Lin-Manuel Miranda reflects on his minor role in The Sopranos. Over the course of its run, the groundbreaking HBO mob drama welcomed actors that would go on to explode in other areas of the entertainment industry. The Sopranos featured guest appearances by Will Arnett and Tony Hale, both of whom would eventually lead the comedy series Arrested Development. The show also featured Cristin Milioti, of How I Met Your Mother and Palm Springs, and future Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan. The eventual pop sensation Lady Gaga also had a small Sopranos role, playing a classmate of AJ Soprano (Robert Iler)
Before becoming a household name thanks to his hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, Miranda appeared in The Sopranos season 6 episode “Remember When” in the role of an unnamed bellman. In the episode, fairly standard for the acclaimed series by that point, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was questioning the loyalties of those around him while those around him schemed to consolidate their power. Miranda wasn’t, in other words, a big part of the episode. However, he says Gandolfini made him feel quite welcome on set.
Miranda’s comments came as part of Sicker in the Head: More Conversations About Life and Comedy (via New York Post), a new book by director Judd Apatow. In his recollections, the Hamilton star recounts how new he was to the industry by that point. He also stresses how, in more than one way, the late Gandolfini went out of his way to make everyone feel welcome. Read Miranda’s quote below.
“[Gandolfini] was just out, and people would talk to him. I went on lots of voiceover auditions and acting auditions, and the only thing I booked was ‘The Sopranos’ as a bellboy. “I’m so green – new to the industry – you can see me look down at my mark. Watch it if you get a chance, because now people are like, ‘Lin-Manuel’s cameo on “The Sopranos”!’ It wasn’t a cameo. I wasn’t even in the union yet … My one story about Gandolfini was that he stayed and did his sides even though it was the end of the night. He had no need to do that. He stayed and did the scene for the scared s–itless Puerto Rican kid in the bellhop outfit.”
Other stories of Gandolfini’s kindness to the cast and crew of The Sopranos have emerged over the years. Notably, after a contract dispute with HBO, the actor paid his Sopranos co-stars a total of $500k. Other stories tell of how Gandolfini took a writer to dinner after he’d been fired, and how he supported guest star Peter Riegert when he felt blindsided by a nude scene. The scene involved Tony stripping Riegert’s character and beating him with a bat. Once he saw how uncomfortable the guest performer was, Gandolfini asked The Sopranos series creator David Chase to remove the nudity from the attack.
Gandolfini sadly passed away in 2013. Since then, many of his cast mates on The Sopranos have shared fond memories of the man they worked with. However, others have voiced contrasting stories of Gandolfini’s problematic on-set behavior. Creator Chase has also been open about how the two men butted heads during The Sopranos‘ production, and were barely speaking by the series’ final season 6, though the pair eventually made up while making a film in 2012. However, there are certainly many instances that support Miranda’s telling of Gandolfini’s positive and welcoming character. The encouraging tone he brought to The Sopranos set for its then-unknown guest stars is certainly heartwarming to hear, and Gandolfini’s clearly made an introduction to the world of TV and film all the easier for a young Miranda and others like him.