‘The Sopranos’ Jamie-Lynn Sigler Pays Tribute to Late Costar Tony Sirico

by Sean Griffin

Tony Sirico, best known as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri in The Sopranos, died on July 8, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 79. While his cause of death was not released, it is known that Sirico had been diagnosed with dementia several years ago.

Many co-stars of The Sopranos took to social media to express their grief and love for Sirico, including Lorraine Bracco. Co-star Jaime-Lynn Sigler, who plays Meadow Soprano in the series, took to Instagram to share her thoughts on her beloved friend.

“Oh Tony. I’m so heartbroken. I loved you so much,” Sigler wrote about the late actor. “I have never been able to walk into a room that you were in without you giving me an enormous hug, drenching me in your cologne, and making sure I knew any man that came near me would have to answer to you first. You were SUCH a phenomenal actor. Stealing every scene you were in. You were tough, and strong, yet sweet and a real artist. There will never ever be anyone like you. I feel so lucky to have known you and been loved by you.”

Tony Sirico’s Wild Life

Tony Sirico was born on July 29, 1942 in New York City. He grew up in an Italian family in an Italian neighborhood. He lived in the East Flatbush and Bensonhurst neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Sirico’s brother Robert Sirico is a Catholic priest. His brother co-founded the Acton Institute.

Sirico entered a life of crime in his teenage years. Before he began his acting career, he had been convicted of many crimes and had been arrested 28 times. His arrests included disorderly conduct, assault, and robbery. In February of 1970, he was arrested at a restaurant. He possessed a .32 caliber revolver at the time. In 1971, he was indicted for extortion, coercion, and felony weapons possession. Sirico was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 20 months of that sentence at Sing Sing. At the time of his sentencing, Sirico owned a discotheque in Manhattan. He also had pending charges for criminal possession of a dangerous drug.

However, Sirico stated that his life changed during incarceration. During his time in prison, an acting troupe composed of ex-convicts visited. It inspired him to try acting. With some help from an acting coach, Sirico went on to star in many films.

Sirico played gangsters in a number of films, including GoodfellasMob Queen, and Mighty Aphrodite. He appeared in Love and MoneyFingersThe One Man JuryDefiance, and The Last Fight. Then, he played in Innocent BloodBullets over BroadwayThe Pick-up Artist, and Gotti. Sirico also found roles in The Search for One-eye JimmyCop LandTurn of FaithHello AgainMickey Blue Eyes, and Wonder Wheel.

However, The Sopranos blessed him with the role of a lifetime. Sirico originally auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior with Frank Vincent. However, Dominic Chianese landed the role. David Chase then offered Sirico the role of Paulie Gualtieri. Sirico agreed under one condition: that his character “would not become a rat.”

Sirico would go on to appear in 74 episodes of The Sopranos as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri.