Here’s the thing about monster hits on TV — if they’re successful right off the bat, and the creators want to keep the machine going for multiple seasons, they’re going to have to expand beyond their original vision, both in the direction the story is moving and in their inclusion of various characters. Such was the deal with The Sopranos, which ran from 1999-2007 and was probably more responsible for our current “Golden Age of Television” than any single other series.
When the series began, James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano, was in almost every single scene. And if it wasn’t Tony’s scene, it was the characters that made up his immediate real and crime families the camera was focused on. But as the series progressed and became more complex, more and more significant and ancillary characters joined the cast. It was no longer just a show about Tony Soprano — which was good, because even though Gandolfini won three (three!) Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor (Edie Falco, who played his wife Carmela, also won three), and the show itself won multiple Emmys for Best Drama, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Direction, Best Writing and so on, it needed infusions of fresh, new talent over its seven-year run.
Everyone knows what happened to Gandolfini, who died tragically before his time. But what of all the ladies who made up Tony Soprano’s mob universe? What ever happened to the girlfriends, nurses, crazy mothers, widowed mob wives, evil sisters, long-suffering wives, and others who spent time with Tony? Here, we look back at 15 of the most interesting ladies of The Sopranos and where those actresses are now.
15. Katherine Narducci – Charmaine Bucco
Poor Artie Bucco! Tony Soprano’s best childhood buddy realized his childhood dream by opening a high-end Italian restaurant. Little did he know that his best friend would run a mob crew that would dominate the restaurant’s dinner seatings and never pay a tab that ran into the tens of thousands. Artie’s wife, Charmaine, certainly realized it, which led to major tension. There’s also a backstory that Tony and Charmaine were an item in high school. Again, what a shocker. Charmaine actually splits with Artie as husband and wife over Tony’s negative influence at the restaurant but stays there professionally as they open a newer, fancier establishment.
Katherine Narducci, who nailed it as one of the only people to ever stand up to Tony Soprano, has guest-starred in Law & Order, Hung, and Blue Bloods, as well as had a major recurring role on the Starz drama Power. She also works in TV movies.
14. Annabella Sciorra – Gloria Trillo
How could you ever forget Gloria Trillo? Played by the glorious Annabella Sciorra, Gloria was kind of a nutcase (OK, she was a major nutcase) who became infatuated with Tony in season three. The two began a torrid affair that was an emotional roller-coaster, with the crazy and jealous Gloria constantly attacking Tony for past affairs she had nothing to do with and then apologizing and begging him to stay in her life. Tony finally breaks it off with Gloria by having Patsy threaten to kill her (what a great way to end a relationship!) and is then shocked when he hears that she committed suicide.
Annabella was originally a movie actress and starred in some pretty big hits like Jungle Fever, What Dreams May Come, and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Since her gig on the show, she has been a constant guest star all over network TV, most recently on CSI, Blue Bloods, and The Good Wife.
13. Aida Turturro – Janice Soprano
If Livia was the evil mother with ice-water in her veins, then Janice was the hot-headed sister with fire in her eyes. Played with great passion and zeal by Aida Turturro, the character of Janice, Tony’s sister, just couldn’t keep herself out of trouble, whether it was in her crazy relationships with Richie and Ralphie, in her weird marriage to poor Bobby, or in her random acts of violence against Svetlana, unsuspecting soccer moms, and her own brother. Oh yeah, she also killed Richie and pushed Ralphie down a flight of stairs. Janice was a mesmerizing mess.
Aida Turturro is a member of the famous Turturro acting family (John being the most famous of all the cousins) and was also a longtime friend of James Gandolfini. She starred with him in many movies and theater productions pre-Sopranos. She is extremely active as a guest star on TV dramas. My favorite role of hers has to be her four years as a judge on Law & Order: SVU. Janice Soprano, a judge??? Ah, no.
12. Lorraine Bracco – Dr. Melfi
Perhaps, Lorraine Bracco’s Dr. Melfi was the moral center of The Sopranos, and perhaps, she was the epitome of how Tony corrupted everything he came in touch with. That’s a more complicated question than I’m willing to answer in 150 words. But Dr. Melfi did help drive the show to great heights as the psychiatrist who had a tragic flaw — her attraction to Tony, her patient. The dramatic tension between the two characters was almost as great if not greater than that between Tony and Carmela and was a huge part of the show’s success.
Lorraine Bracco was already famous for roles in movies like Goodfellas before she joined the Sopranos cast, and her filmography is actually littered with mob-related movies and TV shows. Since 2010, she has been a constant supporting star on Rizzoli & Isles, appearing in all 105 episodes as the mother of Angie Harmon’s lead character.
