Soprano Sue's Sightings
 

 
The day my Soprano fantasy came true or should I say a week

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November 15, 2005

It has always been wishful thinking on my part about being on The Sopranos. It was kinda nice in season 5, when I saw the top of my head in the background, far back behind a fence, in the episode, “Unidentified Black Males”. My side kick Gramps, in the first episode of season 3, his car is seen in the background of the scene, filmed in the Modells parking lot in Kearny, NJ (he is still kicking himself for not waving his hand out the window, he didn’t know it was being filmed at the time).

The musica booth at the street fair
This Italian Music booth, is actually used in various fairs in the tri state area. The owners were from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Having been an extra before in “Stepford Wives”, “Jersey Girl” and “Return to Sleepaway Camp” , I know that being an extra can be mainly because of chance, I really didn’t hold too much hope to be on The Sopranos. When you consider that a few years back, 14,000 people showed up in Harrison, New Jersey, for the slim to none chance, on being on the show, I never thought that my chances were that great.

Just look at the work involved creating a scene that really looks authentic!
The Fair

This whole thing came about, on a blustery Sunday morning when Gramps sent me a casting call for extras for the show, which had been buried (or mis classified) on the website Craiglist. The posting had been there a few days, and to be honest, we didn’t even know whether it was even true or not. The casting call was for scenes being filmed in Jersey City (which I knew was true) so, I called Gramps and said, “you know it might just be true, I’m going to take a chance and send a head shot”. Worse case scenario is some idiot, just got a photo of me.

Carl Capotorto , who plays the character of Little Paulie,Germani. Note that he still has the scar from when Eugene Pontecorvo (Robert Funaro) smashed him with a snapple bottle in the episode, "Unidentified Black Males"

So Sunday comes and goes, but there is still hope, they need people for all week, and may be they just didn’t need us yet. Finally, on Monday, we find out; be there Tuesday, on location, dress as if you were at a street fair in September. So, how do they say it? “I’m there!”

Steven R. Schirripa, plays the character of Bobby Bacala. Bacala is now married to Janice Soprano and they have a daughter.
Steven R. Schirripa

What a lot of people don’t realize that being an extra is nothing like being a principal actor. You are background, you have no lines, and in the pecking order ranks, you are right there on the very bottom. But for me, it’s not so bad being on the bottom, it’s a dream come true. It’s something that I never thought would happen and I had to slap myself, to realize that it is happening, and it’s so wonderful to know that something I had considered as wishful thinking on my part, had come true.

Tony Sirico, Paulie Walnuts
Tony Sirico who plays the character of Paulie Walnuts on the show, waiting between takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I now can understand how a professional actor feels, being chosen for a role on the show, but for me, it is truly a dream come true. To be chosen to be on the show, as an actor, can be a career changing moment, something which can open many doors in the future, a huge feather on an actors resume. The Sopranos is considered the premiere acting job, it is critically acclaimed world wide, and besides, everyone on the show raves about Mike Hernandez’s (of Premiere Catering) catering of the food. For the professional actor, knowing that you are going to be on The Sopranos, is probably equivalent to starring the Hollywood classic of modern times.

Dan Grimaldi, he plays the character of Patsy Parisi and his twin deceased brother "Spoons Parisi".
Dan Grimaldi

The first scene of the day, Matt, the person in charge of background on the set, places Gramps and I at a T Shirt concession stand, which is part of the set, at a carnival, which is a half a block long. It is an Italian Feast, being held in Newark for St. Elzear, which was sponsored by the Holy Society of St. Elzear, established in 1927. For those not up on the teachings of the Catholic Church, Saint Elzear, was born in Paris France, in 1323, and married the virtuous Delphine. Throughout their marriage, he respected her wish to live in virginity and joined the 3 rd Order of St. Francis, dedicating his life to prayer and charity to those who were unfortunate. He later moved to Naples, Italy where he became an example of Christian virtues. Pope Gregory X1 canonized him as a Saint and his feast is held on the 27 th of September.

SOme of the stands
One of the stands, that were part of the fair.

