Television

‘The Sopranos' cast reunites for 25th anniversary, tearfully reflects on James Gandolfini

The HBO drama ran for 86 episodes, but left its mark on TV and fans.

It’s been 25 years since “The Sopranos” debuted and the show’s influence continues to be felt, with many citing it as the greatest TV show ever made. Several of the show’s stars, along with series creator David Chase, recently sat down with TODAY’s Tom Llamas to discuss the drama’s enduring legacy at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the documentary “Wise Guy: David Chase and the Sopranos” premiered.

“The Sopranos” remains a show people love to talk about all these years later, prompting Llamas to ask why that is the case.

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“Why? Because the writing was incredible. Because of streaming, it’s all over the world. More people watch 'The Sopranos' now than watched it when it was on originally,” said Steve Schirripa, who played Tony Soprano’s brother-in-law Bobby Baccalieri.

The Sopranos cast sitting together
TODAY
(From left to right): Joe Pantoliano, Annabella Sciorra, Steve Schirripa, Drea de Matteo, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, David Chase, Dominic Chianese and Robert Iler sat down with TODAY's Tom Llamas (center) to discuss the legacy of "The Sopranos" 25 years after it premiered.

“The Sopranos,” of course, captured fans’ imagination, with its depiction of Tony Soprano, a mobster, played by the late James Gandolfini, trying to juggle his personal and professional lives. Chase said Gandolfini, who won three Emmy Awards for his work on the show, was the perfect person for the part.

“They loved him because Jim had some magic in him, but you saw this damaged heart or something in that character,” he said.

“The Sopranos” ran for 86 episodes across six seasons between 1999 and 2007 and won 21 Emmy Awards.

"The Sopranos" actors posing
Anthony Neste/Getty Images
Actors from left: Tony Sirico, Steven Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore in a publicity still for TV series "The Sopranos," circa 1999.

Schirripa, who joined the show in its second season, says it was a dream to work with the likes of Gandolfini and Dominic Chianese, who played boss Junior Soprano.

“Well, it’s like an out-of-body experience. I’m saying, ‘I just watched these guys last week. Now I’m here in Jim’s trailer studying lines with Dominic and Jim.’ And it was like, ‘Am I really here? How did I get here?’” he said.

Drea de Matteo, who won an Emmy for playing Adriana, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who starred as Tony’s daughter, Meadow, didn’t even realize what they were auditioning for, thinking the show’s title meant it was about opera.

“For the pilot, everyone said, ‘Clean slate. Hair in a ponytail. You know, always look very basic.’ And when I got there, I was like, ‘This is about Italians,’” de Matteo said.

“All the information I was given was a 16-year-old Italian-looking girl for a show called ‘Sopranos.’ I come from a musical theater background, so I was stoked thinking it was going to be singing for television,” Sigler recalled. “So I think I remember kind of looking around, noticing there’s no accompanist or — so should I sing a cappella? And I remember David telling me that was not necessary.”

The bond from the show runs deep for the cast.

“It’s hard to remember a life for me before these people,” said Robert Iler, who played Tony’s son, A.J.

Since the show signed off, it’s endured crushing losses. Gandolfini died in 2013, and Tony Sirico, who played "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri, died in 2022.

“He was a very loyal guy. Tony and Paulie are one, and they broke the mold when they made Tony Sirico. He was a wonderful guy,” Schirripa said about Sirico.

Gandolfini’s death sent shock waves among fans, with his former co-stars gushing about him. Sigler got emotional when trying to articulate the impact he had on her life.

“I felt protected by him and loved by him. And he really was one of a kind, and I feel very lucky to have been guided by him for as long as I was,” she said.

“As great an actor as he was, he was an even better guy,” Schirripa said. 

“The Sopranos” continues to delight audiences more than a quarter of a century after it debuted. Chase said a lot of the credit lies with the people who brought the characters to life.

“Listening to all this and you asking these questions, it’s bringing back all these scenes with these amazing people, amazing actors,” he said. “They were all so good.”

This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:

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