‘The Sopranos’: Why David Proval Didn’t Like Watching the Show Before He Played Richie Aprile

When producers of The Sopranos went to cast the part of Richie Aprile, they had a hard time finding their man. In season 2, Richie arrives back from jail determined to take back what’s his. And he’ll knock around anyone in his way — Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) included — to get it.

Needless to say, whoever played Richie needed to be menacing, and producers pictured a tall man in the role at first. Hence Modern Family star Ed O’Neill reading for the Richie part in 1999. But neither O’Neill nor Ed Marinaro (another tall man who read) fit the bill.

Enter David Proval, the actor who stands at about 5’7″. Proval, who starred alongside Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets (1973), brought the requisite menace to the role. It didn’t come easy, however. Though he’d read for the show in season 1, he didn’t get a part. And he didn’t like watching the show after that.

David Proval tried to avoid watching ‘The Sopranos’ because it made him ‘green with envy’

David Proval with 'Sopranos' co-stars and Peter Boyle
Steve Van Zandt, David Proval, Peter Boyle, & Aida Turturro | SGranitz/WireImage

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On the Talking Sopranos podcast, Proval recalled going to read for the Richie part. It started with Proval finding James Russo and Robert Pastorelli, two actors he truly respected, in the room. Proval thought both would be great for the part. That put him on edge, to put it mildly.

“What the f*ck am I doing?” he recalled thinking. “What are they doing? I’m just burning. I go in, and I’m just nuts.” Producers clearly liked what Proval did at the reading. Afterward, they asked him to wait so they could bring in Gandolfini to read with him.

Proval recalled Gandolfini leading the two of them through an improvisation, which went well. The only problem was Gandolfini kept standing up. When they stopped doing the scene, Proval turned to everyone watching and quipped, “You know, I play 6’4″.”

Not long after, producers called to say he got the part. That calmed him down a bit. To that point, he recalled been feeling “rage” on several counts. “The first season, I stayed away from that show as much as I could,” Proval said. “Because my skin was turning green with envy. I had to stay away from watching that show. I loved it so much.”

Proval felt ‘entitled’ to play a role on ‘The Sopranos’ after so many years in the business

David Proval as Richie Aprile
‘The Sopranos’ series regular David Proval | Getty Images

It’s rare to head actors speak so frankly about their work, and Proval didn’t stop there. When Talking Sopranos co-host Michael Imperioli asked him how he approached the Richie Aprile character, Proval revealed his thought process.

“I’d been a journeyman actor to that point from 1973-99,” he began. “There was something within me that felt 100% entitled to be on this show. It’s hard to verbalize: entitlement, rage, and anger.” Proval connected that to one of Richie’s most famous lines on The Sopranos.

“There’s a line they wrote: ‘You can’t give me what’s already mine,'” Proval said. “Richie understood that completely. And so did I. We gave our life to this. We gave our blood to this. And there’s a point in life when we say, ‘I’m entitled to this work.'”