‘The Sopranos’: James Gandolfini’s Kindness to Robert Loggia Still Stands Out to Steve Schirripa

Thirteen years after the finale of The Sopranos and seven years after the passing of star James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), stories of Gandolfini’s generosity on and off the show’s set continue to circulate.

The widely reported account of Gandolfini writing $33,000 checks to 16 Sopranos cast members probably sits at the top of the list. Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccalieri (“Bacala”), told that story on WFAN (via NJ Monthly) not long after Gandolfini’s 2013 death.

In that example, Gandolfini had just negotiated a large pay raise and wanted to share the wealth with castmates who hadn’t publicly balked at his demands. But Gandolfini also found ways to protect co-stars during filming.

Schirripa recalled an example of that during the guest-star appearances by Robert Loggia (1930-2015), who played Feech La Manna. When the aging Loggia struggled with his lines in one scene, Gandolfini remained patient as the shoot dragged on for several extra hours.

Steve Schirripa recalled James Gandolfini’s ‘comforting’ of his struggling ‘Sopranos’ co-star

Gandolfini at an awards show
‘Sopranos’ stars Steven Van Zandt and James Gandolfini speak prior to an awards ceremony. | KMazur/WireImage

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On the Talking Sopranos podcast he co-hosts, Schirripa recalled Gandolfini’s supportive nature on set during a visit by David Chase, the show’s creator. “Jim was very giving as an actor,” Schirripa said. “On set he was all for you. He was rooting for you.”

Schirripa brought up a memory that illustrated his point. “I remember when we did that scene with Robert Loggia. It was me, Dominic [Chianese], and Jim [Gandolfini]. It was a scene that probably should lasted four hours, but it lasted eight hours,” Schirripa recalled.

“Robert was having a little tough time with his lines. Another star of another show could’ve — or would’ve — been a pr*ck. And Jim couldn’t have been more assuring and comforting and helping.” Chase agreed that stars could and did act that way — but not Gandolfini.

“[Gandolfini] must have understood what was going on,” Chase said, which may or may not be a reference to Loggia’s 2010 Alzheimer’s diagnosis. “That’s great. Yeah, [Gandolfini] was like that.”

Robert Loggia played Feech La Manna for 4 episodes of ‘The Sopranos’ season 5

Robet Loggia and Audrey Loggia
Robert Loggia & wife Audrey attend the “Analyze That” world premiere in New York. | Jim Spellman/WireImage

On The Sopranos, Feech La Manna (Loggia) got back in town with the rest of the “class of 2004” that included Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi). And Loggia had a four-episode run for that stretch of season 5. Feech quickly became too much to handle for Tony Soprano’s North Jersey crew.

After a series of confrontations, the grandstanding Feech found himself headed back to jail on a whopper of a parole violation involving a truckload of stolen TVs. But Loggia made his presence felt on the show, as he had on so many productions of the past.

Loggia racked up 233 screen credits over his 64-year career. If you didn’t know him from Big (1988) or Scarface (1983), you might recall his chilling turn as Mr. Eddy in Lost Highway (1997). By the time got to The Sopranos, Loggia already had five decades of screen appearances under his belt. Gandolfini showed him the respect an actor of Loggia’s stature deserved.