Things You Missed On The Sopranos

Almost anyone who was a big fan of The Sopranos is also looking forward to the highly anticipated prequel of the series, The Many Saints of Newark. This film is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s in–you guessed it–Newwark, New Jersey.

As we prepare ourselves to dive back into the lives of the Moltisonti’s and the Soprano’s, let’s reminisce about the good old days by taking a look at things even the biggest fans of the early 2000’s series missed.

In the words of Tony Soprano, “Those who want respect, give respect.” Give respect by being honest here–how many of these moments did you catch the first time around?

Tony Sirico Had a Real Life Rap Sheet

Photo by HBO

Tony Sirico was an audience favorite in his portrayal of Paulie in The Sopranos. He was a trusted confidante who remained faithful to Tony to the end.

Many fans of the show didn’t know that Sirico had a real-life rap sheet before he got into acting. Sirico had been arrested 28 times and was sent to several prisons during his life of crime.

When he was cast in the show, he told the Director, David Chase, he would accept the role under one condition–regardless of the direction the show went in, under no circumstances would his character become a rat.

The show’s leadership agreed, and Sirico gave one of the strongest supporting performances in the series.

The Actress Who Played Tony’s Mom


The actress who played Tony’s Mom, Nancy Marchand, passed away between seasons one and two. She appeared again in season three!

Through the magic of television and technology, Tony got to have one final scene with Livia Soprano after the actress who played her passed away. The show’s director, David Chase, had a couple of options when it came to how Livia’s story would play out. He could either recast the actress who played her or forego his plans for the character by killing her off in the series.

Chase opted for the latter, which meant he had to CGI Marchand into season three using existing clips of the actress and audio files.

Did you spot this bit of technological magic the first time you watched the show?

Andrea De Matteo’s Big Break

Showbiz Cheat Sheet

Though Andrea De Matteo was a dynamic force throughout five seasons of The Sopranos, David Chase didn’t initially plan to use her past the pilot.

De Matteo, who played Adriana La Cerva–Christopher Moltisanti’s lover and later fiance–was initially cast in a cameo role as a hostess in the show’s pilot. While Chase clearly recognized the actress’ talent, he didn’t think she looked Italian enough to play Christopher’s love interest.

It wasn’t until HBO picked up the series that De Matteo was officially given the role. We’re so glad she was!

Paying Homage to The Godfather


This one is only for those who are on-screen gangsters at heart!

While you’re probably aware of the fact that The Sopranos often paid homage to The Godfather film trilogy, you may have missed some of the details along the way.

In The Godfather, oranges foreshadow death. That’s why Vito Corleone is shot after shopping for oranges. He dies after peeling an orange, and there are oranges on the table during the meeting of the heads of the five families, who later get killed.

In episode 12, Tony buys orange juice from an outdoor market; minutes later, two men attempt to kill him. Though the hit was unsuccessful, we think the bullet shooting directly through the orange juice container is a pretty bold callback. Even so, a lot of viewers missed it!

The Mob’s Telling Assumption

Sometimes art imitates life a little too closely. Such was the case with The Sopranos and the real-life mob.

In 1999, a group of New Jersey wiseguys was caught on a wiretap talking about the show. According to a New York Post article, a particular mob member asked, “Is that supposed to be us?” The group was amazed by how similar the characters and their activities were to their own experiences.

We’re not sure who to give the most credit to–the actors? The Director? The writers? We’ll go ahead and give credit to the entire ensemble on a job well done!

Dr. Melfi Was Tough to Play!


Lorraine Bracco is a fiery Italian woman–of her own admission–, and Dr. Melfi is not.

Bracco was first approached by the show’s creators to play Carmela (ultimately played by the beautiful and talented Edie Falco). Because Bracco had recently played a character similar to Carmela in Goodfellas, she turned down the role and asked to play Dr. Melfi instead. She was looking for a challenge, and boy did she find one!

Melfi is quoted on IMDB saying, “I was not ready for how […] difficult Dr. Melfi was to play. I am an explosive girl. I am loud. I am full of life […] and I have to sit on every emotion, every word, everything, to play this character.”

We’re glad she accepted the challenge!

Skinny Guys Need Not Apply


Steven Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccalieri, got a big surprise when he was cast as part of the principal cast.

When the actor got his first script he noticed several fat jokes at his expense. Schirripa thought there must be some mistake and wondered he if had been miscast.

