James Gandolfini's 'Sopranos' Family Remember His Brilliance on Set — and Joke He Was a 'Maniac' Between Takes (Exclusive) (2024)

James Gandolfini's 'Sopranos' Family Remember His Brilliance on Set — and Joke He Was a 'Maniac' Between Takes (Exclusive) (1)

James Gandolfini is at the center of the room when The Sopranos cast gets together, even if it’s only in spirit.

The late actor, who died suddenly at age 51 in 2013, was on many of the stars’ minds at the show’s 25th anniversary party in New York City on Wednesday, as Lorraine Bracco tells PEOPLE, “I always think about him.”

“I have moments that I have in my mind, or something will happen, that Jimmy will come back to me,” Bracco, 69, says, noting that “it’s always nice to see his son,” Michael, who was also in attendance at the reunion event.

Michael’s presence at the star-studded event, hosted at 30-year-old Italian restaurant Da Nico, brought up a lot of emotions for many of the actors, too. Aida Turturro admits, “It hit me hard.”

“I wasn't ready, because I've seen Michael many times, but you know what? He grew up a little and he looks so much like Jimmy,” she says. “It weirded me out a little. I got a little sad.”

The actor, who stepped into his father’s footsteps – literally – and took on the role of Tony Soprano himself in the 2021 prequel film, Many Saints of Newark, is “part of the family,” Kathrine Norducci adds. Throughout the night, every cast member took the time to stop and greet him with a hug and a warm welcome, and Narducci says “he’s grandfathered in.”

“We look at Michael with such extreme love,” she says. “Jimmy would be so happy that we love him so much.”

The actress, who played Nuovo Vesuvio owner Charmaine Bucco, also raves about Michael’s portrayal of his late father, calling it a “full circle” moment that would’ve made Jimmy “smile from ear to ear.”

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James Gandolfini's 'Sopranos' Family Remember His Brilliance on Set — and Joke He Was a 'Maniac' Between Takes (Exclusive) (3)

As Steve Buscemi reflects on the “family reunion”-like event, he gets choked up as he recalls a particularly poignant scene from the show’s first season, where Tony, Carmela (Edie Falco) and their kids “go to Vesuvio’s” on a rainy night.

“And all the guys are there, right? And Jimmy makes a toast. He says, ‘Remember this moment. It's these little moments of family that are the most meaningful,’ ” Buscemi recites, sharing that he’s rewatching the show right now. “It blew me away.”

In Turturro’s words, Buscemi “misses” Gandolfini, but “I speak to him.”

“I don't give a s--- if people believe it or not. I talk to Jimmy all the time, and he answers me too,” she says. “Like he's cracking up tonight, but I mean, I do — I feel like he's with me all the time.”

Buscemi, who played Tony Soprano’s crime-ridden cousin, Tony Blundetto, replies, “I so believe it.”

James Gandolfini's 'Sopranos' Family Remember His Brilliance on Set — and Joke He Was a 'Maniac' Between Takes (Exclusive) (4)

The former castmates go on to say that their former “leader,” as Narducci puts it, “was someone who looked out for everybody.”

“It's hard to articulate, but he had that magic,” Buscemi, 66, adds.

Turturro, who portrayed Tony's on-screen older sister, Janice, admits, “I love him to death.”

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Other notable faces missing from the event were Tony Sirico, who died in 2022 at 79, and Frank Vincent, who died in 2017.

Speaking to their absence, Dan Grimaldi —who played twins Philly and Patsy Parisi — says, “We do miss them, especially Jimmy and Tony Sirico and Frank Vincent and people who we worked with closely and people who we knew for so many years.”

Grimaldi, 77, continues, “Tony Soprano and I knew each other since we were 18 years old. So we miss them terribly, but we also relish those who are here.”

James Gandolfini's 'Sopranos' Family Remember His Brilliance on Set — and Joke He Was a 'Maniac' Between Takes (Exclusive) (5)

If Gandolfini was to have been there, he’d likely have been his usual troublemaker self. Bracco comments on her former costar’s unique ability to be “very serious” while in character, “but when he was done, he turned into a maniac.”

“Oh my God. He would make such jokes, he would fool around, he would dance around,” she remembers. “He was very fun.”

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It was his “brilliance” both on camera and off that made The Sopranos what it was, much of the cast agrees. Small moments — like Jimmy’s toast in the scene Buscemi recalls — about “family and friends” are what it’s all about.

"And tonight's wonderful, because that's what we're doing,” Turturro says. “And Jimmy's with us, but I miss him."

James Gandolfini's 'Sopranos' Family Remember His Brilliance on Set — and Joke He Was a 'Maniac' Between Takes (Exclusive) (2024)
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