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The Sopranos is an American TV series that aired from 1999 to 2007. It’s one of the shows with the highest ratings on IMDb and has been praised by both film critics and viewers worldwide. The series is set in New Jersey, USA, and revolves around mafia boss Tony Soprano’s life, balancing his role as a mobster with his personal family life. After he collapses from panic attacks, he seeks professional help from a psychologist, which becomes a significant aspect of the series’ premise.

Tony Soprano’s mother was originally meant to die in the first season…

One of the most beloved (and hated) characters in “The Sopranos” is likely Livia Soprano (played by Nancy Marchand) – Tony’s mother. The central conflict of the first season was the tension between Tony (James Gandolfini) and his mother, and the original plan was for the first season to end with that. The initial idea was for Tony to suffocate his mother to death with a pillow. Since the actress portraying the mother was battling cancer, she asked creator David Chase to keep working because she enjoyed it so much – and he agreed. Nancy Marchand worked until her death on June 18, 2000, and passed away before her final scene could be filmed. However, they managed to create a final scene with Livia Soprano using old footage and CGI technology. [source]

The series creator directed only two episodes…

The creator of the series, David Chase (pictured right in the image below), directed only two episodes of The Sopranos – the first and the last episodes. The director who handled the most episodes was Timothy Van Patten (20 episodes), who also directed for Game of Thrones, The Wire, and Boardwalk Empire. [source]

Tony Soprano was originally meant to be played by Steven Van Zandt…

Before James Gandolfini auditioned for the role of Tony, David Chase wanted Steven Van Zandt, the guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, to play the part. However, the producers didn’t want a first-time actor in a leading role, so Chase offered to create a new character for Van Zandt. The character Silvio Dante, played by Van Zandt, was actually inspired by a short story about a retired hitman that Van Zandt had written before. [source]

Ray Liotta was offered a role but declined…

In an interview on the Today Show in 2001, Ray Liotta (pictured below) revealed that he was offered a role in The Sopranos – without specifying which role – but declined to focus on his film career. Two years later, he confirmed that he turned it down in another interview with GW Hatchet. However, Ray Liotta will have a role in the prequel film The Many Saints of Newark, set before the TV series. In the film, Liotta will portray Aldo Moltisanti. Also, James Gandolfini’s (Tony Soprano) son – Michael Gandolfini – will play a young Tony. [source]

Lorraine Bracco was originally meant to play Carmela…

After Lorraine Bracco played a similar role in the mob film Goodfellas, she was the initial choice to play Tony’s wife – Carmela Soprano. Instead, Lorraine asked if she could play the psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, as she thought it would be a more challenging role. And she was right, as she claimed it was one of the most difficult roles she ever played. Consequently, Edie Falco was cast as Carmela. [source]

Steven Schirripa wasn’t overweight enough – had to wear a fat suit…

When Steven Schirripa (who played Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri) received his first script and saw all the fat jokes that Tony made about Bobby, he thought he had been miscast – he was barely larger than Gandolfini. However, a few days before filming began, he was fitted with a so-called “fat suit,” which he wore during the first few seasons. By the fourth season, he no longer needed the fat suit. He had gained enough weight on his own. [source]

Much of Paulie’s stories came from Tony Sirico’s real life…

Before Tony Sirico (pictured below) became the character Paulie Gualtieri, he led a criminal life. According to the Los Angeles Times, his criminal history was longer than his acting career: 28 arrests compared to 27 acting jobs. As both Sirico and Chase have previously stated, the similarities between Sirico and his character didn’t end there. Paulie’s grooming tendencies and unconventional living arrangements were directly transferred from Sirico’s real life to the TV screen. Sirico’s nickname when he was involved in organized crime was “Junior” – a name David Chase used for Tony Soprano’s uncle. [source]

The Bada Bing scenes were filmed at an actual strip club…

The Sopranos was shot on location in New Jersey and New York and on sound stages at Silvercup Studios in Queens. However, the Bada Bing strip club was not a studio creation. These scenes were filmed at Satin Dolls, a strip club on State Route 17 in Lodi, New Jersey. Additionally, the exterior scenes at Tony’s home were shot at a privately owned residence in New Jersey. [source]

Only five main cast members did not have Italian heritage…

The only leading characters in The Sopranos who did not have Italian ancestry are Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano, Robert Iler, who played Anthony Junior, David Proval, who played Richie Aprile, Nancy Marchand, who played Livia Soprano, and Jerry Adler, who played Hesh. [source]

The series was so realistic that it struck fear in the real mafia…

The Italian mafia in New Jersey and New York became very nervous – to say the least. The series was so realistic and well-executed that the mafia was convinced they had someone from their families on the inside providing them with tips and revealing secrets. However, the production company behind The Sopranos has stated that no one from the real mafia was involved in the production in any way. Nonetheless, James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) revealed that the Italian mafia appreciated the series so much that he was often contacted by them with tips and advice. The first tip he received was after the first pilot episode, advising him to never wear shorts again. [source]

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