Why ‘Sopranos’ Actors Knew Better Than to Question Lines in the Script
Anyone who thinks “cancel culture” is a new phenomenon never worked on the set of The Sopranos. For actors on the classic HBO series, getting whacked on screen was the ultimate cancellation. It ended the life of your character and terminated your employment at a well-paying job.
Listening to Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccala) and Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) tell it, a Sopranos actor risked such a fate for causing problems behind the scenes. And they saw it with actors who played smaller roles on the show.
On the August 30 episode of the Talking Sopranos podcast, the issue came up when Schirripa answered a question about line changes in the script. For starters, Schirripa didn’t see the need for changes. But even if he had, mentioning it wouldn’t have been worth the risk.
Steve Schirripa never took issue with ‘Sopranos’ writers while playing Bobby Baccala
Responding to a podcast listener’s question, Schirripa said questioning writers didn’t come natural to him. “I respect the writer,” Schirripa began. “This is how I was taught. [I don’t say] ‘Hey, my guy wouldn’t say this.’ [The writer] invented my guy. [He] made Bobby Baccala.”
While on the job, Schirripa has seen a number of actors approach it differently. “A lot of actors go, ‘My guy wouldn’t say this.’ I never questioned a writer about anything. I asked questions, had them explain it better. I would never say, ‘Bobby wouldn’t do that.'”
Overall, Schirripa didn’t see a point doubting writers on The Sopranos. “I think the writing speaks for itself,” he said. “They didn’t need any help.” Imperioli agreed with that take. “As far as story points or scenes and things Christopher was doing, I never felt, ‘This is out of character.'”
On other projects, Imperioli had brought up issues with the script. “I felt that in other jobs, but not on The Sopranos.” But both ex-Sopranos co-stars agreed that causing problems on the set could have dire consequences.
Actors risked getting fired or whacked on-screen for starting trouble on a ‘Sopranos’ set
Though Schirripa saw it on other sets, he recommended against asking for script changes on The Sopranos. In fact, he called it the one show actors had no business doing it. “You make too much of a beef and next week you’re getting f*cking killed,” he said.
Indeed, Sopranos actors walked around the set as if on eggshells. Everyone worried their character would die next. “People were on their toes,” Schirripa said. And they had seen the same thing he had: Producers drop actors who didn’t work well on the show.
“A couple of actors or day-players refused to say certain lines,” Schirripa recalled. “‘I’m not going to curse, or I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. I flat-out refuse.’ And they were gone [soon after]. ” Veteran Sopranos actors knew better. And most enjoyed long runs on the show.