The ‘backstage’ life of the Mafia is what the show, The Sopranos, is all about. These tough rough diamonds of society are presented as likable and human – giving viewers a new take on the criminal underground. What fans won’t know about the show is how much is based on research of the criminal world, and how directors even employed the services of former crime aficionados to get the show’s script up to scratch.
As riveting as the script is, there are equally compelling backstories to the series which are worth sharing. Here are 10 hidden details about The Sopranos which fans may or may not be aware of.
10 Criminals alert
The Sopranos series has many hidden secrets — among these, the riveting past of some of its lead cast members. Viewers might not be aware that some of the show's actors are in fact convicted criminals. That’s right, before they made their debut on stage, they spent some time in jail… or narrowly escaped jail.
An example is Tony Sirico, who was connected with the Colombo crime family, who committed numerous crimes in the 1970s. Robert Iler (A.J. Soprano) was arrested for an armed robbery in 2001, and Tony Darrow (Larry Barese), was charged with extortion.
9 The curious case of Livia
In season two of the series, Livia, Tony’s mom, was set to testify against her own son in court. This was written into the script. However, the initial plot had to be changed when Nancy Marchand, who played Livia, unexpectedly passed away.
Interestingly, scriptwriters gave an unusual salute to Livia in the show’s storyline. They cut-and-paste her head onto the body of another actress, leading to a final closing of her part, where she died in her sleep in the series. A sad ending to a memorable character.
8 Accurate to a tee
How accurate is The Soprano’s portrayal of monster life? According to FBI officials, it is very accurate. So much so that Terence Winter, FBI official, claimed mafia members whom they had communicated with, believed that the show’s team had ‘someone on the inside,’ leaking details of what mafia life was really like.
Winter claimed that members of the criminal underground world couldn’t believe how accurate the show really was. Fans might not be aware just what a backstage view the show really is of mafia life.
7 Therapy in focus
Viewers would agree, you have to love Tony's therapy sessions. They're raw and real and soften one's heart towards the rough diamond Tony. Viewers might not be aware that therapist, Dr. Melfi was based on the real-life therapist of the show's scriptwriter.
What is so interesting is the progression of Tony's relationship with Dr. Melfi. At first, he is closed off to her but he started to open up to her, and eventually, it appears that she is the only one who understands him.
6 Sirico refused to be a rat
Tony Sirico, who plays Paulie, has a history of criminal dealings. According to reports, he has a record of as many as 28 arrests! For this reason, taking on the role of Paulie was as natural to him as breathing. When directors cast him as the character, however, he insisted that under no condition would he ever play an informant in the series. Based on his past and experiences in the criminal underworld, he didn't want to have any association with rats or informants. This is saying a lot thanks to his gangster upbringing.
5 The Godfather takes center stage
Ardent viewers of the show would have probably realized how often references are made to the Godfather trilogy. In addition, television and film works covering the gangster genre are frequently alluded to in the script.
Some direct references made include the playing of the Godfather theme music, "Speak Softly, Love." Less direct inferences are also made, for example when Tony buys orange juice just moments before an attempt is made to take his life. This juice sequence alludes to a plot from one of the Godfather films.
4 Directors in the spotlight
Fans might believe David Chase to have been the only director of the show. However, this was not the case. The series has actually been overseen by numerous directors, including Lorraine Senna, Tim Van Petten, and Steve Buscemi, among others. This diversity of directors is what has kept the show interesting and action-filed. The directors involved each comes with a resume of fine onscreen work, in addition to their work done for The Sopranos.
3 A view of the past
The opening credits of the series showcase the World Trade Center buildings, standing together against the New York skyline. In the show's original opening sequence, the buildings are clearly visible in Tony's car's rear-view mirror. The show of the two buildings was removed in the fourth season of the show, after the tragedy on September 11, 2001. This is one of the peculiar details in the series which only a person with an eye for detail would have picked up, but which places the characters and time and space and adds to the series’ credibility.
2 Cross-pollination of cast members
Fans of The Sopranos might not be aware that the show shares 27 of its cast members with the Goodfellas. These include Michael Imperioli (Christopher in The Sopranos and Spider in Goodfellas), Tony Sirico (Paulie in The Sopranos and Tony Stacks in Goodfellas), and Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi in The Sopranos and Karen Hill in The Goodfellas), among others. Some of the other actors and actresses starred in one or two episodes of Goodfellas and didn't take quite as prominent a role in the other series.
1 The secret in the ‘R’
The initial logo for The Sopranos allegedly had audiences confused, with many believing the title referred to a music show of sorts. In fact, when Jamie Lynn-Sigler arrived for an audition for the show, she had thought it was for a musical. Being a soprano singer, she believed she would be perfect for the series.
She was subsequently cast as Meadow, Tony’s daughter, but point made… the title was a little confusing, as directors came to increasingly recognize. This was one of the reasons, directors of the show made the decision to change the R of the logo into the shape of a handgun.