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The Sopranos: The Final Season

After more than eight years and six seasons, the saga of the New Jersey crime family will come to a close after nine more episodes.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Sopranos, Mar/Apr 2007

(continued from page 5)

There is one ironclad rule, though, about Tony and Dr. Melfi, a decree made at the show's beginning: they will never get together sexually. "Early on, my first meeting with HBO, they said, 'Was he going to fuck the psychiatrist?' We all decided, right then. No. That's what would happen on ABC."

Lorraine Bracco, who plays the psychotherapist Tony never will fuck, has long said—with good reason—that "The Sopranos" was the "big turning point" of her career. Bracco declared bankruptcy in 1999, the year the series began. Then came success—for the series and for her.

"I always say that a few years ago I was in the hole for God knows how many millions," Bracco told Cigar Aficionado. "And now I have that many millions in the plus category. And it's all because of 'The Sopranos.' "

These days, in addition to those millions, Bracco has a contract to star in and produce films for the Lifetime cable network. And in 2006, she started her own wine label, importing seven reds and a Pinot Grigio—from Italy, naturally—with a rosé on the way in 2007. "We've sold almost 13,000 cases in seven months," she says.

A decade ago, in her pre-"Sopranos" days, Bracco's life was very different. She had been nominated for an Oscar in 1991 for her portrayal of a Mafia wife in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, but over the next eight years, her career had become mired in undistinguished roles in forgettable films. Adding to her problems was the unfavorable publicity she received in her ultimately successful custody fight with her ex-husband, the actor Harvey Keitel, over their daughter, Stella. (It was the custody battle that led her to file for bankruptcy.)

"You can't be in a custody battle and be off in Hong Kong making a movie," she says, minutes before heading off to a meeting to discuss the distribution of her wines. "I refused a lot of work in order to stay home, and I owed $3 million in legal fees. That was very difficult."

Her role as Dr. Melfi has given her much more than the financial security she always hoped for, she says. It has provided her with "validation" as an actor.

"It's a great role for a woman over 40," says Bracco (who is now 52). "It was difficult for me—an acting challenge, acting out of type, against the grain. But there is nothing like being in something that receives critical and public acclaim. It's an unbelievable gift."

The character of Dr. Melfi has developed over the show's six seasons. "I made her a lonely woman," Bracco says. "This is a woman who is married to her work. I thought that would be interesting, because in America we want everything to be perfect. We want a successful family life and a successful work life. I didn't want to make her that way."

Shooting the final episodes of "The Sopranos" has not been easy for her, or for her fellow cast members, she says. "I think we all need a psychiatrist at this point. There are all kinds of feelings and emotions, and everybody at times is really losing it. It's like being a child for years, and all of a sudden we have to go out into the wilderness."

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