Actor Joey ‘Pants’ Pantoliano discusses mental illness

The Boston Globe | Lifestyle | Names

By Mark Shanahan, Globe Staff May 08, 2015

Actor Joey “Pants” Pantoliano at Thursday’s gala. Photograph by Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe

Talking about mental wellness —he hates the term "mental illness" —wasn't something Joey "Pants" Pantoliano set out to do with his life, but he's glad he is. The actor best known for playing "Sopranos" mafioso Ralph Cifaretto —you'll recall he was the one whose decapitated head wound up in a bowling bag —was the featured speaker at Thursday's gala for the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, newly renamed William James College for the famous American psychologist and philosopher. Several years ago, Pantoliano was diagnosed with clinical depression and he's been doing his best to help others with "diseasiness" ever since, founding the nonproft No Kidding, Me Too!, which is aimed at removing the stigma of mental illness. "Looking back, I had an unconscious awakening when I was young, and I began thinking about how I could change or rewrite my traumatic childhood," Pantoliano said. "I decided it would be show business. I pursued a quest and I was successful, but when that didn't make me happy, I pursued a lot of other things I thought would make me happy." Long story short, they didn't. It's been a process, but Joey Pants is feeling better. "I despise the phrase 'mental illness' because it implies it's permanent, and it isn't," he said. "Go get some help. You know when kids come home and say, 'Mommy's in a bad mood'? Moods change. You gotta go through the pain."