The 60 year old had a challenging childhood - he was dyslexic, obese and bullied at school - and his mother Mary left his father Dominic for her third cousin, crime family associate Florio Isabella.
He admits his past took its toll after a close friend committed suicide, and the actor began self-medicating with alcohol, sex, and prescription drugs, at one point swallowing more than two dozen Vicodin pills a day.
Pantoliano finally sought professional help and was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2007.
He tells the New York Daily News, ""What I was going through, depression, is such an insidious disease because it just stops you. It sneaks up on you and you don't really know. And that can vary in conditions.""
The Matrix actor later went into recovery and quit drinking, and Pantoliano admits he's now doing much better.
He continues, ""It's not a daily struggle. I do the 12-step (treatment) programme diligently... it's as simple as... asking for help and seeking treatment and becoming even a greater member of society.""