The Sopranos

“They don’t understand what this does to me”: James Gandolfini Put Himself Through Hell for ‘The Sopranos’ to Keep His Co-Stars Employed That Severely Affected His Health

It’s been more than a decade since we lost the brilliant James Gandolfini, whose iconic portrayal of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos still leaves many viewers in awe.

David Chase’s drama not only makes fans contemplate the crime world of the New Jersey mafia of the time but also serves them with questions about numerous buried emotions. The series had everything to offer, and Gandolfini’s character was at the center of it all.

Michael Imperioli and James Gandolfini in The Sopranos
James Gandolfini in The Sopranos.

However, that leaves many wondering just how much the part that Gandolfini completely immersed himself in impacted his health down the road.

What James Gandolfini Went Through to Keep The Sopranos Going

James Gandolfini had already established for himself a place in Hollywood’s sought-after bad guys list with his hilarious yet disturbing character Virgil, an enforcer working for mobster Blue Lou Boyle and his consigliere Vincenzo Coccotti, in True Romance.

James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini.

But The Sopranos, which premiered in 1999, raised him to the status of the king of the crime world in Hollywood through his character Tony Soprano, an Italian-American mob boss who tries to juggle his overwhelming criminal and family life by seeking help from a psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi.

However, the reactions the show received from day one and the respect it holds to this day didn’t just happen seamlessly. Gandolfini had to literally assume Tony’s burdens to bring the best out of David Chase’s written character. He shared some of the characteristics of the boss of the fictional North Jersey DiMeo crime family, like, taking a drink or two or failing to control his temper.

The Killing Them Softly actor relied on the process of method acting, choosing to always remain in character and wearing Tony’s iconic robe with a mean attitude between takes.

He won three Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Tony, but putting himself through so much seemingly took a toll on his physical and mental health.

What James Gandolfini Told The Sopranos Co-star Edie Falco About His Bad Shape

Gandolfini had put weight on during the filming of the crime drama television series, which caught the attention of Edie Falco. She played the role of Tony’s wife, Carmela Soprano. In the show, she’s well aware of what her husband does and tries to keep his mental and physical health in check.

James Gandolfini in Killing Them Softly (2012)
James Gandolfini in Killing Them Softly.

Falco once recalled a discussion she had with her co-star about his health. She said in Tinderbox [via Far Out Magazine]: “I had a conversation with Jim once where he was in very bad shape. He said to me, ‘They don’t understand what this does to me, doing this show and where I have to go’.”

Tony cared about his mob family a lot, and behind the scenes, Gandolfini cared about his co-stars. He kept the show going because his co-stars and the crew depended on him to keep their jobs. The show’s final episode premiered in 2007 and fans got to hear Woke Up This Morning with Tony in the video for the last time. Six years later, the much-loved actor died of a heart attack in Rome, aged 51.

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