Could an actor talk their way out of being whacked on The Sopranos? Not likely. Once writers backed your character into a corner, they couldn’t get him out. That went even for the great Steve Buscemi (Tony Blundetto), who met his fate at the end of season 5.
However, there was an example of writers bringing an actor back. They did it with Dan Grimaldi, who played Philly Parisi for a few minutes at the start of season 2. After Gigi Cestone (John Fiore) whacked Philly, writers resurrected Grimaldi as Philly’s twin, Patsy, who lasted until the end.
Otherwise, your only hope was to haunt the dreams of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and appear in those sequences. Actors knew this, of course; hence the dread every time they picked up a script and read about their endangered character.
Looking back on his show’s run, Sopranos creator David Chase could only think of a few occasions in which an actor balked about the exit writers had planned for them. And Chase said only one actor really tried to talk him out of it.
‘Sopranos’ actor Al Sapienza tried to convince David Chase to keep Mikey Palmice alive
On the Talking Sopranos podcast, Chase acknowledged that actors wouldn’t be pleased to learn their characters were about to die. But Chase tried to break it to them as gently as he could, and he almost never heard anymore about it from a performer. There was one notable exception, however.
“The guy who really tried to talk me out of it was Al Sapienza,” Chase recalled of the actor who played Mikey Palmice. “It never stopped. It was funny because he kept coming up with ideas and things [to keep Palmice alive].” Chase couldn’t help Sapienza, of course.
“I said, ‘Yeah, Al, just stop. You gotta go,’” Chase said. The drama continued right up until “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano,” the season 1 finale and Palmice’s last appearance among the living. At the episode’s read-through, Sapienza got a message from a famously unreserved Sopranos actor.
“Everybody’s around the table at the read-through and [Sapienza] is sitting there,” Chase recalled. “And [Tony] Sirico sees him and he goes, [mimics machine-gun sound] [laughs].” That wasn’t the first time Sirico, who played Paulie Walnuts, whacked a Sopranos actor behind the scenes.
Chase recalled a lesser complaint from John Fiore about Gigi Cestone’s death
While Sapienza didn’t like the idea of the book closing on Mikey Palmice, at least his character went out in the line of duty. For his role in the botched hit attempt on Tony Soprano, Mikey was shot dead not far from his home.
In the case of Gigi, John Fiore’s character made it through two seasons as a supporting player in the Sopranos universe. But he went out in the most uncomfortable terms: He didn’t make it off the toilet alive one night while hanging with his crew.
Fiore didn’t like that concept. “I remember John Fiore took it badly,” Chase recalled on Talking Sopranos. “Well, he died on the toilet. [Fiore] was really not happy.” Unfortunately for Fiore, that was the way Gigi ended up going.
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