Former 'Sopranos' Actor Lillo Brancato Opens Up On Drug Addiction After Prison Release
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Former Sopranos actor Lillo Brancato lost a promising acting career due to his former drug addiction, but now he’s hoping to prevent others from going down the same path.
The actor first had his big break as a teenager alongside Robert De Niro in the 1993 film A Bronx Tale, later landing roles in films like Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State before playing the role of Matt Bevilaqua in six episodes of The Sopranos. But after a 2005 Bronx apartment break-in that left an off-duty police officer dead, Brancato was sentenced to eight years behind bars. Now 37 years old and newly released from prison after being paroled last December, Brancato acknowledged that his criminal acts were fueled by his addiction.
"Here I am. I get the opportunity. I get the shot and then squander it,” he said. "[I got] addicted to drugs and just make horrible decisions.” He admitted to getting high while in prison in 2006, but has been clean ever since.
Brancato and a Genovese crime family associate, Steven Armento, were reportedly drinking at a Bronx strip club before breaking into a nearby apartment to steal Valium. Off-duty officer Daniel Enchautegui heard the men break in and confronted them, resulting in a shootout during which all three men were hit, with Enchautegui being fatally shot by Armento. Brancato was acquitted on a murder charge, but convicted of attempted burglary, while Armento was ultimately convicted of firing the fatal shot.
The actor was released to his family and will remain under supervision until 2018, but he still has hopes of rekindling his former acting career. Brancato acknowledged that many of his former colleagues may not want to work with him again, but said he hopes that they “at least, see the person that I am today, see the person that I've grown up into. I definitely had to learn the hard way, but I am no longer that person who was present that night."
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, was less supportive of Brancato’s comeback attempt. Upon the actor’s release from prison, he said in a statement that "this union will take any steps necessary to ensure that this miscreant follows the conditions of his parole down to the last letter."