‘The Sopranos’: How Steven Van Zandt Juggled the Show and Touring With Bruce Springsteen

Could Steven Van Zandt jump from a life in music straight into the world of film and television? After working on The Sopranos Season 1, he really considered making the switch permanent. But then Bruce Springsteen called and said he was getting the E Street Band back together.

At that point, Van Zandt might have wondered if his first impulse — to turn down the Sopranos offer — was the correct one. But Van Zandt felt like there were too many positives to pass up the chance to rejoin Springsteen, with whom he began playing in the ’60s.

So Van Zandt said yes to the Boss. “Man, I had a real tough decision to make,” Van Zandt said on the Talking Sopranos podcast. “Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision or not.” The immediate consequence was trying to tour with the E Street Band while acting on a hit show.

Steven Van Zandt flew home to shoot ‘Sopranos’ scenes between shows with Bruce Springsteen

Maureen and Steven Van Zandt appear in costume as Gabriella and Silvio Dante in a 'Sopranos' promo.
Maureen and Steven Van Zandt star as Gabriella and Silvio Dante in HBO’s hit television series, “The Sopranos” (Year 3). | HBO

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With an act on the level of Springsteen and the E Street Band, touring is an international big business. Had Van Zandt been working on a different show, it’s likely he wouldn’t have been able to continue playing Silvio Dante in The Sopranos Season 2 and beyond.

But Sopranos creator/showrunner David Chase made it possible for Van Zandt to do both. “David Chase was great about it,” Van Zandt said on Talking Sopranos. “He booked my scenes on days off on the tour, and I flew home every [off] day.”

That created a number of challenges for Van Zandt, who hadn’t trained as an actor. On top of the exhaustion, jet lag, and general stress from such a demanding schedule, Van Zandt would have to completely shift gears when he landed back in the New York area.

“I flew home from Paris one time,” Van Zandt recalled. “Get off the plane from Paris, get all suited up, get out of the trailer. Then I say, ‘Go f*ck yourself,’ and I get back on the plane and go back to Paris [laughs].”

Van Zandt would have wanted to write or direct ‘Sopranos’ episodes

Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt play guitar side-by-side on stage in an early 2000s E Street Band performance.
Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt perform with the Street Band circa 2002. | Hayley Madden/Redferns

Van Zandt didn’t plan to limit himself to playing a mobster named Silvio Dante who tells people, “Go f*ck yourself.” But he had to table those grander ambitions when he agreed to rejoin Springsteen’s band.

“I did sacrifice … I think would have been more involved in The Sopranos if I hadn’t [rejoined the E Street Band],” Van Zandt said on Talking Sopranos. “Because I was really interested in writing and directing. That’s something I’ve always been interested in.”

Van Zandt had already proved that, in fact. He’d created the Silvio character, whom Chase and his writing staff adapted for The Sopranos. Van Zandt did get a chance to try out writing and directing a few years later, though, on Lilyhammer (2012-14).