Just when you thought we were out, they pull us back in. As THE SOPRANOS hits series three, we meet the mob on location in New Jersey’s most famous living room.
Words: Daphne Lockyer
ere we are in Tony Soprano's house. Plush cream sofas. ankle—deep pile on the Persian rugs. Everything is fragrant. you might say. with the smell of laundered money. Oddly. the house is not the sumptuous piece of real estate that you‘d imagine from watching The Sopranos itself. Not your desirable detached residence (pool and Polish maid included) somewhere in the leafy middle class ‘burbs.
Rather. it‘s an ingeniously constructed series of rooms in a
hangar-sized studio somewhere in the concrete boondocks of
New Jersey. Illusion is all. What is not illusory. however. is the strength of the work that goes on here in this ground—breaking. multi-Emmy winning show about the everyday lives — and deaths — of American-Italian Mafia folk. Billed as the great American TV novel. The Sopranos is the kind of show that just doesn‘t come along too often. And no one knows that better than the ‘family‘ of actors whose names appear each week on the credits.
No wonder. then. that here in the Soprano's living room. each of them tell you that dying would be the worst fate imaginable for their characters. ‘l’ve spoken to the executive producer. David (‘hasef says Tony Sirico who‘s played Mafia hood Paulie Walnuts since the show began two years ago. ‘You bet I have. I‘ve said to him. “Do what you want. lnjure me. Put me in jail. Put me in the witness protection programme. But I’m begging you. don‘t kill me off.”
Laughter follows. But it’s of the nen'ous kind. ()n a show where it's dramatically and morally imperative for characters to get ‘clipped‘. anyone. including even Tony Soprano himself. is
14 THE LIST 1-113 Nov 2001
in the firing line. Although the makers surely know that the killing of Soprano. one of the most charismatic anti-heroes ever created for the small screen. would be suicide for the series.
‘But still. we have to allow for the possibility that Tony Soprano could die because he’s chosen a very problematic way to exist.~ David Chase admits to a motley bunch of press who‘ve been invited on set from countries all over the Soprano—loving world. ‘How long can he go on before something bad happens to him‘.’ That's the question that we‘re asking ourselves all the time.‘
Traditionally of course. Mafia stories all end badly for the hoods. ‘That's the paradigm in all the precursors to The Sopranos: The Godfather. Goodfellas. Mean Streets.‘ says Chase. ‘You see the rise. but then you see the fall. So that would predicate some kind of ruin for Tony. Although. quite honestly. I don‘t like thinking about that because it would also be the end of the show.‘
He‘s not alone here. Viewers. after all. don't just like the show. During this new third series. they will cancel their lives around the thirteen new episodes. Nor would the demise of The Sopranos appeal to HBO. the American cable network which first commissioned the oddball story of a mobster confronting midlife crisis with the help of his shrink. ‘Only a company like HBO could make a series like this because they‘re not governed by the dollar.‘ says Lorraine Bracco who plays the psychiatrist. Dr Jennifer Mclti. ‘They‘re not trying to please the advertisers. Proctor And Gamble. Toyota. whoever. And that gives them incredible creative freedom.‘
‘Sometimes good things are a little offensive to somebtxiy.‘ adds James Gandoltini. who plays her favourite patient. Tony Soprano himself. The show‘s offensiveness — its gut—churning violence. bad language. racism. sexism and so on — makes for a catalogue of political incorrectness. ‘We haven‘t made a
‘Injure me, put me in jail, put me in the witness protection programme, but I’m begging you; don’t kill me off’