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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 8)

A native of North Adams, Massachusetts, Vincent grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, and at an early age fell in love with music, studying piano, trumpet and drums, but settling on percussion. He started a band that he called Frank Vincent and the Aristocats, and he soon began working with a guitarist named Joe Pesci. In his first film, made in 1976 and called The Death Collector, Vincent's character went to meet his maker while sitting on the toilet.

When "The Sopranos" was first casting, he auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior. His competitors include Dominic Chianese, who got the part, and Tony Sirico, who became Paulie Walnuts. It took three more years for Chase to decide to make Vincent a part of the "Sopranos" TV family.

And now, Vincent says, he thinks "The Sopranos" is coming to its end at just the right moment. "The show has been on the air for a long time," he says. "And I think it's great that it's leaving while it's still at the top."

Throughout the show's existence, Italian-Americans have complained about the way they are depicted. Some of the characters, for example, make explicitly racist statements, especially about African Americans. (What African Americans say to him about those words, Chase told his McGraw-Hill Building audience, is, "'Thank you, because we know that's what you people say about us.'")

How does he respond to the Italian Americans who complain? He tells them that they should ask themselves why the show is so enduring, why people feel it is so valued. "But," he said, "they don't ask themselves that question."

While an actor, such as Joe Gannascoli, may suggest a story line, no one is likely to suggest a line change. Unlike in some movies, Chase said, there is no ad-libbing on "The Sopranos." The actors stick to the script. "Not that I'm opposed to it," he said. "In a movie it might be one thing. Martin Scorsese does things that way. But a TV show has a factory aspect. It has to keep going."

At first, an episode took eight days to shoot, he said, but in recent seasons, as things got more complex, it has been more like 12. "We're writing one show, ending the show prior, coming up with stories for the shows ahead, prepping direction, casting." It is, he said, a production line that has been constantly rolling. Until now.

So what's next for Chase? "I don't have any strict plan," he said. "I want to take time off, and maybe direct and write a movie."

And television? "I've been working in television a long time, 30 years now. After this I have no further interest in working in TV—anywhere, whether it's network or cable. I've done it. I don't want to do that anymore."

As he once said, network TV is in the business of selling, not of creating art. "Their object is to keep you in a good mood, so you buy things," he said. They don't want to upset viewers. "They really want you to buy cars."

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