It wasn’t until a couple days before the cast began filming that Schirripa was called in for a costume fitting, which included a fat suit.

He had to wear the fat suit through season three, but then Chase–the show’s director–allowed the actor to ditch the fat suit.

Schirripa told Vanity Fair, “[T]hen I guess, in season 4, David thought I was fat enough on my own, so he let me get rid of it.”

Fat suit or not, Bobby was a great character!

Real World Events

Skyscraper City

The first three seasons of The Sopranos featured the Twin Towers in the opening credits. Beginning with the first episode that aired after the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001, the towers were digitally removed from the opening.

A spokesman for the show said, “The feeling is that seeing the towers would be inappropriate after what happened.

*Spoiler Alert* Imperioli Shares His View On The Finale


If you happen to be one of the 3 or 4 people who haven’t seen this show yet, you might want to skip over this Things You Didn’t Know moment.

For the rest of us . . .

We know how the show ends. Yet, in true artistic fashion, even though we all saw the same thing happen, many of us have widely varying opinions on what it all means. There are generally two camps: one, Tony was shot in the restaurant with his family watching. Two, he wasn’t.

One of the show’s actors has been vocal concerning his perspective. Michael Imperioli (Christopher) is firmly in the first camp. In 2012 he told Vanity Fair, “I think he’s dead, is what I think. David was trying to put us in the place of the last things you see before you die. You remember some little details and something catches your eye and that’s it. You don’t know the aftermath because you’re gone.”

What do you think about the end of the series? We’re not trying to start a fight! We’re just curious . . .

Tony Wasn’t Supposed to Be That Tough

Getty Images (Photo by HBO)

When David Chase first conceived of Tony Soprano he didn’t see him as the scary gangster we all came to know and love. He was supposed to be a little more fun, a little less terrifying.

As often happens when directors and actors get together, Gandolfini made choices during rehearsals and shots, and Chase followed the actor’s instincts. Chase told Written By magazine, “[Gandolfini] showed me early on how much of a prick that guy would have to be. […] That guy is surviving the mob. He’s really a dangerous person. He’s not a fun guy.”

As the show went on, Chase’s view changed to fit Gandolfini’s portrayal, and the scripts began to reflect their collaboration.

Ray Liotta Was Offered a Role

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In 2001, Ray Liotta told The Today Show that he was offered a role on The Sopranos, but he turned it down. At the time, he wanted to focus on his film career, and he felt that playing for television would tie up his schedule.

Two years later, Liotta explained his decision a little differently when he stated the following to university newspaper, GW Hatchet, “Having done Goodfellas, I mean, that’s pretty much the ultimate in Mafia everyday life. And that show is pretty much structured around Tony Soprano. There was no way I was gonna shine,” he said. “It just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. I love him [James Gandolfini] as an actor. I think he’s great. But my ego’s as big as anybody’s.”

Ego is just as good a reason as any to turn down a role, and we do agree with Liotta’s assumption that he wouldn’t have gotten as much screen time as Gandolfini.

James Gandolfini Was Not Chase’s First Pick

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It sounds like blasphemy now, but James Gandolfini was not Chase’s first pick for Tony. It had nothing to do with Gandolfini though–it had all to do with an album cover.

Chase wanted Steven Van Zandt, guitar player of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, to play Tony. In 2012 he told Vanity Fair, “I used to listen to music a lot on headphones and look at [Springsteen’s] LP, and Steven Van Zandt’s face always grabbed me. He had this similarity to Al Pacino in The Godfather.” He went on to say he and his wife, Denise, were watching a hall of fame awards show one night when Van Zandt gave a speech. Chase thought he was funny and magnetic.

Chase said to his wife, “That guy has got to be in the show!” Despite Chase’s conviction, the network didn’t want to take a chance on casting a first-time actor in a lead role. It all worked out though because Van Zandt was written into the show as Silvio Dante, which ended up being a well-loved character for several seasons.

Dr. Melfi Was Based on David Chase’s Therapist

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During the time Chase was creating The Sopranos he was seeing a therapist named Lorraine Kaufman. Chase liked the way Kaufman cut through his “b******”, and the no-nonsense way she approached their conversations. He also learned a lot about the therapist/client relationship, and he eventually asked her to offer insight into the show’s characters and family dynamics.

