Steve Schirripa talks about James Gandolfini and how Jerry Stiller was almost a soprano

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Is George Costanza’s father a soprano?

It almost happened.

It’s one of the behind-the-scenes secrets you might hear about iconic mob drama “The Sopranos” during the “In Conversation with The Sopranos” live event at the St. George Theater on February 12.

“We’re giving you a little behind-the-curtain look,” said Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby “Bobby Bacala” Baccalieri on the HBO series, “what happened, what the vibe was.”

Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on the show, and Vincent Pastore, who portrayed Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, joined Schirripa at the live event.

And, yes, comedian Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld,” was almost part of the Sopranos TV crowd.

Schirripa told Advance that Stiller was set to play the role of Herman “Hesh” Rabkin, unofficial consigliere of mob boss Tony Soprano, “and he didn’t accept it at the last minute”.

He wasn’t the Sopranos’ only potential switcheroo.

Schirripa said he originally read for the role of FBI agent Skip Lipari, while Dominic Chianese, who played “Uncle Junior” Soprano on the show, read for the role of Big Pussy.

Schirripa, Imperioli and Pastore toured the Sopranos live event across the country and in Australia. There was also a Sopranos podcast, “Talking Sopranos”, and Schirripa and Imperioli also wrote “Woke Up This Morning”, an oral history of “The Sopranos”.

The live event, hosted by comedian Joey Kola, sees the three actors swap stories about the series, show “Sopranos” clips and answer questions from the audience.

“This is their chance to ask a soprano a question, any question they want,” Schirripa said. “We will answer everything.”

Of course, one of the main questions is what really happened to Tony, played by the late James Gandolfini, after the series’ infamous cut-to-black final scene.

“I think Tony Soprano is alive and well,” Schirripa said. “Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but that’s what I think. Sometimes I go, maybe he’s dead. Maybe I just want to believe he’s fine. alive and he’s somewhere in New Jersey.

What do Imperioli and Pastore think?

“Michael flip-flopped,” Schirripa said. “I don’t know what Vinny thinks. No one knows what Vinny thinks.

Occasionally, Schirripa said, an audience member will ask a question that will surprise and baffle the cast. One, he said, involved Tony’s treacherous mother, Livia, played by Nancy Marchand.

“Someone asked us, what would have happened if Tony Soprano’s mother hadn’t died?” he said. “Excellent question. I don’t really know. She was going to rat out Tony.

Audience members also want to hear about Gandolfini, the three-time Emmy Award winner who died suddenly in 2013.

“Jim was a really close friend of the three of us,” Schirripa said. “He was very generous. We tell how after his death he paid off people’s mortgages. He had lent them money. He had given them money. He helped a lot of people. The guy was a good guy.

Some fans, Schirripa said, know “The Sopranos” even better than the cast members.

“They’ll bring up stuff, you know, ‘Season 4, episode 12…’,” he said. “You get a lot from that. Many of these people have seen [the series] much more than me.

Schirripa said he reviewed the series as part of his work with the podcast, the book, and the live tour, and “The Sopranos” still holds up after all these years.

“I hadn’t watched it for 20 years,” Schirripa said. “I’ve watched every episode two or three times. The thing is brilliant. It’s fun.”

And he said he came to better appreciate the story between Tony and his psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, played by Lorraine Bracco.

“I love the stuff with Melfi,” Schirripa said. “It bored me when I was younger. But now that I’m older, I think the stuff with Tony and Melfi is fantastic.

Schirripa, seen on TV these days as Detective Anthony Abetemarco in ‘Blue Bloods’, was working as a hotel manager in Las Vegas and ‘playing the game’ when he landed the role in ‘The Sopranos’ .

He said being on the show was “like playing the lottery twice” and that he thinks “The Sopranos” will last.

“Fifty years from now, people will still watch,” Schirripa said, “the way we watch ‘The Honeymooners’ and those other shows from years and years ago.”

“In Conversation with The Sopranos” will be at the St. George Theater, 35 Hyatt St., on Saturday, February 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at the theater box office. You can contact the theater at 718-442-2900 or [email protected]

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