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17 Things Producers Of Sopranos Kept From Fans ( You Won’t Believe Who’s Lives They Based The Show On )

The Sopranos was one of the best shows to ever grace television. It’s intricate portrayal of the gritty crime family has not only made waves in Hollywood but also made history in some very interesting ways, too.

Do you remember the first time you saw an episode of The Sopranos? You may have seen more than you think…

You see, the producers hid some very interesting facts from the fans; providing for some very interesting food for thought. Perhaps it’s a last minute casting switch, or a behind the scenes story that never got told until years later – prepare to take a journey through all the things you DIDN’T know about The Sopranos!

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Did you know that producers used a gun for the ‘r’ in Sopranos so that fans would not be confused and think the show was about an opera?

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Jamie-Lynn Sigler actually was not completely sure what kind of show she was auditioning for, and thought it was just about opera singers as producers feared.

Drea de Matteo was originally a waitress. Although she initially auditioned for the part of Adriana La Cerva, the producers felt that her accent was not exactly right, so she was cast as a waitress for the pilot episode. Later on, she eventually won the role and a Primetime Emmy.

An actual mafioso called James Gandolfini after the pilot was aired and told him to never wear shorts on the show ever again. This interaction is portrayed in the fourth episode of the series.

Actually, several real-life mafia members would call in throughout the run of the show with complaints of inauthenticity and even advice on how to make the show more realistic.

David Chase, director of Sopranos, has said that if the show had not been given the go-ahead, he would have instead filmed an additional hour of storyline and created a movie.

In this movie, the ending would hypothetically include Tony Soprano trying to suffocate his mother with a pillow while panicking.

Tony Sirico would only agree to play Paulie Gualtieri, or ‘Walnuts’, if the character was not a rat. This was probably due to the fact that Sirico had previously been a mobster and had been arrested a total of 28 times.

Sirico’s life was also much of the inspiration for his character throughout the show.

It took Drea de Matteo a minimum of four hours in hair and makeup to get ready each episode. If she ever wore an outfit that showed her arms, that time was even longer, as the crew members had to hide her tattoos.

David Chase wanted to start out each episode of the show with a different song, but HBO insisted that it have a theme song that fans could recognize. Instead, Chase ended each episode with a different song.

Drea de Matteo had no idea that she was being killed off of the show until she read the script before shooting. The ending was unexpected for both her and fans, but it did not keep her from winning an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series after that season.

Chris Moltisanti beats up J.T. Dolan every time he makes an appearance, until he is finally killed in the sixth season.

Most of the actors have Italian heritage. In fact, only five do not, including Jerry Adler, David Proval, Robert Iler, Nancy Marchand, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

The producers originally offered Lorraine Bracco the part of Carmela Soprano, but she did not think this would be much of a challenge, as the character was similar to her part in Goodfellas. She opted for the part of Dr. Melfi instead.

Steve Schirripa actually donned a fat suit for his appearances in seasons 2 and 3.

Frank Sinatra’s mugshot is hung in the office of the Bada Bing! strip club. The picture is from 1938, when Sinatra was charged with seducing a married woman.

James Gandolfini gave a check for more than $30,000 to all of his fellow cast members to avoid a dispute over DVD sales. He figured this was better than for the cast members to throw the show into a hiatus.

Steven van Zandt came up with the part of Silvio Dante himself. Chase had already expressed interest in writing van Zandt into the show, and Silvio Dante was the answer he was looking for.

Both the FBI and the Mob were impressed with how realistic Sopranos was. All of the agents in the FBI offices would come to work talking about the show, and when they listened in to the wiretaps they had on mobsters, they found that the mobsters were talking about the exact same thing.

In fact, many mobsters were worried that there was a rat in their midst that helped the show portray the mob so well.

David Chase modeled two separate characters after some of the most important people in his life. Tony’s mother, Livia, was based on Chase’s real mother. Dr. Melfi was based on the director’s therapist.

In fact, the therapist that inspired Dr. Melfi actually wrote up a rough idea of the Soprano family and their psychological development. Chase says that the characters tend to follow the patterns the therapist predicted, even though the producers forgot about the write-up for a long time.

Chase would film the ends of episodes in multiple ways so that no one knew what would actually happen on the show, including the cast members.

He did this with Drea de Matteo, as he shot one ending of an episode where she was killed off the show, and another where she barely survived. The actress herself did not know her character’s fate until she saw the episode.

Producers of the show brought a dialect coach in to mold and create Tony’s iconic voice.

Tony’s voice is far from the only difference from the pilot to the second episode of the series. There are many changes and differences between the two episodes, and this is due to the fact that the pilot was shot in 1997– a whole two years before it aired on HBO.

