David Chase looks like a nice guy. The 61-year-old television writer and producer is slight, wry and direct. But with a mere phone call, he strikes fear in the heart of actors.
As creator and executive producer of the hit mob family drama The Sopranos, Chase has sent character after character to his or her death, held up for sacrifice to the gods of taut, uncompromising drama.
Five of the actors who were whacked by Chase in their previous fictional life on the HBO mob drama, sat down with their executioner on Wednesday night at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York.
Steve Buscemi (Tony Blundetto), Drea de Matteo (Adriana La Cerva), Vincent Pastore (Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero), David Proval (Richie Aprile) and Annabella Sciorra (Gloria Trillo) reflected on their fate in a panel discussion that also included Sopranos executive producer Terence Winter and was moderated by Bryant Gumbel.
"It's not a big deal to me," Chase stated flatly at the start. "These are not real people."
Their deaths came in a variety of ways: A shotgun blast on a country porch, offing in the woods, execution at sea, a bullet to the head over dinner and suicide off-screen all endings woven into the often-ugly fabric of New Jersey mob life depicted in The Sopranos. The show, which began in 1999, starts its final season in the US on April 8.
The actors all said they have come to understand the reasons for their character's killings as befitting the show's grim reality.
"What are you going to do, put him in witness protection? That's NBC," said Pastore, whose character was discovered to be a police informant.
But while the deaths are obviously fictional, they can also be a severe blow to an actor's career and happiness. Getting the bad news from Chase can be shocking.
"I begged," said Sciorra, who played a depressed lover of mob boss Tony Soprano who killed herself.
Buscemi, de Matteo, Pastore, Proval and Sciorra all said the wound from being whacked still smarts, even years later. But their abiding love for The Sopranos was abundantly clear, and the evening conversation together long after-the-fact was, as Proval said, "like therapy."
Source: China Daily/agencies