When the clock struck five today, I logged off of my computer with a Kool-Aid smile on my face. It was time to close shop and I was thrilled. I love my job, but I equally enjoy spending time at home with my hubby. I bid my coworkers good night while I made my way to the lobby all perky and upbeat. When I turned to say goodnight to the receptionist, I noticed the face of a familiar actor plastered on the wide screen TV that hangs on the lobby wall. It was James Gandolfini. I wondered for a moment what he had done to make the news. My gaze shifted to the caption—James Gandolfini, dead at 51. A wave of sadness washed over me, and I was no longer a happy nine-to-fiver/writer on her way home. I became a dismayed fan and my mood quickly shifted from bubbly to blue. “Wow! Tony Soprano died of a heart attack,” I blurted out to anyone who was within earshot. A couple of assistants, also on their way home, expressed their shock and sadness while we rode the elevator down to the parking garage.
Nearing my car, I continued to try to wrap my head around the news that Tony had died. I know his real name is James, but I can’t shake Tony. That’s how I was introduced to this brilliant Emmy-winning actor who to me was an enigma wrapped in a mystery. I remember when “The Sopranos” was all the rage and every morning the office would be abuzz about the latest episode. At the time, I didn’t have cable or any of the movie channels, so I was clueless. At one point, I thought “The Sopranos” was about a group of singers like “Glee.” And if you’re a Sopranos fan, you know I was way, way, way, off. The closest reference to singing on the show was Sing Sing, the maximum security prison in New York.
One day my curiosity got the best of me and I rented the first few episodes. I went in not expecting much. Usually where there’s hype, there’s disappointment. The first time James appeared on screen, he got my attention. His screen presence was palpable. Granted, he wasn’t Matthew McConaughey or Denzel Washington, but there was something arresting about him. Perhaps it was his piercing glare or his boyish smile. I can’t really put my finger on what it was; I just knew I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. It soon became apparent that James was the nucleus of the show and that there couldn’t be a “Sopranos” without him. I went on to rent every episode and I loved them all. To date, I have to say “The Sopranos” is one of the best produced, directed, and acted dramas in the history of television. Every episode ended with my jaw on the floor. It was riveting television.
After watching the final episode where Tony and the family gather in a local restaurant, it occurred to me that it was a no-brainer why the show had been so successful and like many fans, I longed for the feature film. However, that never happened. And now James/Tony is gone, but definitely not forgotten!