Most of the cast of the show already knew each other from working on other projects together before filming even began. This included both mob and non-mob related projects.


Michael Imperioli actually wrote five episodes for Sopranos. This began when we wrote a script about his own character overdosing and have an afterlife experience. The script was altered and used, which led to Imperioli writing four more episodes down the line.

Michael Rispoli, who plays Jackie Aprile, Sr., originally auditioned to play the role of Tony Soprano. However, Chase thought he would be a better fit for Aprile, Sr., so he tailored the role for Rispoli.

Ray Liotta was originally offered the role of Tony Soprano, which would be fitting considering his past of portraying mobsters. However, he declined the role because he did not want to commit to a television series.

After the last three seasons of the show Northern Exposure (for which David Chase was the showrunner), several members of the writing staff followed Chase to become writers for Sopranos.

Livia Soprano was actually supposed to die in the first season. However, Nancy Marchand had cancer at the time of the shooting and requested to stay on the show and keep working.

In fact, Marchand worked until the very end of her life, and died before filming her last scenes. These scenes had to be mashed up from previous footage, and the producers even had the actress’s head CGI’d onto a body double.

David Chase can actually only be credited with directing two episodes. The Sopranos mastermind only directed the pilot and the finale.

Goodfellas (1990) and Sopranos have a whopping 28 cast members in common. Of course, some of these cast members were simply guest-stars on the show that only appeared once.

Chase did not intend for Tony Soprano to be as ruthless as he turned out to be. However, Gandolfini put his own spin on the role and created the character that is well known today.

Michael Imperioli actually thought that he completely blew his audition initially. He claims that David Chase kept giving him advice and correction during the read-through and kept a straight face. Imperioli walked out of the audition thinking he had lost the part.


Bada Bing! Strip club scenes were filmed at Satin Dolls, an actual gentlemen’s club in New Jersey.

The producers of the show took shots of a private residence in New Jersey that was used to portray the exterior of the Soprano’s home.

The opening credits of the first three seasons show Tony Soprano’s rear view mirror, in which you can see a reflection of the World Trade Center.

The Sopranos would go on to become the very first cable television series to win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.

Michael Imperioli is completely convinced that Tony Soprano meets his untimely demise in the series finale episode. While the end of the series is a cut-to-black moment with multiple possibilities, Imperioli believes that Tony died so the show did, too.

David Chase had a really hard time getting a program to pick up the show because it was so incredibly dark. Finally, HBO ordered a full first season.

The pilot and the finale have startling similarities, which are probably due to the fact that Chase decided to read the pilot before the finale was produced.

David Chase had to fight fairly hard to have the show shot in New Jersey. Everyone assumed he would actually shoot the show in Los Angeles and just get exterior shots from New Jersey.

The episodes usually ended up being written based on the writer’s own lives. The writers would sit down and just talk about what was going on in their lives and eventually someone would say something that would go on to inspire an episode of the show.

The producers of the show actually hired an assistant DA in New York to help them make Tony Soprano’s character as realistic as possible. Dan Castleman, the man hired for the job, estimated that Tony was worth around $6 million, give or take, due to the character’s gambling habits.

Many real-life businesses in New Jersey were featured in the show. In one episode, Ramsey Outdoor (an actual sporting goods store) was said to be going out of business. Many fans of the show believed that the store was actually closing. The owners had to go to great lengths to ensure the community that Ramsey Outdoor was still, in fact, open.

The second season alone includes 715 instances of the ‘f’ word being said by various characters. Tony Soprano says the word most often, at a total of 264 times.

Any time that Dr. Melfi was in a scene, David Chase required that the camera not move at all.

After deciding to keep Nancy Marchand on the show as Livia past the first season, Chase created a major plot for the third season that included Tony trying to keep his mother from testifying against him in court. This story line never reached fruition, however, as Marchand died from cancer before it could be shot.

Tony Sirico was dubbed “Junior” when he was a mobster in real life, which inspired his Corrado Soprano’s nickname on the show.

In TV Guide’s March 2005 issue, the magazine named A.J. Soprano as #10 on the “TV’s Ten Biggest Brats” list.

Out of every character on the show, Tony Soprano is the only one to make an appearance in every single episode recorded.

Most TV shows allow for some improvisation to occur. With “The Sopranos” however, scripts were followed to the letter, with any suggested changes going to David Chase for consideration.

Tony Soprano’s original name was actually Tommy. Chase changed the name before filming began.

The suits Steven Van Zandt wore throughout the show were actually made by a real life mobster’s tailor.

The Coalition of Italian-American Associations came together to issue a statement to the show in January of 2000, condemning it for portraying a negative stereotype of Italian-Americans.