This tribute to James Gandolfini is touching just because it marks the passing of a man that was larger than life and yet so down to earth that it was amazing to think that he was such a big star. According to those that were closest to him however he was a reluctant star, someone that you would think was forever searching for something that was so elusive that finding it would be a hallmark moment in their lives. He made people’s lives better, he made those around him better actors, and he did it in a way that seemed so simple, so honest and without a need for anything other than a chance to just make everything and everyone come together.
Obviously he was known for his role as Tony Soprano, but he’s so much more than this one role as has been seen throughout his career. On this set however he was the guy that made people laugh. It was a family unit, a group that was simply tight beyond words. The show was beyond serious, and yet behind the scenes it looks like they were having a ball the entire time as jokes were shared, laughter was had, and James was the guy in the middle of it. Anywhere else in film and TV James was a great actor, someone that was either hated or loved, but in the Sopranos he was someone that held up the show seemingly all by himself. It was a group effort no doubt but James still managed to be the guy that everyone was looking at, the guy that would make or break the scene.
However there was a line that had to be crossed during the filming of the show that had to be hard for James. Tony Soprano wasn’t a completely good man, but he also wasn’t the devil. He had a darkness in him however that James simply didn’t possess until he had to flip that switch and go dark. It was a test to see just how dark he could go for how long, and somehow James managed to do it for a long, long time. The figure of Tony Soprano was such that he could hit that switch and come back, he led the way with his very different personalities, but he was also still the guy that was looking for something that was not there, something that is hard to find anywhere.
But James was the man that everyone looked up to. He was the guy that kept it light, that laughed when he felt it was needed. He was the guy that would laugh at life when no one else seemed to think it was that funny. Those are the special kinds of people that don’t always seem at ease, but are able to somehow to help others even if their life isn’t completely on an even keel at the moment. He’s missed, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s also no doubt that those who managed to experience who he was are all the better for it.