11. Drea De Matteo – Adriana La Cerva
Poor Adriana. The gun-moll with the IBS. The girlfriend of the guy (Christopher) with the coke problem — or smack problem, like when he nodded off and sat on her dog, killing it. The FBI informant who desperately just wants to get away from all of it and is used mercilessly by the FBI to basically no effect. The scared woman alone in the woods with a murderer. Adriana was one of a kind, and most of us were always rooting for her, even if she wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree.
Drea De Matteo has certainly kept busy since The Sopranos ended. She almost achieved superstar status when she co-starred with Matt Leblanc on his Friends spinoff Joey. She kept her name out there as a recurring character on the hit Desperate Housewives. She attained renewed cult status with her work in Sons of Anarchy. And she’s currently kicking butt as a regular on J-Lo’s Shades of Blue. Way to go, Drea!
10. Jamie-Lynn Sigler – Meadow Soprano
Ahh, Meadow Soprano. Sweet, innocent Meadow, who never knew her family was in the mob until her friend Jackie Aprile Jr. was killed. Meadow lived the life of the typical spoiled, rich teenaged girl. The first few seasons of the show featured her being more foolish and air-headed than anything else. As time wore on, Meadow began to see the cracks in her family’s façade but surprisingly, also became a proponent of legal aid for Italians who were being persecuted for stereotypes. When last we saw her, she appeared headed on track to become a lawyer and “help” white collar Italian defendants (i.e. mobsters).
Jamie Lynn-Sigler was a breakout star because of The Sopranos but perhaps failed to capitalize on it. She starred as Heidi Fleiss, the “Hollywood Madam,” in a highly touted USA network miniseries. She was a longtime contributor to Entourage, playing both herself and other characters across multiple seasons. But she hasn’t quite gone over the top, instead taking on recurring roles in moderately successful shows like Ugly Betty and Guys with Kids.
9. Leslie Bega – Valentina La Paz
It’s no secret that Tony Soprano liked his ladies. Throughout the seven seasons of The Sopranos, we saw Tony bed just about every female who came onto his radar. Valentina La Paz was no different. The character was played by Leslie Bega and exuded the sort of sexy self-confidence that Tony always liked. He immediately “made her” his girlfriend for two seasons, even though she had been introduced to him as Ralphie’s girlfriend. Like so many others in The Sopranos, the character had a bad ending when she caught fire while cooking for Tony (who had been trying to break up with her). She ends up in the hospital badly burned and with no hair — a sad end for a beautiful lady.
8. Denise Borino-Quinn – Ginny Sacramoni
If you watched The Sopranos (and if you didn’t, why the hell not?), then you’ll remember the back story of Ginny Sack, Johnny Sack’s weight-challenged wife. In a nutshell, Johnny, the acting New York boss, worshiped the ground upon which Ginny stood. Supposedly, she had once been a lithe and stunning professional dancer but gained a huge amount of weight and developed an eating disorder after bearing children. But Johnny didn’t care — he loved his wife. Unfortunately, Ralphie Cifaretto made a joke about her size that led Johnny to go into a temporary killing rage against most of Tony’s family. When Johnny goes to jail for racketeering and then dies of cancer (the dude did smoke about eight packs a day), Ginny is forced to sell their mob “McMansion” to Janice Soprano, which pained her immensely, and then took up work as a temp.
Denise Borino-Quinn was a part-time beauty salon worker who won the role of Ginny over 14,000 other actresses. Tragically, she died at the young age of 46 in 2010. The Sopranos was her only acting credit.
7. Oksana Lada – Irina Peltsin
Here we go back again to Tony Soprano’s womanizing ways. Irina Peltsin was one of the first characters we ever saw on The Sopranos, and she wasn’t even part of the family. Rather, she was Tony’s Kazakhstani girlfriend. (The actress who played her, Oksana Lada, is actually Ukrainian.) She was Tony’s steady “moll” for the first two seasons, leading to great tension between Tony and Carmela and some fun fights between Tony and her. She also paved the way for the appearance of our next Soprano lady, Svetlana Kirilenko, who was her cousin.
Oksana Lada has been in tons of TV shows as a guest star since the show. A brief sample includes CSI: Miami, Law & Order, Orange Is the New Black, and Drop Dead Diva. She also stars in a lot of off-Broadway theatrical productions in NYC and studies acting in New York and Los Angeles.
6. Alla Kliouka – Svetlana Kirilenko
So one of the best storylines of all time on The Sopranos, at least in my opinion, was the arrival of Svetlana as the home-services manager in charge of first Livia’s (Tony’s mother) and then Uncle Junior’s home-nursing care. She was bright, bold, brazen, and ruled her world — with a little help from her prosthetic leg. Janice hated her so much that she accused her of stealing Junior’s albums and stole her fake leg, leading to Svetlana siccing the Russian mob on Janice. Tony was so wowed by her that he…well, he had an affair with her — that’s what Tony does. That particular affair actually led to Tony and Carmela’s monster breakup. It was her cousin Irina, of course, Tony’s ex-girlfriend, who broke the news to Carm — oh the fun of it all!
5. Patti D’Arbanville – Lorraine Calluzzo
Patti was already comfortable with fame (and notoriety) when she starred as Lorraine Calluzzo on The Sopranos. She had been part of Andy Warhol’s New York scene way back in the ‘60s and was even doing very “art” risqué movies with nudity at the age of 16. (I guess those were different times.) She also had an on-again, off-again relationship with the folk-rocker Cat Stevens, who even wrote a hit about her, “Lady D’Arbanville.”
You might remember that Lorraine was a New York associate who specialized in loansharking and being a bookie. She also had a whole thing going on with Tony Soprano (really, who didn’t?) for a while. She was taken out by Phil Leotardo’s guys at the behest of Johnny Sack when she refused to acknowledge Sack as the boss in New York.
D’Arbanville has been in tons of network and basic cable TV since the show ended, most notably on Denis Leary’s Rescue Me for four seasons as a recurring character and, of course, Entourage, which everyone has been on. She hasn’t done much since 2010.
4. Toni Kalem – Angie Bonpensiero
Way back in the beginning of The Sopranos, Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero was one of Tony’s closest confidantes. That is, until, Tony and the gang realized he was playing both ends against the middle as an informant. So “Big Pussy” had to go. Tony, in accordance with the mob code of honor, supported Angie — for a while. When he found out she was using his money to buy fancy cars, he cut her off. Angie later managed to get back in Tony’s good graces and took over her late husband’s car repair shop. She made the shop hugely successful — successful enough that she was able to buy her own fancy cars. Of course, she also took on some of his old crew and started loansharking and worse. What a surprise.
Toni Kalem played Angie perfectly, the lost mob widow who finds out how to be in the mob herself. She was a longtime movie and soap opera actress before The Sopranos and even wrote one episode of the show. At age 67, she doesn’t appear to work much anymore. The Sopranos was one of her last roles.
3. Nancy Marchand – Livia Soprano
To many Sopranos fans, fancy Livia, Tony’s mother, was pretty much the embodiment of all evil. She was a terrible mother, once saying her children were “like dogs to her.” What a wonderful lady! She also hated Tony with a passion for putting her in a nursing home. She was cruel and abusive, and Tony eventually stopped all communication with her. Who could blame him?
Unfortunately, the role of Livia, which Nancy Marchand played with professional glee to the hilt, came to an end when Nancy herself died of lung cancer in 2000. Before the Sopranos, she was very well known for her co-starring role in the seminal show Lou Grant with Ed Asner.
2. Sharon Angela – Rosalie Aprile
The Aprile family had it pretty tough. Jackie Aprile Sr. was the boss of the family before Tony and was almost universally recognized as a good guy (in the world of the mob that is). When he died of stomach cancer, Tony took over the family. Richie Aprile was a whack-job and loose cannon whom Janice, herself a whack-job and loose cannon, killed. Jackie Jr. was supposed to be out of the family business but ended up getting sucked in and then killed by Tony’s crew. This leads us to Rosalie Aprile — wife to a dead husband, mother to a dead son, and all-around mob mess. She had a rough go of it for a while before “finding” serenity on a trip to Paris with Carmela.
Sharon Angela played the hard-luck Rosalie with authenticity and grit. She was a longtime contributor (as multiple characters) to the Law & Order franchise and, since The Sopranos, has starred in films like Empire State and will star in the upcoming Cabaret Maxime, which pairs her with a bunch of her Sopranos co-stars.
1. Edie Falco – Carmela “Carm” Soprano
And finally, we have Carmela, the long-suffering wife of Junior Soprano. Edie Falco was in pretty much every episode as Tony’s loving, combative, enabling, disappointed, redemptive, perhaps powerless wife. Carm was a great character, one who questioned her relationship with her husband to the point of nearly (Carm was always about “nearly”) having affairs with a priest and Tony’s Italian muscle Furio. Her best moments came when she actually lashed out at Tony for his womanizing ways and did things like “steal” $50,000 from where he was hiding it in the duck feed bin. It made for great TV.
Edie Falco herself has gone on to win much acclaim, something which is harder to do than one thinks when one already has three Emmys. Edie, showing her range, was the lead on the comedy Nurse Jackie for six years, winning another Best Actress Emmy. She’s one of only five actresses ever to win an Emmy, a SAG, and a Golden Globe in the same year. She’s currently working on a new Law & Order miniseries.
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