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Still scratching your head over The Sopranos’ enigmatic final curtain? To help you make sense of it – and to look back over its eight years – we talk to Frank Vincent, aka wiseguy Phil Leotardo.
Paul Nolan, 01 Aug 2007
How did Frank find the process of making the show? Would the cast work long hours?
“Oh yeah,” he responds. “We would have a read through on the Tuesday or Wednesday prior to each episode, and you’d leave with your pages. When you came to work, you had to do it exactly the way it was written, there was no opportunity for improv. It’s TV and there’s money involved, so we had to get it done as fast as we could. But the point is, the writing was so great you didn’t have to do anything other than deliver the material.
“Each season was completed over quite a long period of time. We did nine episodes for the last series, and we started work on that in April of ’06 and finished it in April of ’07. An individual episode would take 15 to 18 days, but then we had to go back and loop everything for the syndicated version, which had all the bad words removed. Then we had to go in and loop some stuff for the regular show, and sometimes we’d have to re-shoot something or add a scene, so it was a lot of work.”
Given that The Sopranos’ blend of drama and humour gave the series such a distinctive tone, did Frank find it easy to slip into the rhythm of the show?
“I did because it was basically a New York style,” he says. “David used authentic people. He brought guests in from far away, but when you look at the nuts and bolts of the show, Jimmy’s a Jersey guy, Tony Sirico is a Brooklyn guy and Dominic and Michael are from New York. Stevie Van Zandt made a terrific transition. He was a musician who never acted before, and he really worked hard to get that character together. But he’s from Jersey too.”
Would David Chase be onset for the shooting of each episode?
“Actually, David stayed in the headquarters in Queens, which was Silvercup Studios,” explains Frank. “That was the homebase. We shot all the stage stuff there, and David would be in the building, but he never came to the set. In the three seasons I was on the show, he only came to the set two or three times, although he did direct the last episode. But he controlled everything. One of the writers was always onset, and if you had an idea and you wanted to change something, you would tell the writer and he’d have to call David and discuss it.