“The Sopranos” actors Steve Schirripa and Michael Imperioli have reignited conversations around the Emmy-winning HBO drama series thanks to their popular “Talking Sopranos” podcast, and now they’ve published a book-length oral history of the show under the title “Woke Up This Morning.” The book includes an anecdote from series guest star Peter Riegert in which it’s revealed the lengths James Gandolfini went to protect him from acting in an unwanted nude scene (via Insider). Riegert starred as Assemblyman Ronald Zellman on the third and fourth seasons of “The Sopranos.”
“I show up at the [table] read and find out what I was going to be doing,” Riegert said of preparing for the seventh episode of Season 4. “The scene was Tony beating the living shit out of me with a belt, but in the scene description, it’s written that he pulls my underwear off…I was going to be naked. As far as I’m concerned, I would have liked a heads-up on that.”
Reigert was “not happy” about the scene change. The actor originally thought the scene would feature Tony using a belt while he still had some clothes on. Gandolfini came to check on Riegert after the table read because it was clear how Riegert felt about the scene change. As soon as Gandolfini heard about Riegert’s concern, the longtime “Sopranos” lead star called over creator David Chase to demand changes.
“I didn’t know whether I was going to get fired or not, but Jimmy [Gandolfini] said to me, ‘Whatever you decide to do, I promise you I will have your back,'” Riegert said. “The thing was, at that table read, I didn’t realize that Jim recognized, on my face, that there was an actor in trouble. And he made it so it was my choice.”
Gandolfini himself had an experience being uncomfortable with a NSFW “Sopranos” scene. As revealed in the upcoming book “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers,” Gandolfini had a long tantrum on set over a scene in which Tony masturbates in a gas station bathroom. Gandolfini failed to get the scene changed, although it didn’t ended up being used in the final cut of the episode.
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