Three Stars Share Epic Stories About Their Sopranos’ Career at Live Red Bank, NJ Event
Wow! There are three big-time stars from The Sopranos who are coming to the Jersey Shore in just three weeks' time!
Steve Schirripa, who along with Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore is coming to the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank next month, joined us on 'Shore Time with Vin and Dave' on 94.3 The Point and 105.7 The Hawk on Sunday morning to look back on The Sopranos show and look ahead to this upcoming event.
There was the Talking Sopranos Podcast that Schirripa and Imperioli co-hosted last year and then the two wrote a book together as well called 'Woke Up This Morning: A Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos' and have teamed up with Pastore to bring those discussions to you with in-person events called 'In Conversation with The Sopranos' and they go all over.
"The book came out of the podcast, we talked to 67 people that had the stuff to do with the show -- mostly actors but we had production people, stunt people, directors -- David Chase came on three times, Stevie Van Zandt came on a few times, the costume people, the casting people -- it really gives fans a peak behind the curtain," Schirripa tells Townsquare Media on 'Shore Time with Vin and Dave'. "This really gives you stories, that, even Michael (Imperioli) and myself didn't know. I've learned a lot, I did not know a lot of the stuff, I did not know that Jerry Stiller got the role of Hesh originally, I didn't know that Toni Kalem -- who wound up playing Big Pussy's wife -- she screen tested for Carmella. There were a whole lot of things I didn't know, those were just a few."
From the time he was on the show through today, Schirripa explains that he's learned a lot about his fellow cast members and the roles that they played as well including Paulie Walnuts.
"Tony Sirico kept saying to me 'after ya say that line, you look at me, I look at you, you look at me, let me get my mug in there' also, he told me, 'you're dead, you're dying, you cursed at the boss, you're dead, you're not coming back', and here I am coming to the show for the first time," Schirripa said.
It was a new kind of role, show for Schirripa who became one of the top cast members on The Sopranos.
"I did my first scene with Jim Gandolfini, Vinny Pastore, Tony Sirico, and I believe it was Stevie Van Zandt and when I was done with that scene -- very nerve-wracking, thrown into the lion's den, first scene, you're with the stars of the show -- but right after the scene, they treated me like I had been there forever," Schirripa said.
It was a journey, a chance he took in getting the role of Bobby Bacala but also onto the show as well and in trying to prove himself.
"I was living out in Las Vegas at the time, I don't think I really worked in New York at all before that, I did most of my stuff in Vegas and LA, and even though I'm from here, I didn't work here as an actor, and, so, I didn't know anyone, not one soul," Schirripa said. "I had to fly myself out, put myself up in a hotel, and get myself a ride to the set -- it was all a long journey. I think back now -- I don't think I was that nervous, I should have been more nervous, I was prepared and I had auditioned and I got the role, and I just kind of fell in place."
There was a growing storyline of Bobby Bacala from the moment he was introduced to the audience until the final season.
"When they established the character -- it came out in the second episode of the second season -- it was a lot -- there were so many guys coming and going, especially in the later seasons 2,3,4,5 they were bringing in new people to get killed, there was a lot of new characters which I think made for a much bigger story and I thought it got better and better the show," Schirripa said. "No one ever said a word to me about anything. I auditioned, I read for Georgette Walken -- Christopher Walken's wife -- was the casting director, I read for her, she said, 'would you come back for David (Chase)."
From there he had a decision to make that ended up changing the course of his career forever.
"I flew myself back, my wife said 'go back', I wasn't going to because I had to fly myself out and put myself up, I said I'm going blow this money for what? A couple of lines, I mean, I don't know, they didn't give me the script at that point," Schirripa said. "When I finally got the role and I came back, I saw he was in four or five scenes when they established Bobby and at first I just worked with Dominic (Chianese)/with Junior who was a tremendous help to me because even though I had been acting I was still green, I still had a full-time job in Vegas, so I had done quite a bit of stuff but, hey man, this was a whole different bag. As time went on, I guess they liked what they saw. Personally, I look at the second season of the work I did and I cringe, some of the scenes I thought I was just God awful, but I guess they saw something in me and that's a good thing."
With many of the characters on the show, there was a chance he explains that your character was going to get killed off the show at some point.
"The role (Bobby Bacala) got bigger and bigger like I said, I guess they liked what I was doing and there's always that chance -- the more they give you, the better chance you got to get killed off because they're not killing a guy that you just met for the first time, the audience isn't invested in him," Schirripa said. "When they killed off Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore), one of the main characters, ooh, now you know anything can happen and every season since. You always had that worry -- but no one ever said 'this is going to happen or what do you think' -- you got the script, you did what was on the page and that was that."
He said he found out a little beforehand that Bobby was going to be killed off while at the store looking for trains.
"I found out maybe a month before, he (David Chase) came to the apartment and told me, he was very vague even then, he came up to the apartment, which wasn't usual, he either told you on the phone or pulled you off to the side while you were working, but, at that point, it didn't really matter, in my mind, two things -- whatever happens, happens here to tell this story, however, it ends, so what, the shows over -- number two, I was getting paid, so it wasn't like that, I mean honestly, and people might think that that doesn't matter -- it certainly matters," Schirripa said. "If I would have gotten killed off early, and I've told Vinny Pastore (Big Pussy) this, I would have felt just terrible, and Vinny did for a long time, Vinny talks about it on stage when we do the Live show, he was hurt. Not only was he out of work on the hottest show in TV and possibly TV history, (but) he was no longer getting paid -- we started making money as the years went on, (but) he never made that money and also, he was no longer working with his friends, we all became friendly, a tight-knit group and he didn't watch the show for a long time, he didn't at all, he was hurt. They brought him back, of course, a few times, but he was upset. The one good thing on his end was that he was the first Soprano out, so he did get a lot of opportunities after that."
One of his impactful memories of playing Bobby Bacala was early on during the role in the earlier seasons.
"I think the biggest one and the first one was when Bobby Sr. -- Burt Young -- comes out of retirement, per say, and kills Mustang Sally, and the first time I had to get emotional, it was hard for me, you know, I had to cry and you got to do it over and over -- it's not easy," Schirripa said. "That was, I think, kind of the big thing they gave me, and I went 'Woah'."
There are other big moments that started to happen for him as well.
"My role got bigger and bigger at that point but that was a big turning point for Bobby," Schirripa said. "Also, the Pine Barrens of course that was in Season 3 -- so Season 3 things started happening for him, and then Season 4 connects with Janice and all of that and the Ziti -- they gave me just incredible stuff for an actor, I worked very hard, I worked with an acting coach all through the Sopranos years and I would go to his apartment in the East Village and work on the scenes with him and then actually go from there to the studio."
You can hear more about Steve Schirripa's experience working on The Sopranos at the 'In Conversation With The Sopranos' event along with Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank on September 10 at 8:00 pm.
"We've been doing this Live show for years, a number of years, Tony Sirico used to join us, and then Tony wasn't well for a number of years, and then Vinny (Pastore) came on board," Schirripa said. "We do it, occasionally, but because of our schedules, we can't do as many as we would like. We've done Count Basie before. With the show -- it opens up, we show clips of the show, a comedian comes out, Joey Kola -- been around forever, very funny guy, he travels with us -- he comes out, he does his time and then he asks us questions -- prepared questions -- some taken off the internet, some just morphed over the years, we tell stories -- it's all comedy driven -- comedic stories. We do a bunch of questions, all kinds of stuff, then we take questions from the audience."