Why ‘Sopranos’ Creator David Chase Decided ‘Big Pussy’ Would Be the Focal Point of Season 2

After more than two decades in TV, David Chase didn’t allow himself to dream about success for his new show, The Sopranos. Once season 1 wrapped, Chase expected it to air on HBO in 1999 while he planned the next move in his career.

But audiences and TV critics didn’t go along with the plan; neither did awards voters. When the ’99 Emmy nominations were announced, The Sopranos racked up more nods than any other show. And more recognition followed at the Golden Globes.

Meanwhile, The Sopranos had people talking, and the new-to-many internet allowed fans to air their theories about the show with abandon. Before long, the whereabouts of Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore) became a hot topic for discussion. That gave Chase the idea about how to approach season 2.

David Chase hadn’t thought about a season 2 for ‘The Sopranos’ until the show became a hit

'Sopranos' cast in cemetery
‘Sopranos’ actors Tony Sirico, Steve Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli And Vincent Pastore | Getty Images

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While you might think Chase was being modest about The Sopranos, that wasn’t the case. “I thought, like most TV shows, we weren’t going to come back,” he said on the Talking Sopranos podcast. Chase really believed he’d made the series he’d always wanted to make, and that it was ending.

“I remember talking to Edie [Falco] about how fun it was,” Chase recalled. “And I said, ‘You know, I don’t think [TV executives] think it’s supposed to be fun. We probably won’t be coming back.’ But it was a gas.”

Since Chase and his crew had completed the entire season 1 (editing and all) before the show began to air, he had time to take a break. So he spent about a month in Europe. And he was surprised to learn people had been running with theories about The Sopranos while he was away.

“Everybody in America was talking about, ‘Where was Pussy,'” Chase said on Talking Sopranos. He had no idea it would become a thing. And he decided to make Pastore’s character “the focal point of season 2.”

Chase debunked the rumor he killed off Pussy after a Vincent Pastore weed-smoking incident

'Sopranos' Satriales
Tony Sirico, Steven Van Zandt and James Gandolfini pose for a publicity still for ‘The Sopranos.’ | Anthony Neste/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

Speaking of rumors and internet sensations, there was a hilarious one Pastore himself helped spread about the death of his character Pussy. At one point, Pastore believed Chase had his character killed off the show because Chase saw him smoking weed at a concert around that time.

Chase put an end to that rumor on his Talking Sopranos visit. “Why would I care?” Chase said. “It wasn’t that.” Chase suggested Tony Sirico, the on-set gossip, might have put the idea in Pastore’s head. “Maybe [Sirico] told him, ‘You shouldn’t have smoked that joint,'” Chase said. “That was ridiculous.”

For Chase, the Pussy plotline was a natural reaction to the fan response; it was also the right way to tell the story, even if it meant losing an actor. “I said to [Pastore], ‘Look, this is gonna be your last season,'” Chase recalled. “‘But I swear to you it’s gonna be a really good season for you. You’re really gonna get to do stuff.’ And I think he did. He was great.”