So, they have Gramps and I are placed in position, and we are supposed to be shopping for t shirts at the feast. We are in position, and then I realize that the camera is like 4 feet away, pointing at us where we are standing. We wait as Matt, places all the other background people, in their respective positions; some are given instructions on what to do, when the camera starts rolling. Us, just shop for t shirts, I’m supposed to be talking with the lady who is placed on my left (I have a red jacket on). Some of the extras were told to walk towards the stand we are at. So, here comes the first rehearsal, you know those extras that were supposed to walk towards the stand we are at? All 150 of them (or it seemed like) all decided to get a t shirt (or is it called get in camera view).

Even the music that was at the booths was Italian!
Even the music they are selling is authentic!

Okay, Matt gives new instructions for background on what to do. We do it again, not so bad now at the table, but another set of instructions are explained to us. Now, I am no longer shopping with the lady on my left, I am to turn my face to the right, so the camera sees my face (as I kick Gramps, this is real not a dream). In the scene Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) walks past the stand says something about the shirts and continues with the scene. We film the scene several times, with each take, modifying something on the stand, dialog corrections (how the lines are said) and other minor things.

Yes, It's real food, cooked daily
When Gramps and I saw the food, we were like man, did they do a good job with props, I can even smell it. Turns out that this is real food which was cooked daily.

We finish the scene, they yell “check the gate” and we’re done. Next what happens is a total surprise to me, the crew starts applauding me and Gramps. This is cool, the last time I heard that kind of applause is when Petey Bissell (Jeff Marchetti) and Benny Fazio (Max Cassella) executed Stanley and Credenza along the banks of the Hackensack River. All I am thinking is this for real? Now keep in mind, my scene very possibly may end up on the cutting room floor, I don’t really care, the important thing for me, is that I am experiencing actually being on the show, whether I make the scene or not. We continued filming until about 7 pm when we were let go, and were told to return on Thursday.

Italians, brought some of their culture when they immigrated to the United States. One of these traditions is honoring the Catholic Saints with festivals. These feasts, as they are sometimes called vary in size. While some only have the Saint's statue, with a procession of parishoners, and a band, many of the feasts (like St. Elzear's) have amusement rides, entertainment, and games of chance. One common theme is the Saint's statue covered with money or jewelery, which is donated to the local parish or the Saint's Society.
The Saint is covered with money

Thursday there were almost 400 background extras on the set. I brought several layers of clothes (extras are responsible for their own wardrobe), because I know that the weather can be unpredictable in November, and I can always have too much clothing and take off if it gets warm, but if I am cold, and I don’t have anything more to put on, I am going to get screwed.

So, Gramps and I ending up working a total of 5 days. One day, it rained and they had to call off filming. For the most part it was 12 hour days, we were feed well and yes we did get paid (I am not quitting my day job yet). We filmed a bunch of different scenes, some we are standing in line for tickets (guy in front of me asked for a ticket to the beer stand), purchasing pop corn, walking around the feast, and other things that set the mood for the scene with the principal actors.

Shawn, the PA (production assistant) who responsible for the extras when we were in the holding area, did a superb job managing to keep things running smoothly while we were there. Holding is an area set aside where we ate (lots of Entemanns), and keep warm when we weren’t outside working. You end up meeting people from all walks of live that are doing “extra” work for various reasons. Some of the reasons include, out of work… I need money, a retired gym teacher keeping busy and actors hoping to get their big break. To me being an extra is all part of life’s experiences and you learn from everything you do. I admit, it was hard being away from my normal life and keeping things that I am involved with work running smoothly. Everyone I dealt with in my daily life was extremely understanding, knowing that this was the dream of the lifetime for me and it had come true.

Contrary to other movie sets I have worked on, we didn’t spend that much time in holding, the majority of time was spent on the set filming or rehearsing. The food was catered by Premiere Catering and it was as good as I had heard from interviewing several of the actors from the show. I also saw how busy the crew is with each scene we filmed. The amount of coordination involved between the different departments, it is evident that they all work together well as a team. Being an extra on The Sopranos, gave me a different perspective. When I have done previous sightings, if I got cold or bored, I could always leave. