Funeral services were held today in New York City for James Gandolfini, the actor who deserved all the accolades he got for his portrayal of mobster and family man Tony Soprano in HBO's groundbreaking series, The Sopranos. Are you a fan of classic film stars? With his commitment and skill and honesty in his work, hard work that he made seem simple, Gandolfini was like a Spencer Tracy of prime time television.
Four of the the best days of my entire career involved work on that series. I had a bit part in two very good episodes and, before each taping my small acting roles, I assembled with everyone else for a table read of the entire script. When Gandolfini became internationally famous as Tony Soprano, my mind frequently went back that first table read. My mind went right back to that reading again this morning when I saw those photos of the funeral service.
My first Under 5 came in the show's first season. An "Under 5" is a role that has no more than five lines. TV viewers had never heard of The Sopranos because it had yet to premiere on HBO when we had that first table read. If you know New York City, we were booked to do the read-through one weekday evening in the SoHo area. I lived in Chelsea so I walked over the location at Prince and Broadway, right across the street from a Dean & DeLuca store. There was a group of actors standing on a corner and chatting. I recognized Gandolfini and Michael Imperioli from my neighborhood. I lived near casting offices and a couple of talent agencies. I'd see them a lot on my way to auditions. They were practically part of the community. Chelsea was still wonderfully working class in the early and mid-1990s. Some actors in that HBO cast were folks I'd seen a lot on the streets, walking around and going about their business without being bothered. When the room was open for our session, I realized that the actors chatting on the corner outside were also there for the table reading.
Gandolfini left us with the some good work -- and not just in The Sopranos.