‘The Sopranos’: Why Ray Abruzzo Thought He Wouldn’t Get the Carmine Jr. Part

Before he got the job playing Little Carmine Lupertazzi (aka Carmine Jr.) on The Sopranos, Ray Abruzzo had made the rounds in Hollywood. Back in the ’80s, he’d broken through with roles on two of the biggest shows of the era: L.A. Law and Dynasty.

Abruzzo had also experienced the various frustrations actors have on their way to establishing a career in the business. At one point, after he couldn’t land a part written exclusively for him (the lead on 1995’s The Great Defender), he even considered quitting acting.

But Abruzzo made a connection on that show that would eventually provide a big boost for his career. Frank Renzulli, who created The Great Defender, joined the Sopranos writers room not long afterward. And Renzulli put in a word for Abruzzo.

Eventually, Abruzzo landed the part of Carmine Jr., though it wasn’t the first Sopranos part he auditioned for. And Abruzzo didn’t think he had a good shot of Little Carmine, given the character’s description.

Ray Abruzzo first auditioned for the role of the intervention leader on ‘The Sopranos’

Ray Abruzzo at a 2007 'Sopranos' premiere
Ray Abruzzo attends a ‘Sopranos’ premiere in 2007. | Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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In “The Strong, Silent Type” (season 4 episode 10), viewers get one of the all-time funniest Sopranos scenes. It begins with a most unexpected scenario: The friends and family of Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) have gathered for an intervention into his substance-abuse problem.

After a rough beginning to the intervention, the situation really starts falling apart when Adriana (Drea de Matteo) reveals Christopher accidentally killed her dog while he (Christopher) was under the influence of heroin. By the end of the session, the intervention devolved into a brawl.

Elias Koteas, the veteran character actor, played the role of the man who led the intervention. Abruzzo auditioned for that role but, luckily for him, he didn’t get it.

Abruzzo did get the Carmine Jr. part, though. The character made his first appearance in season 4 episode 11 in the episode “Calling All Cars.” But Abruzzo didn’t have much confidence when he sent in his audition tape.

‘Sopranos’ writers originally saw Carmine Jr. and much heavier — and sweatier

Ray Abruzzo with 'Sopranos' cast members
Tony Sirico, Vincent Curatola, Ray Abruzzo, Frank Vincent and Dan Grimaldi from “The Sopranos” | Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

On the Talking Sopranos podcast, Abruzzo described the process leading up to his casting as Carmine Jr. Though he was disappointed about losing the role to Koteas, Abruzzo said he heard that producers liked him. But he thought it was the usual Hollywood talk.

“How many times have your heard that? Seriously,” Abruzzo recalled thinking. “Then, like two weeks later, they said, ‘There’s this part, Little Carmine. David Chase wants you to read for it.'” By the sound of it, Abruzzo didn’t like his chances.

“The breakdown said ‘Little Carmine: anything but little, upwards of 350 lbs., sweating profusely,'” Abruzzo said. “And I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna get this.'” Seeing the chips stacked against him physically, Abruzzo tried a unique approach to the character.

“I thought, ‘Let me do something.’ So I said ‘Ver-sales’ [for ‘Versailles’],” Abruzzo said of his audition tape. “They said he thinks he’s smarter than he is, so that was the clue they gave me. But that’s the shot I took.”