Tony Soprano died.
Long live James Gandolfini.
The actor, who played the iconic contemporary New Jersey mob boss on the HBO’s show, The Sopranos, from 1999 through 2006,expired from a heart attack last week, while in Rome for a film festival.
I loved the show for so many reasons. Personally, I felt it was one of the best written shows in the years it ran on television. I loved the fact that most of its wise guys characters experienced complex, nuanced emotions.
They weren’t stereotypes. (If only New Jersey residents could say the same about the other show about their state, Jersey Shore).
In The Sopranos, the mobsters hated the life they couldn’t leave, unless it was feet up–Tony included. In fact, when first introduced to viewers, he’s meeting with a shrink because of anxiety issues. We find out that, to the most part, he is a reluctant leader of his gang.
We also find out that he’s the same problems as the rest of us: a spouse with whom he could no longer relate to; teen and tween children who were disillusioned with him (see the video clip, below); a crew whose morality only reinforced his own need to take charge and keep peace–at least, the kind of peace they’d understand. If someone betrayed him–cousin, brother-in-law, best friend, his mother–even beloved nephew and potential successor–they got whacked, no matter how close, be it through blood ties, or emotions, they may have been to Tony.
You saw the pain–and the anger, the joy–in his eyes. Otherwise his poker face stayed in place.
Except for the fact that he was the child of Italian immigrants, Mr. Gandolfini, the son of a janitor and a school cafeteria worker, was anything but the tough guy he played. In fact, by all accounts, he was a modest man who realized how lucky he was to have found the success that eluded so many in his field, and to do so in middle age. He won three Emmys for the role that was the pinnacle of his career.
In 2007, after the show was off the air, the man renowned for playing anti-hero produced a documentary telling the story of some real heroes: Alive Day Memories, about Iraq War veterans who were suffering both emotional and physical maladies from their near-death war zone experiences. And in 2010 he produced a second documentary, Wartorn: 18661-2010, on the effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on soldiers from the Civil War to modern day battles.
It’s good to see Mr. Gandolfini honored not only for the role that made him famous, but for doing something with that same that sheds awareness on others who need it so badly. Tony Soprano may be dead, but through his deeds on behalf of others, James Gandolfini will live on.
Do you have a favorite Sopranos moment? Feel free to share it below.