If you were an actor or writer who was new to The Sopranos, there was a decent chance you’d have a run-in with Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) early in your time on the show. Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccala, certainly had a memorable encounter with Sirico during his first week.
Schirripa, who co-hosts the Talking Sopranos podcast with Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), told the tale on the July 6 edition of his show. After Schirripa shot a scene in which his Baccala character cursed Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), Sirico had a message for him.
“You’re dead,” Schirripa recalled Sirico telling him on Talking Sopranos. “You’re done. You cursed at the boss, you spit at the boss, you’re dead.” Naturally, Schirripa didn’t know how to take that ominous message. But he went about his business and survived much longer than Sirico predicted.
Terence Winter, who produced and wrote dozens of Sopranos episodes, also had a memorable encounter with Sirico on his first day of work (in season 2). In this case, Sirico had a message about any storyline that might involve the death of Paulie Walnuts.
Tony Sirico warned ‘Sopranos’ writers about killing off Paulie Walnuts
On the July 27 Talking Sopranos, Winter told a number of entertaining stories from the Sopranos writers room. While getting settled in for the show’s season 2 run, new-writer-in-the-room Winter quickly got to know the one and only Sirico.
“The first thing Tony Sirico ever said to me — literally on day one — was, ‘You’re the new writer? Let me tell you something. If you ever write a script where I die? First, I die. Then you die.’ [laughs] I was like, OK.” But Sirico wasn’t finished.
“I’m telling you. Don’t f*cking think about killing me,” Sirico told Winter. Apparently, Winter wasn’t alone in having this chat with Sirico. And soon enough he and the other writers found a way to toy with Sirico’s fear that Paulie could get whacked.
“Every once in a while we would type up a phony script page that had Paulie dying and leave it around,” Winter said. “But he got wise to that after a while.”
Sirico had other demands for his Paulie character over the years
While Paulie getting whacked was obviously a perilous plotline for any Sopranos writer to pursue, the list didn’t end there. Over the show’s eight-year run, Sirico took issue with several things writers tried to have Paulie do. Topping that list was the idea that Paulie would become a rat.
“I come from the streets,” Sirico told Deadline in 2019. “I wouldn’t play a rat if you put a gun to my head. And if you did put a gun to my head, you better empty it.” But Sirico also had a problem with writers labeling Paulie “a bully” in one episode.
When he got a script in which another character (the corrupt Lt. Makazian) referred to Paulie as a bully, Sirico went to the writers asking for a change. After considering it, they decided Makazian would call Paulie a psycho. Would that work? It did. Sirico didn’t mind Paulie being labeled a psycho at all.
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