‘The Sopranos’: How Al Sapienza Tried to Talk David Chase Out of Killing Mikey Palmice

If you land a part on a mob show, you have to wonder when the bullet is coming for you. Actors on The Sopranos certainly worried about that. Considering how much Sopranos regulars made and how long the show lasted, you can see why actors lived in fear of getting killed off.

The trend didn’t begin with the close of Vincent Pastore’s run as Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, either. In season 1, after a number of scenes showing his loyalty to Carrado “Junior” Soprano (Dominic Chianese), Mikey Palmice (Al Sapienza) met his fate.

If you were following along, there was no question that Mikey couldn’t live after botching a hit on Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). But when Sapienza heard the news, he wasn’t ready for Mikey to die. So he made a pitch to keep Mikey alive to creator/showrunner David Chase.

Al Sapienza pitched a sidekick to keep his ‘Sopranos’ character alive

Al Sapienza talks to reporters at Comic-Con
COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: Al Sapienza | Evans Vestal Ward/Syfy

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On the Talking Sopranos podcast, Sapienza could still recall the day he learned Mikey Palmice wasn’t getting out of season 1 alive. “David [Chase] calls me into his office, episode 7 of the first season,” Sapienza said. “And I’m telling you, I almost started to cry — literally, started to cry. I knew that show was great.”

To that point, Sapienza had only heard good feedback from Sopranos producers. And he’d gotten renewed twice for four-episode blocks. The signs were so encouraging that Sapienza moved back to New York from his home in L.A. But Chase burst that bubble halfway through season 1.

“David goes just like this: ‘You know you’re getting killed at the end of this, don’t you?'” Sapienza recalled. “And I’m sitting there, and I was like, “David, please.'” Sapienza felt so strongly about it he began coming up with story ideas for Chase to try out.

“I said, ‘Let’s get a co-star for the last five episodes. Kill him! We’ll give me a sidekick,'” Sapienza said. “That’s what I said. [laughs] He goes, ‘No. This isn’t that kind of show.’ So I’m begging him, literally begging him.”

David Chase told Sapienza ‘The Sopranos’ probably wouldn’t last

David Chase and James Gandolfini on the set of 'The Sopranos'
‘The Sopranos’: James Gandolfini And David Chase, The Show’s Creator | Getty Images

Sapienza said Chase was surprised by how hard he was taking the character’s death. “He goes, ‘Why are you so upset?'” Sapienza recalled. “And I said, ‘I don’t know. It’s a great job, the words just roll out of my mouth, it’s so well written. I think it’s gonna be a gigantic hit.'”

For his part, Chase didn’t see the show lasting much longer. “This was his reply,” Sapienza said. “He goes, ‘Ah, if we get picked up for a second season, I have nothing else to say on the matter.’ Meaning, like, he was done with The Sopranos in the first year!”

Given Chase’s natural pessimism (built up over decades in TV), that sounds about right. “If you think about it, it was about his mother,” Sapienza said. “He was gonna kill her at the end [of season 1]. They changed their mind about it. Originally, they were gonna kill her.” Chase didn’t change his mind about Mikey Palmice, though. Fans never got to see that sidekick.