neighborhood, where the story is set is so realistic, did you research this?

Thanks, but I didn't do any research. I mean, I grew up in New York my entire life and being 100% Italian-American, and growing up around all my family - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins – it's easy to write about family and “the neighborhood” and the characters you find there.

Are any of the characters in the book, based on people who really exist? Or are all of them fictional?

They are all fictional but some are combinations of various traits of people I know. Some are based on relationships I've had. Let's put it this way, walk into any Italian neighborhood in America – New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis - and you're gonna find some of these people.

We spoke the other day on the phone and you mentioned that you were originally a lawyer, what made you leave such a prestigious and high income career?

Prestigious?! I was a lawyer! I've wanted to be a writer since I was 7 years old … imagine someone told you that you were going to spend your entire life NOT doing what you were meant to be doing. It was just the worst job for me. Plus, I wasn't making that much money. Everyone thinks lawyers all make fortunes. That's bullshit. Read my book, you'll see what I'm talking about.

The part of the character development for the character, Robert Principe, is he is a lawyer with a moral character, and a sense of honesty, is this trait inherent of most of the future lawyers you met while studying law?

Some were the most decent, honest, honorable people you'd ever want to meet. Some were giant assholes. Just like any other profession.

You also mentioned how the book is loosely based on your life, did you really spend time in a Federal Prison, and this also gave you the inspiration write and produce the Fox television show, “Prison Break?”

Though I've had my rights read to me a couple of times, I've successfully avoided conviction. And though I love writing for Prison Break, it is important to stress that there is a small team of writers/producers that write that amazing show. No one person could ever do that job by him/herself.

Is here such a thing as the Big Apple Pothole and Sidewalk Protection Committee map, and where can I buy one?

Yeah. Those maps exist to show where there are cracks and potholes in the City sidewalks so you can sue the City if you fall on a crack. But within the past few years New York City law has changed and those maps are now used with much less frequency than in the past. But they can still come into play in some cases.

Will there be a sequel to this book?

If I've learned one thing in Hollywood , it's to leave things open for a sequel. So we'll see.

Do you plan on writing another book?

Already started.

You also wrote an episode of The Sopranos, “Watching Too Much Television.” What is it like working with David Chase, how does he manage the group of writers associated with the show?

I can't really speak to how he manages writers since I was only brought in to write one episode so my experience with David was limited. However, I basically sat down with David, Robin Green and Terry Winter and they went through a “beat sheet” (a one-line breakdown of each scene in an episode) with me and discussed what they were looking for in the episode. Then I went off and wrote it. After I was done, Terry Winter did a pass on the script. Terry is not only one of the nicest people I've met in the entertainment business, he's one of the nicest people I've met in my life. He went out of his way to make sure I knew he was available to answer any questions I had while I was writing the script. And as for David Chase, well, to put it simply – he changed my life. That is why both David and Terry are thanked in the Acknowledgement of my book.

 

How did you end up working on the writing team of “Prison Break”?

I had just come off of “Law & Order” and I told my agents that I wanted to get on a brand new show and try my hand at helping build a show from the ground up. So they sent me all the pilot scripts for the upcoming season and I read them all and I saw the concept of Prison Break as being the most original and having the most potential. So I met with the studio and the network and the production company that conceived the show and Paul Scheuring who wrote the pilot script and they all read my scripts and I got the job. And thank God I did because it's been the best job of my life.

Can you write me into the show? ( just kidding )

When we need a tough, ass-kickin' Jersey girl, you'll be the first we call!

What advice would you give to budding writers who want to get into the business of writing television shows?

Write every day, be original and don't give up.

Did you have a mentor, who helped you early in your career?

So many people have been so good to me, and helped me to get to the place where I feel like I'm the luckiest guy on the planet, that to try to name them all would be impossible.

What is the different in the creative process, between writing a script and writing a novel?

A script is much more collaborative because you get notes from the other writers and the studio and network. But a novel is solitary, just you and your laptop. You sink or swim on your own with a novel.

What is your birthday?

August 4 th . I was born on the same day as my paternal grandfather, my only grandparent who is still with us. He is 87 and still tough as nails. He's a WWII veteran, a real war hero. For me, having the same birthday as my grandfather has been one of the great thrills of my life. As a kid, it kind of felt like he was sharing it with me, like he decided I was going to be born that day and sharing his birthday with me would his gift to me. It's an honor sharing the day with such a great man. Actually, on the morning of the day I was born, my dad told my mom that she had until midnight to give birth to me because he wanted me born on his father's birthday. My mom just laughed because I wasn't due for another 2 weeks. But later that day I was born. True story.

Are you Italian?

100% baby!

What other unusual jobs have you held in the past?

On-Air correspondent for Court TV. Cleaned parking lots. Lifeguard. Lawyer. Actually worked in a pet store at Green Acres Mall for a few weeks but kind of got fired.

Tell us something that people don't know about you?

I've had to pee during this entire interview.

Do you have an official website?

www.nicksantora.com

Do you have a profile on MYSPACE?

Yup. It is www.myspace.com/nicksantorawriter .

What are your favorite websites?

Newyorkpost.com. Sesamestreet.org (I have a 3 year old) And of course, SopranoSue.com.

What charities are you involved with?

Autism research. Juvenile Diabetes. Cancer Research. But to be fair, we just donate. We aren't really involved much past that, and though giving money is important, maybe we should be doing more.

You're still on a deserted island; with no hope of a rescue. You are only allowed one of your favorite food dishes, one music cd and one piece of clothing, what would you bring?

Food: Ice Cream.
CD: Howard Tate – The Legendary Sessions.
Clothing: A sock, to protect my schlong from the sun.

What are some of your upcoming projects that we can look forward to seeing?

I'm in pre-production on a movie I wrote and am producing with Ice Cube who is attached to star and produce. It is currently called “Comeback” and it we hope to start shooting in September.

And where did you go to view the finale of The Sopranos?

Home sweet home. Nice and quiet so I could hear every word.

 

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