The Sopranos was one of the most highly discussed television programs of the last twenty years. The late James Gandolfini, star of the program as head boss Tony Soprano, had a lot to do with that with his incredible he was on the show for so many years.
The legend of Tony Soprano and Gandolfini only grows with time. It should be no surprise that sometimes actors may have been a bit uncomfortable with a certain scene or a certain role. It was the nature of David Chase’s masterpiece on HBO. Sometimes, the scenes would be tough both for the audience and the actors themselves to get through.
The Scene in ‘The Sopranos’
Well, one scene, in particular, was a very difficult one for Peter Riegert. You may remember his role as the assemblyman on the show. Well, at one point during the show’s fourth season, there was a moment, Outsiders, where Tony was really supposed to lay into the assemblyman. It was a rough scene. The catch was, though, that Reigert would also be naked during the scuffle.
This was a lot for the actor to agree to. So, naturally, he had some reservations about the scene. Thankfully, Gandolfini stepped in to back Riegert. From Reigert’s perspective, “(Gandolfini) said, ‘How are you with this?’ I said, ‘I’m not happy about this, man. I don’t think you have to humiliate an actor in order to humiliate a character, and I’m a little upset.’”
Riegert made a good point. You could do the scene without the nudity and Gandolfini saw that this was something that may be a bridge too far. Reigert said that “He called David over and he explained what I was feeling. David said, ‘Well that’s the way I wrote the scene.’ I said, ‘David, I think I can act the s – – t out of this part and I promise you, the audience will be horrified by what they see, but you don’t have to humiliate me to get that across.’ David said, ‘Well OK,’ and he left.”
James Gandolfini Steps In
This was a big move by Gandolfini to go to Chase about this. Especially when you consider Chase reportedly pushed back against changing the scene that he wrote. Gandolfini had Riegert’s back, though. He ensured he was taken care of and that he only did what he was comfortable with. This is so cool to learn.
If you watched the show, you saw how the scene changed, as Reigert told Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa for the book, where the assemblyman got humiliated with a belt while still in his long boxers. The scene changed. It was still a humiliating scene for the character, but it was not as bad as originally written. That was what mattered there and Gandolfini did right by his costar.