James Gandolfini's TV family, including on-screen wife Edie Falco, is grieving the loss of a generous and caring actor who made burly tough guy Tony Soprano one of the small screen’s most iconic characters.
"He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words," Edie Falco, who played Carmela Soprano, told the New York Post.
"The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."
Gandolfini, who won three Emmys for his role as the mob boss on the HBO series "The Sopranos" died of a heart attack Wednesday while in Rome with his family
. He was 51.
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"I have lost a brother and a best friend
," Steven Van Zandt, who played Soprano's consigliore Silvio Dante, posted on his official Facebook page. "The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time. Maureen and I send our deepest sympathy and love to Deborah, Michael, Lily, and all of Jimmy's family."
Maureen Van Zandt, Steven's wife in real life and on screen, tweeted, "I loved James so much. He was a beautiful man and a genius. I was honored to breathe the same air as him. I'll love and remember him forever."
Love and admiration for Gandolfini poured from everywhere, as cast members recalled Gandolfini's leadership and warmth.
Falco was "shocked and devastated" when she heard the news, the Post reported, and said she was "lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague. My heart goes out to his family, as those of us in his pretend one hold on to the memories of our intense and beautiful time together."
Vincent Pastore, who played mobster turned FBI informant "Big Pussy" on the show, recalled one fond memory, according to the Post.
"Me and about five other actors, we got a check," Pastore told Sirius Radio's "Editor's Hour with Jess Cagle." "I called up Jimmy and said, 'What's this?' and he said, 'Well, you know, I got a raise and I wanted to send you guys some money.' Who does that?"
Michael Imperioli, who played Tony's nephew Christopher Moltisanti, told the Post, "Jimmy treated us all like family with a generosity, loyalty and compassion that is rare in this world. Working with him was a pleasure and a privilege."
Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Tony's daughter Meadow, told Us Weekly
that she was "heartbroken."
"I spent 10 years of my life studying and admiring one of the most brilliant actors, yes, but more importantly, one of the greatest men," she said.
Actor Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Bacala, told the Post: "The guy was like a brother to me. He was a great actor, a great father and was a lot of laughs. This is devastating. When I say we were like family, this is very much like losing a family member."
Even Soprano's on-screen rival, Frank Vincent, had praise.
"We were enemies on screen, but pretty good friends off screen," Frank Vincent, who played mobster Phil Leotardo, told the Post
. "Jim was a loving guy who just enjoyed life. It's a sad and tragic thing that's happened. I feel bad for his family."
Perhaps Sopranos creator David Chase summed it up best.
"He was a genius. Anyone who saw him, even in the smallest of his performances, knows that.
He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, 'You don't get it. You're like Mozart.' There would be silence at the other end of the phone. For [his wife] Deborah and [teenage son] Michael and [infant daughter] Lilliana, this is crushing. And it's bad for the rest of the world.
"He wasn't easy sometimes. But he was my partner. He was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain."
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