He told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2006, “After three or four seasons, she wrote me a breakdown of the Soprano family.” He went on to explain, “This is not a bible, but every once in a while we get it out. Strangely enough, these fictional characters have, in fact, behaved in the way she predicted they might, even though we might have forgotten she ever wrote it.”

What a perfect example of art imitating life.

Michael Imperioli Thought He Blew It

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When Michael Imperioli auditioned for the role of Tony’s nephew/cousin Christopher Moltisanti, he walked out thinking, “I blew that one!”

In a 2012 Vanity Fair interview, Imperioli told the reporter, “They brought me in, and I met with David. I thought he hated my audition because David’s a poker-faced guy.” Apparently, Chase’s poker face is formidable!

We’re so glad Imperioli’s instinct about his audition was wrong because we can’t imagine the show without him.

An Assistant District Attorney Worked with Producers

Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Obviously, The Sopranos is a fictional show, but it’s based on a real-life organization and–loosely–on real-life events. As a result, the show’s producers had to consult with people who could make sure they were presenting the characters and their lifestyles as believably as possible.

To gain insight into the way the real mob made their money, Chase talked with former New York assistant district attorney, Dan Castleman. Castleman estimated Tony Soprano’s net worth was $5 to $6 million—but this number often fluctuated due to Tony’s gambling habits.

For a multi-million dollar mobster, we think Tony lived a relatively humble existence. Maybe that was a half-hearted attempt to throw the cops off?

Bada Bing! Scenes Were Shot in a Real Life Strip Club

Creative Loafing

Most people don’t know The Sopranos was filmed on location in New York and New Jersey, as well as in a sound studio located in Queens. The sound studio, Silver Cup Studios, was used when the producers of the show needed to balance schedules, logistics, and budgets, as well as control the lighting and sound in any given scene.

You may have assumed the strip club where Tony and his crew often hung out–Bada Bing!– was built in a sound studio, but it was no studio creation, at all. In fact, all the Bada Bing! scenes were shot at a gentleman’s club called Satin Dolls on State Route 17 in Lodi, New Jersey.

The Sopranos’ House Really Exists

Fancy Pants Homes

All of the exterior shots that took place at the home of Tony and Carmela Soprano were shot at a privately owned house in North Caldwell, New Jersey.

According to a Forbes article published in 2019, the house was on the market for $3.4 Million. Big fans of the show–like you and I–recognize the house because it’s prominently featured in myriad iconic scenes. The front of the house is seen in the show’s opening credits, as well as in the background of some of Tony and Carmela’s biggest blow-ups. The back of the house is featured as a place where Tony has panic attacks, tosses Carmela in the pool, grills for family and friends, and obsesses over ducks.

While there is a location tour for fans of the show, the house is not on the tour route. It’s actually an hour away from most of the other locations.

What did the ducks mean?

Robert Iler Got Into Some Touble with the Law

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Robert Iler, who played A.J. Soprano, grew up on the show. Born in 1985, Iler was 14 years old when The Sopranos first aired on HBO. In 2001, Inler was arrested for armed robbery and Marijuana possession. We wonder how Tony would respond if his son A.J. were arrested for the same.

In the end, Iler served three years probation. While this isn’t a piece of trivia about the show itself, we can’t help but wonder what’s it’s like for a young man to grow up around stories of crime and drama. We certainly wouldn’t suggest life is imitating art, but we think the connection between the show and true crime is an interesting one.

Currently, Iler is producing a podcast called Panjama Pants with his co-star from The Sopranos, Jamie-Lynn Siglar, as well as comedian, Kassem G.

The Epic Opening Song

BAMF Style

Did you know that David Chase originally wanted to use a different song for the opening of every episode? We aren’t privy to the songs he had in mind, but we’d love to know more about his vision. Here’s what we do know–the other producers convinced him otherwise for the purpose of keeping branding consistent.

Ultimately, Chase chose the remixed version of “Woke Up This Morning” from the album Exile on Coldharbour Lane, debuted by English band Alabama 3 in 1997. Chase said the first time he heard the song he knew it was the one. HBO agree, and they paid Alabama 3 $40,000 for the rights.

And now that we’ve mentioned it, we need to go listen to it. Be right back . . .

