When James Gandolfini died suddenly this year, it was largely The Sopranos for which the beloved star was remembered — not as slam of his body of work but as a credit to the TV magic the long-running and complex HBO drama embodied.
And without James Gandolfini (Edie Falco his foil as wife Carmela), The Sopranos would not have been what it was. It was as if the actor were born to play the role of Tony Soprano, perhaps the most liked anti-hero in modern culture to date.
As America prepares for the end of Breaking Bad, we all really know that show could not exist without Tony before Walt, Carm before Skyler. Edie Falco brought a similar complexity to her portrayal of Tony Soprano’s wife, a woman forced through her husband’s ambient choices to make separate, yet just as morally confusing decisions season to season.
Edie Falco spoke of her longtime co-star at last night’s Emmys, tearing up as she told the audience about a man she described as painfully averse to the spotlight. While Falco admits Gandolfini’s portrayal of Tony had so much “depth and dimension that there are a lot of people who have a hard time believing that’s not who he really was,” she added:
“Well, I’m here to tell you Jim was really quite different. He had tremendous warmth and heart. He was kind. He was uniquely generous.”
Falco recalls that Gandolfini was a man who constantly behaved in a humble way, despite his masterful portrayal of a character it was nearly impossible to love sometimes — and yet we did, didn’t we? She continued:
“One got the feeling that Jim was never entirely comfortable with all the attention he got, usually because he said it every chance he got. He was far more interested in turning the light on people that he considered more worthy. When he was interviewing Iraqi war veterans for a project that was very close to his heart, he did so with such genuine interest and respect and humility.”
But Falco said that America was lucky to know Gandolfini’s work — and she was lucky to know “Jim.” She adds:
“You all knew James Gandolfini, the actor. I was lucky enough to know Jim, the man, for 10 years as his close colleague and his pretend partner and for many more years as his friend. And it’s Jim the man — the very dear man — that I will miss most of all.”
Watch above as Edie Falco remembers James Gandolfini at last night’s Emmy Awards.