the sopranos

Being cast as Tony Soprano’s uncle in “The Sopranos” taught me another valuable lesson about film acting.  For example: the power of the Mask. How the covering of one’s face to the onlooker prevents them from seeing one’s expression, just hears the voice. If your listener does not have a mask you can see your effect on them, but they only hear the tone of your voice. You are at an advantage and if you wish, you can be sneering at them while you are saying words that are congratulating them on some issue or another.  Uncle Junior – all through the story wears a pair of oversized glasses that distort his vision, and the glasses, to him, are a kind of mask, a disguise that prevents his enemies from knowing his true feelings, a safe haven for a crime boss who manipulates his crew to his own advantage.  

The character was funny because of this fact.  Uncle Junior’s thoughts come out without his thinking, and his inner thoughts behind the glasses can be exceedingly funny depending on the issue.  When an FBI agent asks him to snitch on his pals, he offers a flippant remark that the writers of the Sopranos had fun writing.  I never had so much fun in my life as when I received each week’s episode and started memorizing the dialogue. I would be shaving sometimes, look in the mirror and say the lines out loud, as if I were a standup comedian at a comedy club, and then put on a serious face, because Uncle Junior was a rigid, self-promoting, tunnel vision kind of character who only sees his side of an issue, but putting funny lines in a deadpan always gets laughs.  

Working with such a winning ensemble of incredibly gifted actors on that HBO show gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment because, I, personally, always loved doing comedy. I grew up in the theatre doing many comedic roles, in dramas and in musicals. Corrado Soprano was a perfect fit... I owe much to the dark comedy and talented writing of David Chase and his staff of writers… As an American of Italian extraction I used many of my family and friends from the Bronx in my speech patterns and remembrance of wisecracks from people of my generation who were older, street smart, and at ease with life’s ironies.  The Sopranos was loved by all people, because it held a mirror up to nature, especially about a man who was trying to provide for his family… common to all of us.  The fact that Tony Soprano was a killer, and maybe even a psychopath or even sociopath, all this may be true, but the TV audience also saw a man in a predicament he was born into.  Look at the first episode:  Tony was “cursed” by being the son of a criminal, and the fact was that the apple did not fall far from the tree.  No matter, we all are besieged by the beginnings. The ending, according to the author, David Chase, is left open … (almost a too long wait). There is room for change.  In my mind, “The Sopranos” was a modern day morality play.  I loved being part of the cast of characters.

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