‘The Sopranos’: Frankie Valli Considers His Work on the Show a Highlight of His Life

It may have surprised TV audiences when Frankie Valli turned up in season 5 of The Sopranos and stuck around for seven episodes. Yet the Four Seasons legend had been working his way there for quite some time. And Valli felt like he was in the right place.

“I’ve always had aspirations for acting,” he said on a March ’21 episode of the Talking Sopranos podcast. But Valli decided that he’d find much steadier work as a recording artist and touring musician. So he put acting on a back burner and took a shot when he could.

In the ’80s and ’90s, Valli began appearing on the screen more regularly. And when he had a chance to be on The Sopranos, he went for it. Though he didn’t land the first role he tried out for, he eventually joined the cast as Rusty Millio. These days, Valli looks back on his run on the show as a highlight of his life.

Frankie Valli loved acting in the New Jersey mob world of ‘The Sopranos’

John Lloyd Young and Frankie Valli smile at opening night of 'Jersey Boys'
John Lloyd Young and Frankie Valli attend an after party for opening night of “Jersey Boys,” 2005. | Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

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For the Newark-born Valli, the world of The Sopranos was a reminder of his days coming up in North Jersey. “I grew up in a neighborhood where there was so much organized crime,” Valli said on Talking Sopranos. “And I knew everybody because I worked in the little saloons, and those guys owned those places.”

Though Valli couldn’t help rubbing elbows with mob figures at many points of his career, he said he always made a point of keeping his distance. “I was with no [mob] family,” he said. “Anybody who wanted to do anything for me, get me a job, I’d say, ‘No, we have all the work we need.’ So I never got myself involved.”

But he had no qualms about playing a mobster on TV. After pursuing screen roles for years, portraying Rusty Millio from 2004-06 was something of a dream come true for Valli. “Doing The Sopranos, for me, was really a highlight in my life,” he said on Talking Sopranos.

Valli would have put the Four Seasons on hold for a major ‘Sopranos’ role

Frankie Valli looks at the camera with a 'Jersey Boys' poster behind him, 2005
Frankie Valli attends the opening night of “Jersey Boys” after party in 2005. | Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

By the turn of the century, Valli had just about all the fame and fortune one could achieve as a singer. But he still wanted to stretch out as an actor. And Jersey Boys, the musical based on the lives of the Four Seasons had yet to begin its epic run on Broadway.

Things might have turned out differently if he’d landed a larger part on The Sopranos. “Had I been offered a regular spot on The Sopranos, I might have left the [Four Seasons] for a while,” Valli said on Talking Sopranos. “I really loved it. It wasn’t about money or anything.”

Valli said he continues to feel energized by turn toward acting he took later in life. “Even today, my mind is more on doing the things I love to do — having the opportunity to stretch and be something else,” he said on Talking Sopranos.