'Sopranos' secrets revealed: From car crashes to wild karaoke nights, Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa share behind-the-scenes stories from the iconic crime drama

Ethan AlterSenior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo TV

Twenty-one years after its groundbreaking premiere and 13 years after its controversial finale, everyone’s still talking about The Sopranos. That includes cast members Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa, who recently launched the podcast Talking Sopranos. The duo, recording in quarantine on opposite coasts, will revisit all 86 episodes of David Chase’s beloved HBO series, looking at the show with fresh eyes while also drawing on their memories of playing Christopher Moltisanti and Bobby “Baccalà” Baccalieri, respectively.

“In the last year and a half since the 20th anniversary, I became aware of this whole new generation of young people who are the podcast generation and have been turned onto the show,” Imperioli tells Yahoo Entertainment about the origins of Talking Sopranos. “Then we got tons of messages from fans saying, ‘Hey, we’re in quarantine binging The Sopranos — where’s our podcast?’” (Watch our video interview above.)

So Imperioli and Schirripa decided to put their quarantine time to good use, remotely recording Talking Sopranos from their homes. The podcast launched on April 6, and new episodes are released every Monday. Besides the hosts, Sopranos fans can expect to hear the voices of other cast members chiming in with their observations and memories, including Michael Rispoli — who appears on the fourth episode — Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Edie Falco and Robert Iler. “It was a very close-knit group,” Schirripa says of the show’s large ensemble. “We really supported each other: You become like a family over 10 years.”

Here are some of the great behind-the-scenes stories you can expect to hear from The Sopranos family on past and future episodes of Talking Sopranos.

License to drive?

Talk about your rough first days. When Imperioli turned up to the set of The Sopranos pilot to film his first scene, he discovered that he’d be spending much of the day behind the wheel of a car with his fictional boss, Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini) riding shotgun. “Christopher was basically, in the beginning of the show, Tony Soprano’s driver,” the actor says. “The problem was that Michael didn’t know how to drive!,” Imperioli ‘fesses up to lying about having a license in order to secure the role — a fib that was quickly exposed when he crashed the car he and Gandolfini were in. “That was our first scene together, and I don’t think I met him before that day. We smashed the car, and I was thinking ‘This guy is going to be furious! He’s the star of the show — maybe I’m going to be fired.’”

Instead, Gandolfini had a completely unexpected reaction. “There was this awkward silence and then he started cracking up laughing,” Imperioli recalls. “I was like, ‘This is going to be OK.’” That crash proved to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Imperioli and Gandolfini, who died in 2013. “I acted with Jim more than I acted with any other actor. There’s a special bond that comes with that, especially when you’re doing work you’re really connected to and proud of.”

‘Pine’ time

The Season 3 episode “Pine Barrens” belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Sopranos stories, but it sounds like it was even more entertaining off-screen. Schirripa teases several behind-the-scenes stories he can’t wait to share on Talking Sopranos. “I want to tell the story of how Tony Sirico — Paulie Walnuts — wasn’t happy with his pillows,” he says, chuckling. “We were staying at a hotel next to West Point, so he sent a production assistant back to Brooklyn and gave him the keys to his apartment so he could get his pillows!” He also remembers a wild night out at a karaoke bar with the cast and the episode’s director, Steve Buscemi. “Buscemi was singing ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ if I can remember at about 1AM.” “That was not uncommon,” Imperioli says, noting that he’d love to book Buscemi as a guest for that episode of the podcast. We can’t wait to hear his Joey Ramone impression.

Don’t stop believing

Imperioli and Schirripa will have plenty to say about The Sopranos series finale when the time comes, but that’s also one of the rare instances where they won’t share any firsthand memories of making the episode. That’s because neither Christopher nor Bobby lived to see the show’s farewell hour, which concludes with one of the most famous endings — or non-endings — in TV history. “Some people loved it, some people hated it, some people didn’t know,” Schirripa says of the reaction to that abrupt cut to black, which could signal Tony’s death... or not.

Schirripa, for one, is in the “Tony lives” camp. “I think Tony Soprano is alive and well and living in New Jersey,” he posits. Imperioli, meanwhile, advises that viewers pay close attention to the lyrics of the Journey song playing over the final scene. “The line, ‘The movie never ends, it just goes on and on and on.’ Somehow there’s a connection between the ending of The Sopranos and that lyric.”

When the Saints come marching in

Gandolfini’s death means that we’ll never find out Tony’s ultimate fate. But Chase will revisit the character’s early years in the upcoming feature film, The Many Saints of Newark, which stars the late actor’s son, Michael, as a younger Tony. Originally set for release this September, the film has been pushed back to March 12, 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While Imperioli confirms that the film is finished, he and Schirripa haven’t been able to see it yet. “All I know is that it’s going to be great if David is a part of it,” Schirripa says. “I’m looking forward to Michael playing the young Tony.” And Imperioli is already thinking of making the movie a podcast extra. “Maybe we’ll do a special Talking Sopranos episode about The Many Saints of Newark.”

Talking Sopranos is available wherever you download podcasts.

— Video produced by Gisselle Bances

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