‘The Sopranos’: This Oscar-Winning Actress Auditioned for the Part of Janice

After watching and digesting The Sopranos, you start becoming amazed at how deep the actors got into their characters. In fact, many fans of the show find it impossible to believe Steven Van Zandt was once the front-runner for the part of Tony Soprano. (It’s true.)

While you can probably see Edie Falco as Dr. Melfi and Lorraine Bracco as Carmela Soprano, other characters seem built around the actors themselves. Actually, the Sopranos writers did just that — they took personality traits from the actors and gave them to their characters.

So when it seems a little too convincing that Paulie Walnuts is germaphobic, you’re not imagining it. Not only that: Tony Sirico (Paulie) lived with his mom, too. But that took time to develop.

In the beginning, when creator David Chase was going through the casting process, he saw a lot of different people for the lead roles. For Janice Soprano, an Oscar-winning actress was up for the role before it went to Aida Turturro.

Marcia Gay Harden was among those who auditioned for the part of Janice.

Marcia Gay Harden appears at the “Meet Joe Black” New York premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in 1998. | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In Season Two of The Sopranos, the writers introduce some heavy characters. Along with Richie Aprile (David Proval), an old-school gangster fresh out of jail, Tony and Carmela are unpleasantly surprised to find Tony’s sister Janice (Turturro) back in town from the West Coast.

Janice, one of the show’s least likable characters, winds up making it from that point until the very end of the show (72 episodes later). So it’s interesting to consider what it would have been like had someone else landed the part.

When Turturro was making her audition, she noticed a heavyweight in the room: Marcia Gay Harden. By that point, Harden had long ago made a name for herself in the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing (1990), The Daytrippers (1996), and Meet Joe Black (1998).

Soon after, she would play Lee Krasner in Ed Harris’s Pollock (2000). For her performance in that film, Harden won the 2001 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Turturro was happy to learn Harden wasn’t right for the part of Janice.

‘The Sopranos’ series regular Aida Turturro. | Getty Images

In 2012, Turturro looked back at that moment and described how everybody (i.e., every name actress of the day) was up for the part of Janice Soprano. “It’s stressful because everyone’s there,” Turturro recalled. “Like everybody, including one of my favorite actresses, Marcia Gay Harden.”

However, Harden wasn’t what Chase and his team had in mind for Janice. “Thank God she wasn’t right for the part,” Turturro said. On that subject, Harden has said she knew the reason why she didn’t landed the role of Janice.

According to an item in Broadway.com, Harden said “James Gandolfini dismissed her because Janice Soprano couldn’t be played by someone he’d want to sleep with.”

Going “too sexy” with the casting was a problem Chase had later in Season Two with Annalisa in “Commendatori.” In the case of Janice Soprano, most would agree he made the right call.

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