The Sopranos Behind The Scene: 7 Fascinating On-Set Stories

Have you ever wondered what was happening behind the cameras of your favorite TV show? It’s time to uncover some hidden gems from the set of “The Sopranos”.

From unexpected auditions to real on set asbestos, here are amazing stories that shaped this iconic series in ways you wouldn’t believe.

MORE: The Last Interview With James Gandolfini

Inspiration Behind Richie Aprile’s Character in “The Sopranos”

David Proval, known for his mild-mannered persona, found himself in a peculiar situation when he was offered the role of the hot-tempered Richie Aprile in “The Sopranos.” Originally auditioning for the lead role of Tony, Proval was approached by show creator David Chase after season one with the proposition of playing Richie.

Despite the stark contrast between his personality and Richie’s volatile character, Proval accepted the challenge. His unlikely inspiration for Richie’s disdainful attitude towards Tony Soprano? His own impoverished childhood. Witnessing privileged children taking their fortunes for granted, Proval transferred this resentment to Richie, creating a character that still resonates with fans today.

Federico Castellucio’s Audition

The casting process for Furio Giunta on “The Sopranos” was no less dramatic than the show itself. The showrunner, David Chase, was in search of an authentic Italian actor who could deliver the genuine accent and not just a caricature of an Italian mobster. After auditioning several Italian actors, Frederico Castelluccio entered the scene.

In his audition, Castelluccio perfectly nailed Furio’s accent, impressing Chase and the casting team. The twist came when Chase asked him which part of Italy he hailed from. Much to their surprise, Castelluccio dropped his Italian accent and revealed that he was actually from Paterson, New Jersey.

This revelation did not deter Chase; instead, it was clear that Castelluccio was a perfect fit for Furio. The authenticity that Chase was seeking had been found, not across the Atlantic, but in New Jersey. Castelluccio was given the part the very next day.

Steve Schirripa’s Transformation into Bobby Baccalieri with Help from Dominic Chianese

Steve Schirripa, best known for playing Bobby ‘Baccala’ Baccalieri on “The Sopranos”, owes much of his success in the role to Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior. Despite his limited acting experience when he joined the show, Schirripa quickly formed a strong bond with Chianese and learned a lot from him, both on and off the set.

Schirripa wasn’t as big as his character Bobby, which became a problem when they wanted to film scenes that involved Bobby’s weight, such as the “before…and WAY before” and “consider salads you fat fuck” lines. The solution was a fat suit, but the original version was little more than cloth stuffed with socks. It was hardly convincing, and worse, it didn’t affect Schirripa’s movements, so he didn’t move like an overweight person would.

Noticing this, Chianese suggested that for the fat suit to be believable, Schirripa had to move as if he were really obese. Chianese spent numerous extra hours with Schirripa, teaching him how to “use the belly” and perfecting the portrayal of an overweight man. They worked on little details like the struggle of getting out of a car, all contributing to a more authentic character.

Schirripa has spoken of Chianese as a father figure, and he carries a deep respect for him to this day. Whenever anyone criticizes Junior’s actions on the show, Schirripa is quick to defend his on-screen mentor.

During the third season, Schirripa was fitted with a more realistic prosthetic fat suit that included a belly and an ass piece. However, when showrunner David Chase saw it, he directed the costume department to “lose the ass.” Schirripa kept that fat suit as a memento from his time on “The Sopranos”.

Real Asbestos for Authenticity on “The Sopranos” Set

There are few lengths that David Chase, the creator of “The Sopranos”, wouldn’t go to for the sake of realism on his show. In one memorable instance, Chase fought HBO executives for the right to dump actual asbestos into Lake Owassa during the shooting of a scene. Despite concerns over environmental laws and the potential for lawsuits, Chase stood his ground, insisting, “It has to be real asbestos.”

The prop department had already created faux-asbestos using materials like cardboard and plasterboard. They were well-aware of the potential consequences of using real asbestos, such as hefty fines and environmental damage. However, Chase was not easily persuaded.

He was so steadfast in his vision for authenticity that he threatened to abandon the second half of the sixth season if real asbestos was not used. Ultimately, his persistence paid off, and the asbestos used in the scene was as genuine as it could be.

However, the decision wasn’t without controversy. The actor who played the truck driver in the scene unfortunately later died from mesothelioma, a type of cancer often caused by asbestos exposure. Although it could not be definitively proven that the asbestos on the set of “The Sopranos” caused the actor’s illness, HBO and Chase decided to settle the issue out of court. Once again, Chase maintained his stance that the authenticity of the scene was paramount, stating simply, “It had to be real asbestos.”

James Gandolfini Kept Things Light on “The Sopranos” Set

Working on a television set can sometimes be a high-pressure environment, especially when the show in question is as intense and dramatic as “The Sopranos”. However, it seems that James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano, had a knack for lightening the mood.

According to Lorraine Bracco, who portrayed Dr. Melfi, the psychiatrist scenes were shot away from the main set in a small area she referred to as a “little box”. These intimate scenes involved a reduced crew and typically only included her, James, David Chase, and the director.

In an interesting twist, the filming of these sessions required that Lorraine record her dialogue separately, as the camera had to be positioned in James’ spot. This presented Gandolfini with a unique opportunity for some on-set mischief.

Apparently, James had a habit of pulling playful pranks on Lorraine to try and break her character during these moments. He would stand behind the crew, in a spot where only she could see him, and moon her. Despite the seriousness of the scenes they were shooting, Gandolfini’s antics often resulted in Lorraine having to keep her composure amidst fits of laughter.

On one occasion, when she yelled, “put that thing away!” and everyone turned to look, James had already pulled his pants back up and was looking innocently off into the distance, leaving everyone else none the wiser.

The Mysterious “Tree O’clock”

The phrase “three o’clock” is a recurring theme throughout the show, mentioned in several discussions about the afterlife between characters Christopher Moltisanti and Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri. Interestingly, the meaning behind this particular phrase is known only to two people: David Chase, the show’s creator, and Michael Imperioli, the actor who portrayed Christopher.

Imperioli, who also wrote many of the afterlife discussion scenes, collaborated with Chase to tweak some of these dialogues between the first and second seasons. During this process, they formed a pact to never reveal the true meaning of the phrase “three o’clock”, adding a layer of real-life mystery to the show.

Though the exact interpretation of the phrase remains a closely-guarded secret, Imperioli assures that there is indeed a specific meaning.

How Furio’s Iconic Scene Was Filmed in One Single Take

Some scenes in “The Sopranos” stand out due to their dramatic intensity, and Furio’s one-man rampage on a whorehouse is definitely one of them. What fans may not know, however, is the challenging circumstances under which this memorable sequence was filmed.

The scene had to be shot at the break of dawn, around 4:30 AM, due to difficulties in acquiring permits to clear the street for filming during regular hours. Complicating matters further, union labor laws necessitated a 12-hour break between shooting days, so filming had to be scheduled at the end of a work week.

With the sun threatening to rise and dispel the illusion of night, the pressure was on to capture the entire scene in a single take. Frederico Castelluccio, the actor portraying Furio, rose to the challenge, flawlessly executing the scene without any need for cuts or breaks.

Even showrunner David Chase, known for his meticulous attention to detail and perfectionism, was satisfied with the take. The result? An unforgettable scene that fans remember as one of Furio’s standout moments in the series.