“I’m still in love with Edie,” says James Gandolfini of Edie Falco, the woman who played his television wife, Carmela, for six seasons on The Sopranos. “Of course, I love my wife, but I’m in love with Edie. I don’t know if I’m in love with Carmela or Edie or both. I’m in love with her.” Falco reveals a similar possessiveness over her HBO-wedded husband. “It was weird to sit down at a table read with the actresses playing Tony’s girlfriends. Occasionally I would get a sharp twinge at the back of my neck,” she recalls. “I’d have to kind of keep my bearings and remember, No, no, no, this is your job, and at home you have your life. Even years later, I remember when I saw Jim in God of Carnage on Broadway, and he was Marcia Gay Harden’s husband, and I had this ‘How come I have to be O.K. with this?’ kind of feeling.”
“In the five long years since the screen went black and The Sopranos went off the air, on June 10, 2007, there has grown up a kind of omertà around the show,” writes Vanity Fair contributing editor Sam Kashner in the April 2012 issue, in which he speaks to David Chase, along with many of the actors, producers, directors, and writers who have never before spoken so candidly, about what it felt like to be part of this extraordinary cultural phenomenon.
James Gandolfini never thought he’d get the part of Tony Soprano. “I thought that they would hire some good-looking guy,” he tells Kashner, “not George Clooney, but some Italian George Clooney, and that would be that.” Edie Falco says she was surprised she got the role of the Mob boss’s wife. “I would have cast me as Dr. Melfi, but, luckily, I was not in charge.” But she tells Kashner that she quickly took to the role of Carmela. “I immediately knew how she felt about things, the way she wanted to look.”
Drea de Matteo tells Kashner that Chase told her, “You don’t look Italian. You look like a hostess of a restaurant.” The actress, who would play Christopher Moltisanti’s girlfriend, Adriana, in the series, played a restaurant hostess in the pilot. “Later on I hated saying ‘Christopher’ with my accent. I would beg David to let me say ‘Chrissy’ because I felt like my accent sounded really, really fake. Now when I walk down the street, people say, ‘Just give me one Chris-ta-fuh.’”
The actors tell Kashner about the emotional toll inherent in playing such complex characters. “I had to suck the life out of myself to play her,” says Lorraine Bracco of her character, Dr. Jennifer Melfi. “I mean, I don’t think Dr. Melfi ever smiled. I wanted her repressed and sad. And she also had to pay attention to not give an inch with Tony, because he would have eaten her up. I wasn’t going to let that happen. So I had that strength, but emotionally I suffered.” James Gandolfini says he used to call the writers the vampires. “Say, what have the vampires come up with this week? What blood are they sucking this week?” he would ask.
Tony Sirico recalls pleading with Chase to not make him kill a woman when his character, Paulie Walnuts, was scripted to do just that. “David, I come from a tough neighborhood. If I go home and they see that I killed a woman, it’s going to make me look bad.” David would not change the script. “Here’s the thing. We did the scene,” Sirico recalls. “I had to smother her. First he wanted me to strangle her; I said, ‘No, I’m not putting my hands on her.’ He said, ‘Use the pillow.’ After it was all said and done, I went back to the neighborhood, and nobody said a word. They loved the show; they didn’t care what we did.”
According to writer and executive producer Terence Winter, who went on to create Boardwalk Empire, even real mobsters loved the show. “One F.B.I. agent told us early on that on Monday morning they would get to the F.B.I. office and all the agents would talk about The Sopranos,” he recalls. “Then they would listen to the wiretaps from that weekend, and it was all Mob guys talking about The Sopranos, having the same conversation about the show, but always from the flip side. We would hear back that real wiseguys used to think that we had somebody on the inside. They couldn’t believe how accurate the show was.”
Thanks to Vanity Fair
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