James Gandolfini’s Sopranos co-star Vincent Pastore joined EW’s Melissa Maerz on Sirius XM Thursday to talk about the legacy of Tony Soprano and working with Gandolfini. Pastore, who starred in the HBO show’s first two seasons as Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero and appeared in cameos over the following years of the series, describes Gandolfini as a generous soul who was always looking out for his castmates and friends. Clearly emotional after learning of Gandolfini’s sudden death, Pastore talks with Maerz about Gandolfini’s family — both TV and real life — and about the last time they saw each other, at the 12-12-12 Hurricane Sandy relief event. A selection of their conversation is below and you can listen to clips of the interview via Soundcloud.
MELISSA MAERZ: What do you remember about James?
VINCENT PASTORE: Jimmy was a great guy. He was sharing, I mean, we all stepped into something that we didn’t know where it was going to go. We were all working hard, doing character work, going from job to job, and the first time I met Jimmy was at the table of the reading. Jimmy was there, Little Steven was there — that was the first time I met Steven [Van Zandt] — Lorraine Bracco, and we had this awesome cast, and we read. And then from then on, Jimmy became our leader. I mean, it’s just what he did. He just drove us into this unity as a family, and when we went to work, it was a joy, and he’s going to be missed. I mean, I’ve been talking since last night with my different cast members and we’ve all been in tears.
When you were talking with your co-workers last night, what were some of your favorite memories of James?
Well Jimmy, I mean, one time he got a raise and, all of a sudden, he had a company called Attaboy Productions, and me and about five other actors, we got a check, and I called up Jimmy and said, “What’s this?” He said, “Well, I got a raise and I wanted to send you guys some of the money.” Who does that? Who does that?
The last time I saw Jimmy was when we did 12-12-12 at The Garden. The reason why all the Sopranos came together — and we had like 25 Sopranos — is because Jimmy came on board. Jimmy was the first phone call we made, and we said, “Can you come do 12-12-12?” When he said yes, for Hurricane Sandy, everyone jumped on board. That’s the kind of guy Jimmy was. It’s ironic that he should go from a heart attack because he had the biggest heart, the biggest heart ever. And whenever I would see Jimmy after Sopranos, he would say to me — because I wasn’t on the show after the second year except for cameos — he would say, “I’m so mad that you didn’t get to go along for this ride and make the money,” and he meant it. The day when we were all nominated for Emmys, it was the second season where I had that run with my episodes. He called me at seven o’clock in the morning, because he was watching the Emmys, and he says, “You got robbed.” He wanted me to get an Emmy. And that’s the kind of guy he was.
Can you share some things about him that were great, that most people might not know?
Well, he loved his kids. I mean, that’s why he was in Rome. He took Michael over there. Michael was his pride and joy. Even during the times when he had problems with the marriage, I mean, Michael was always there. He used to bring him to the parties and on the set. He loved his kids, and he just had another baby with his other wife. So, I mean, what can I say. He’s a family man. He’s a family man.