When news broke late yesterday that actor James Gandolfini had died on a trip to Italy, condolences immediately poured out from those who knew him as Tony Soprano. But after the shock of his unexpected passing had time to settle in, those who knew him as “Jimmy” began responding to the tragic news.

“He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that,” Sopranos show runner David Chase said in a statement. “He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time.”

In real life, friends say Gandolfini couldn’t have been more different from the character he made famous. “He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words.” Co-star and onscreen wife Edie Falco said. “I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague…The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I’ve ever known.”

Gandolfini was visiting Rome with his family when the actor’s 13-year-old son discovered him after he collapsed in their hotel room from cardiac arrest. He was rushed to a hospital, but was pronounced dead after failed resuscitation attemps.

Not only did Gandolfini stand out for his memorable roles, but he will go down as the talent who redefined the portrayal of the bad guy. He “paved the way for the anti-hero,” said Dalton Ross, Assistant Managing Editor for Entertainment Weekly and co-host of EW Morning Live on Entertainment Weekly Radio. “[He showed] that everyone is flawed, no one’s perfect. That wasn’t the case before The Sopranos was on.”

Listen below to hear both cast mates and fans remember Gandolfini as an actor and as a friend, inlcuding stories from the set of The Sopranos.


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