The Sopranos: Empire Reunites David Chase And Cast For 25th Anniversary Interview

The Sopranos

by Ben Travis |
Published on

25 years ago, television changed forever. It was at the start of 1999 that HBO aired the first episode of The Sopranos – the groundbreaking gangster drama that took the cinematic tropes of The Godfather and Goodfellas and turned them longform. With its then-contemporary depiction of a crime family – both the underworld operation run by James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, and the domestic Soprano household – facing up to the realities of 21st Century life and a tidal shift in mobster generations, it was both a deconstruction of and gripping addition to the gangster canon. In the likes of Tony, and Lorraine Bracco’s therapist Dr. Melfi, and Steven Van Zandt’s hard-headed Silvio Dante, and Edie Falco’s long-suffering wife Carmela Soprano, it introduced some of the greatest characters to ever grace the small screen.

To mark a quarter of a century since The Sopranos debuted, the latest issue of Empire features an epic reunion chat – bringing series creator David Chase back together with Bracco, Van Zandt, and Falco for a roundtable conversation about their experiences making the show. Along the way, they discuss the show’s greatest episodes, the controversial ending – and the late, great James Gandolfini, who passed away in 2013. Read an extract from the interview here:


EMPIRE: It’s impossible to go any further in this conversation without talking about the great James Gandolfini —

Lorraine Bracco: Wait, who? [Everyone laughs]

Edie Falco: Can I just say, I think if Jim were alive with us and here for this conversation — this is exactly as much a part of this conversation as he would ever have been. [Laughs] He was never big on talking about the show, or about himself. He went in, did the work and hung out with people he cared about. That was it. So it’s sort of fitting that he’s not required to answer any of these questions. He wouldn’t want to, I don’t think.

Bracco: Oh no, he would not have wanted to.

Steven Van Zandt: You know, as I’ve gotten older and started losing friends, of which Jim was one of the best, my way to deal with it has become just pure denial. I think about Jim almost every day. We were gonna open a bar together. He was gonna be in (Netflix series) Lilyhammer with me. Every day, something will come up that makes me think of him. But in life, you’ll go six months without seeing a friend, right? Sometimes a couple of years, because your schedules aren’t matching up. So I just think of him that way. It’s the only way I cope.

Bracco: Yeah. There was a 25th anniversary party last week, where I saw his son, Michael. I remember holding him on set as a little baby. And talking to Michael, I felt Jimmy there. I felt he was close to me.

The Sopranos

Is there a particular moment you each have of James Gandolfini that speaks to the man he was away from Tony Soprano?

Bracco: Well, he was a pain in the ass to me. I remember he was always so happy when he’d finish filming his monologues (in the therapy scenes), that he’d start to strip or dance or go fucking crazy. Did he do that with you, Edie?

Falco: He didn’t strip for me, because I was his wife. [Laughs] My experience of him was, he was kind of a goofball. He was this suburban guy who decided to act way late in the game, and on some level was always looking over his shoulder. Like someone was going to find out he wasn’t supposed to be the guy. The feeling I got is he could never really manage how lucky he felt to have been a part of this show.

Van Zandt: That’s true. He’d sometimes be looking in the mirror, and say things like, “Look at this face. Can you believe they cast me as the lead in this thing?”

Falco: But he was so much fun too. I remember once, shooting an intervention scene (in Season 4), when he flipped backwards on an apple box and his feet went up like a very large toddler. He couldn’t stop laughing. I couldn’t stop laughing. That was him. That was Jimmy.

The Sopranos

Van Zandt: He would also quit the show basically every day. [Laughs] In TV, you work from 6am ’til 10pm. He was coming from movies, filming two pages a day or whatever. And here we were, doing five, six or seven — four of which would be him and Lorraine in Dr Melfi’s office. Heavy scenes. So he was often like, “I can’t do this. I cannot do this.”

David Chase: I was requested to meet him one time at Pier 40 by the Hudson River in the middle of the day when he was going through his “I want to quit” thing. And he said to me that day, “You know what I should have been? I should have been a plumber. That’s what I should have been. A plumber.” I had several of those conversations with him.

Falco: Being Tony wasn’t easy.

Empire – May 2024 – Furiosa newsstand cover

Read Empire’s full celebration of The Sopranos in the Furiosa issue, on sale Thursday 14 March. Order a copy online here.

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