‘The Sopranos’ Star Robert Iler Explains Why Nobody Messed With Tony Sirico

by Joe Rutland

Robert Iler was a young kid when he first encountered Tony Sirico on the set of the HBO series The Sopranos. On the show, Iler played A.J., who was the son of Tony and Carmela Soprano, played by James Gandolfini and Edie Falco. Like many former costars, Iler would remember Sirico, who died on July 8 at 79 years old. Iler would definitely remember how no one even thought of messing with him or even Sirico himself.

“When all the molesting stuff gets talked about… people always say to me, ‘Did anything happen like that on your set?'” Iler said according to Variety. “And I’m like, you think Tony Sirico was standing around, if there were people eyeing me the wrong way, like ‘Oh, Rob looks really cute today,’ Tony Sirico is just gonna stand there and not do anything?”

Robert Iler of ‘The Sopranos’ Knew He Had Tony Sirico In His Corner

“Once we did the second or third episode, Tony Sirico just came over to me and said, ‘Hey, uh, if anyone ever… bothers you, or anybody says anything, you tell Uncle Tony, okay?'” he said. “And that’s how I felt in f–king school, too.” Iler made his comments during a recent appearance on The Sopranos-focused podcast Pod Yourself a Gun.

“Like I was 13 years old and I was like, ‘Oh, this kid thinks he’s gonna mouth off to me? I’ll have Tony Sirico come down,'” Iler said. “No matter how old you are, you see somebody that has like black hair here and silver hair on the sides — and just the way he always had a handkerchief in his pocket — you go like this dude will f–k you up.” Sirico would pipe up a lot of times as Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos. Upon his death, fans flooded Twitter and other social media platforms with videos, memes, and remembrances of his work. Fellow actors like The Sopranos costars Stevie Van Zandt and Lorraine Bracco also offered their condolences.

Meanwhile, Sirico really did live a pretty tough life as a gangster himself. His crimes would lead him to spend time behind bars. For real. Firstly, that was no TV version of life for Sirico at all. Secondly, he was a guy who found acting a different way to make living. For sure, Paulie’s scenes with Christopher, played by Michael Imperioli, are on the highlight reels. Meanwhile, Paulie also could be seen sharing one-liners while sitting next to or near Tony as well. One memorable scene has him offering his mob family some wisdom. Finally, the character is an iconic one and will be remembered by TV fans for a long, long time.