It was over seven years ago that The Sopranos left the air, in rather dubious and bittersweet fashion, too. Regardless of those final debatable five minutes or so, the preceding six seasons were something special, something remarkable and indelible. The Sopranos lead the revolution of television, paving the way for a wave of great shows that continue today, across multiple networks in many formats, allowing creativity to flourish, unencumbered by former constraints of the medium.
It was somewhat uncharted territory for everyone involved in the show. Certainly it was a passion of show runner David Chase, but what transpired wasn’t what he wanted from the start. What’s more, an ensemble cast shot to fame having been more or less unknown before. That led to some problems of screen, but was a boon for all those involved as the show quickly become among the most popular and critically acclaimed on TV.
There is much to be celebrated and remembered in the life and times of Tony Soprano, one of the first lovable bad guys on TV. He would change the television landscape and allow for men like Dexter Morgan or Walter White or Don Draper, to appear and do what they do, being both adored and hated in equal measure. With the show having started over 15 years ago, there is much that may have slipped through the cracks as viewers took it all in; of course though, we need no reason to reminisce. Thus, we take a look back at The Sopranos, and what took place on and off camera that may be surprising to the most interested of viewers.
10. Drea de Matteo Was Cast As A Waitress In The Pilot
Apparently, actress Drea de Matteo wasn’t Italian enough to portray Adriana La Cerva, at least the first time around. She auditioned for the part and in turn, was cast as a waitress in the pilot episode. Once the series was picked up, however, things turned around and she was called back for an audition. She got the part and assumed the role of Adriana La Cerva and Chris’ girlfriend. She was a little worried about her accent, and in particularly for saying ‘Christopher,’ but she needn’t fret. The role led her to a Golden Globe nomination in 2005, and a Primetime Emmy win for Best Supporting Actress in 2004.
9. The Sopranos Was Meant To Be A Movie
David Chase was not interested in making a TV show, and remember, this was a time before everyone completely loved TV and viewed it as a more creative outlet. Chase wanted to make a movie, and instead of hoping HBO would pick it up as a series, he desired their money to make a movie. Even after the pilot was shot, Chase hoped he could shot more and still make it to the big screen. Though a TV show, The Sopranos would find some common ground with one of the greatest mob movies ever made: Goodfellas. Across the length of The Sopranos, 28 actors appeared on the show that also appeared in the iconic 1990 film. None of those, however, were Ray Liotta, who was on the short list to play Tony.
8. James Gandolfini Paid The Cast During A Contract Dispute
In order to settle an issue between the cast and HBO, James Gandolfini reached into his own pocket. During a contract dispute on Season 4, which involved some cast members not being included with DVD sales, Gandolfini solved it himself, lest the show goes on hiatus and fractures ensure. He wanted to take care of everyone and make sure they knew they were appreciated (which also involved taking everyone out to dinner often). According to his castmates, he called the dozen or so members into his trailer one day, where he cut everyone a check for $33,333 and said, “thank you for sticking by me.”
7. Silvio Was Created By Steven van Zandt
While van Zandt was the man sought after by Chase to play Tony, it didn’t pan out, obviously. He was a newcomer to the screen, and producers thought it was too risky. However, Chase was a huge fan, and so drawn to van Zandt’s look and charm that he had to be on the show. He offered van Zandt any part he wanted, but the musician turned it down, saying he didn’t want to take anything from those actors that had worked long and hard throughout their careers; he was, after all, a guitar player. So, Chase said he would write in a part just for him. Van Zandt came back saying he had a short story about an independent hit man that was retired, and his name was Silvio Dante.
6. The Sopranos Was Loved By The FBI – And The Mob
Writer and executive producer Terrance Winter, soon realized that the show was especially true to life. He told Vanity Fair that an FBI Agent informed him that when they got to the office on Monday morning, everyone was talking about The Sopranos. And that’s not just the agents; they would be listening to wiretaps, and the real life mob guys were talking about the show as well. Apparently they couldn’t believe how accurate it all was, so much so, that they were worried about there being a rat on the inside.
5. Paulie Walnuts And Tony Sirico Have A Lot In Common
In all fairness, it wasn’t the biggest stretch for Tony Sirico to play Paulie Walnuts, because, well, he was pretty well modeled after him. Sirico was a man who at one time in his life had 28 arrests and 27 acting credits. Sirico, like Paulie, was a neat freak and a man who lived with his mother. Sirico, however, refused to be portrayed as a rat, and protested vehemently against a scene where he is to kill a woman. He never wanted to go home and be seen as someone who was an informant, or someone who passionately killed a woman. He professes that everyone he knew loved the show, however, and didn’t care what his character did. Also, Sirico didn’t initially go out for Walnuts, however, auditioning first for the role of Uncle Junior.
4. Two Women Are Modeled After Important People In Chase’s Life
Two of the most notable characters in the show are based on people very close to Chase. Livia, Tony’s mother, who was also supposed to be off the show after the first season, was based on Chase’s real life mom. David opted to keep her recurring as she was sick with cancer during her time there and she wanted to keep working.
Dr. Melfi, meanwhile, was based on Chase’s real life therapist Lorraine Kaufman, who would watch the show intently and predict the future for characters. She became in part involved in their development, and she and Chase would correspond about how they would act and react, and even influence the story. She would send notes to Chase on how she thought they would evolve, and she wouldn’t be far off.
3. The Show Affected Local Businesses
Those fans who loved the show worried quite a bit that it was seeping into reality; or maybe they couldn’t tell the difference. In one instance, a New Jersey sports shop was going out of business in the show, but because so many people in real life were worried this was true, the owners put out a notice that said they were still open.
In another case, a racetrack in Season 5 was sold in the show, leading the owners in real life to be overcome with messages about a potential sale. Similarly, they had to calm their patrons. While nothing as such happened to the Bada Bing Gentlemen’s club to cause alarm, it is in fact, a real strip club as well called Satin Dolls located in Lodi, New Jersey.
2. Multiple Scenes Were Shot To Keep People Guessing
Lest too many people know too many things, Chase would shoot multiple versions of the same pivotal scene, so that the final outcome would be uncertain. Drea de Matteo was at the middle of one of the most famous cases, wherein she shot two different scenes for a Season 5 episode: one in which she dies, and one where she escapes with her life. She didn’t know what would happen until she watched the show, and neither did those around her or those trying to figure it all out. According to her, this was a rather common practice, and makes sense with the reportedly dictatorial way Chase ran his show. “Confidentiality was KING on the show,” she told Esquire in 2014. I mean, they were CRAZY over not letting any leaks get out so we shot it 2 ways”.
1. Chase Often Differed With Other Showrunners
There are many shows to love from the beginnings of the Golden Age of TV in the late nineties and into the 2000s. You can love both The Sopranos and The West Wing. Except if you’re Chase. He disregarded the unrealistic writing of Aaron Sorkin and the walk-and-talks and said you couldn’t love both. Matthew Weiner, another now famous show runner, didn’t quite get along with Chase it would seem. Because Chase hated shots of the back of character’s heads, Weiner opted to make the Mad Men logo as an affront to Chase. In another case, writer Todd Kessler of Damages, put into his show situations inspired from being treated cruelly on the staff of The Sopranos. Lastly, Chase contrasts starkly with Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, who championed a happy writer’s room.
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