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When several actors on The Sopranos racked up multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations over the years, no one had more success at the big award shows than Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano). During the show’s eight-year run, Falco won three Emmys and two Golden Globe awards in the lead-actress category.

For those who saw Falco go to work on the set of The Sopranos, those awards came as no surprise. Recalling her time on the show, creator-showrunner David Chase described Falco’s performances as “always faultless” Chase also raved about her work ethic.

Allen Coulter, who directed 12 Sopranos episodes, echoed that praise on the August 16 edition of the Talking Sopranos podcast. While noting Falco’s trademark professionalism, Coulter pointed to one of the incredible acting feats she performed during her time playing Carmela.

Edie Falco broke down crying for 7 straight takes on ‘The Sopranos’

'Sopranos' characters Tony and Carmela in therapy
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano seek counseling in HBO’s ‘The Sopranos.’ | HBO

On his visit to Talking Sopranos, Coulter spoke of the actors on the series who made his life easy. After mentioning co-hosts Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) and Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccala), Coulter also pointed to the professionalism of Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior).

Then he turned his attention to Falco. “Edie, I always said, was like a lunch-box actress. You know, one that shows up; punches her time card; waits to go on; knows her part; leaves.” But Coulter was genuinely wowed by how she handled one particularly difficult scene.

“They’re in the living room, and Carmela is watching [wedding preparations] go on, and she gets upset,” Coulter recalled. “She leaves and walks back into the kitchen and breaks down crying. It’s a very interesting moment for her.”

While that was difficult enough, Coulter asked if she could keep it under control until she got the kitchen. (He was trying to nail a complex Steadicam shot.) “She said, ‘OK.’ We did seven takes, I remember, and on every one she would hold it back and break down. The camera would wheel around and she would break down when she couldn’t be seen.”

‘Sopranos’ director Allen Coulter called Falco ‘1 of the great American actresses of her generation’

Carmela Soprano smiling
Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano | Getty Images

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Though he already had seven takes of that scene, Coulter asked for another. Falco said she didn’t think she could do it. He understood. “The fact that she could do seven takes [spoke volumes],” Coulter said. Looking back on those performances by Falco, he put her in elite company.

“I think she’s truly one of the greatest of her generation of American actresses,” Coulter said. “And I think other actors feel that way. I’ve been around when other actresses who would show up and were quite well known and they would be nervous around [Falco] because they were so impressed with her.”

Coulter didn’t get any argument from Schirripa or Imperioli on that front, and it’s unlikely anyone on the set of the Sopranos in those years would disagree. The Sopranos led the pack in terms of writer talent, but without actors like Falco and Gandolfini to deliver high-caliber performances it wouldn’t have been the same.