James Gandolfini defended an actor on The Sopranos who was uncomfortable about filming a nude scene, according to a new oral history of the show.
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Actor Peter Riegert had a guest appearance as character Ronald Zellman in seasons three and four of the HBO series. In a new book titled Woke Up This Morning written by Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa (via Insider), Riegert said the late Gandolfini helped him approach creator David Chase to discuss his issues with a certain scene.
Recalling the first table read of the scene, from season four, episode seven, Riegert said: “I show up at the read and find out what I was going to be doing. 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.”
He added: “I was going to be naked. As far as I’m concerned, I would have liked a heads-up on that.”
After Gandolfini learned that Riegert was “not happy” with being nude in the scene, he brought Chase over to discuss a solution. According to Riegert, the showrunner reluctantly agreed to let him remain semi-clothed.
“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 actor decided to keep his underwear on during the scene, and praised Gandolfini for recognising his discomfort.
“The thing was, at that table read, I didn’t realise that Jim recognised, on my face, that there was an actor in trouble,” Riegert added. “And he made it so it was my choice.”
Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano in the series, passed away aged 51 from a heart attack in 2013.
A movie prequel spin-off was released this year titled The Many Saints Of Newark, starring his son Michael Gandolfini as a young Tony Soprano.
In NME’s four-star review, the film is described as a “loving tribute and a worthy expansion of the mob epic’s world.”