Gandolfini Was Relieved to Say Goodbye

Photo by HBO

The Sopranos ran for six seasons. As the final season began filming, a lot of people asked James Gandolfini how he felt about eventually saying goodbye to Tony Soprano. After the final episode aired, Gandolfini told a Seattle Times reporter, “I was told that it would be a transition. Not much. It’s very calming to move on.” He went on to explain, “The character has been with me for so long, it’s a relief to let him go.”

Imagine what it would be like wake up to the same crew, cast, and (mostly) the same locations day and day, year after year for six years. Add to that the pressures of being the lead character and playing a guy who MUST command every single time he’s on camera.

I guess we’re not surprised he was relieved. Well, maybe a little.

Someone Counted the F Bombs

Chalk this up to an excellent tidbit for that one fateful day when you stumble across a Sopranos trivia night at your local tavern.

The F word was used 437 times in season one. By season two, the number jumped to 715.

According to the blog Steven Rubio’s Online Life, the F word was used most in episode 105 (“The Happy Wanderer”), and least in episode 13 (“Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood”).

We couldn’t find any reliable numbers after that, but we can only imagine the number soared throughout subsequent seasons!

No Pants, No Service

Mario Tama/Getty Images

This photo is from a 2008 auction where costumes from The Sopranos were on display. You know what you don’t see anywhere? Shorts! Okay, well, there are boxer shorts in the upper right, but that doesn’t count because they were only worn in the driveway and inside the Soprano house. Here’s why:

Real-life members of Organised Crime often contacted the cast to give them tips on how to play their characters more authentically. After the pilot aired, one such member contacted James Gandolfini to tell him never to wear shorts again. This piece of advice was immediately incorporated into costuming for the show, and in season four when Tony tells Carmine, “A Don doesn’t wear shorts.” Now you know why we never again see Tony’s legs outside his own property.

Something to Get Angry About

Have you wondered how James Gandolfini (Tony) stayed angry so much of the time? Doesn’t that sound a little exhausting to you? Sure, it was just acting, but even actors are affected by the emotional lives of the characters they play.

Gandolfini had a trick–sometimes he put a small rock in his shoe to help him build up the irritation and anger he needed to motivate his acting choices. We think this is a brilliant idea, especially since he appeared in every single episode of the series. That’s a lot of angry moments!

Intense Discussions

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Did you ever notice that the discussions taking place between Tony (Gandolfini) and Dr. Melfi (Bracco) in her office are shot differently than the rest of the show? This was on purpose.

The creator of the show, David Chase, made a strong decision about this early on in the life of the series. He wanted the camera work in the office to mimic a real-life therapy session. To that end, the camera swiveled back and forth between the two characters in a way that mimicked the asking of questions and the pauses and/or explosions of a client’s answers. We appreciate the attention to detail and the feeling of intimacy this choice created for the audience.

Sense of Direction

Evan Agostini/Getty Images

While there are a lot of people we have to thank for the existence of The Sopranos, one man, in particular, holds the lion’s share of our debt of gratitude–the creator, David Chase. Chase served as showrunner for the series from beginning to end. Most people assume he also directed all the episodes of the show. The latter is far from the truth.

David Chase only directed TWO episodes of The Sopranos–the very first and the very last.

According to Wikipedia, the people who directed the most episodes were Tim Van Patten (20 episodes), John Patterson (13 episodes), Allen Coulter (12 episodes), and Alan Taylor (9 episodes), all of whom have a background in television.

Title Wars


The show was almost called Made in New Jersey, among other titles. While The Sopranos was the creator of the show’s first choice, HBO was afraid people would assume it was a show about singers. Eventually, a compromise was struck–the show’s production team added the gun to the title’s logo, and everyone was happy!

Goodfellas Connections

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Did you know The Sopranos shared 27 cast members with Martin Scorsese’s gangster film Goodfellas?

Here are just a few–Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi and Karen Hall), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti and Spider), and Tony Sirico (Paulie Gaultieri and Tony Stacks).

Guilding the Lilly

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for MTV

We can all see Drea De Matteo (Adriana La Cerva) was already beautiful when she stepped into the makeup trailer. What you might not know is that she had to sit in that makeup chair for four hours to achieve her mob woman look.

The first two hours were spent perfecting her hair and makeup, and the second two hours were spent covering her tattoos!


Mike Coppola/Getty Images

When James Gandolfini had a sudden heart attack and died on a trip to Italy in 2013, the world was shocked and saddened. He was 51 years old.

“He was a genius,” The Sopranos creator David Chase told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. “Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.'”


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