In Memoriam: James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini, star of The Sopranos, died Wednesday, June 19, 2013 while traveling in Italy. Officials say all signs point to a heart attack. Gandolfini riveted audiences as Tony Soprano, the conflicted mob boss trying to keep family and business together in New Jersey. The team at CultureMass, especially those who describe The Sopranos as one of their favorite show, feel this loss poignantly.

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Yoma Edwin, Publisher

When I found out that James Gandolfini died, it brought back a lot of memories. In college, I would hold viewing parties for The Sopranos. I think back to how I would say the same thing every time the intro would come on: “That’s my state. You don’t know nothing about turnpikes down here!” As a kid from South Jersey (Trenton to be exact) living in the South, the show felt just right at home. This show was perfect. Great acting by James Gandolfini leading the way as Tony Soprano. He will be missed.

There are many shows that draw viewers in this way. I remember moving back to Georgia and finding myself obsessed with Boston Public because I missed living in Boston, MA and teaching in public school (although I worked with elementary students). Boston Public wasn’t as good as The Sopranos, but I was transported nonetheless.

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Cameron Cook, Editor-In-Chief

When I think of James Gandolfini’s amazing work in The Sopranos, I don’t think of the big, emotional scenes. I don’t think of the rage or the violence or the physical presence that the man certainly exuded.

I think of Kevin Finnerty. In the sixth season of the show, Tony is put into a coma. In the coma, he has a long, elaborate dream in which he, as an air conditioning man named Kevin Finnerty, goes through a series of frustrating misunderstandings, eventually stranding him in a hotel with nowhere to go.

He makes friends with other businessman. He lightly flirts with women. He talks to the bartender about his life.

He’s Kevin Finnerty. A man with a totally different accent, demeanor, and perspective from Tony Soprano. But we never forget that it’s Tony Soprano operating the machine.

James Gandolfini acted with his eyes. He was a subtle actor who used his emotive face to give nuanced and minimalistic performances. Many will remember, for good reason, his raging violence and outbursts from his most famous character, but I’ll always remember the silent frustration of Soprano’s softer side, Kevin Finnerty.

Much in the same way, I don’t remember James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, although he definitely brought something to the role that few could have. The subtlety in which he played the character before going over the top is what you look for because in television, we need the characters to continue to surprise us. We also need that in movies.

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Angel Collins, TV Editor

It was The Mexican. James Gandolfini was an onion in the movie as “Leroy”, a hitman sent to keep tabs on Julia Roberts as a way to grab the unlucky gun The Mexican for himself. The movie also included Brad Pitt, but even now, 12 years later, I barely remember what he had to do in the movie and am still intrigued by Gandolfini’s nuanced portrayal of the sometimes brutal, introspective, and philosophical hitman.

Gandolfini’s death will be felt, not only by those who loved him through his characters, but by those who will see him in the future and know there will be no more chances to see him perform. It is rare to be touched by an actor, but James Gandolfini did so for thousands. Hundreds of thousands. He will be missed.

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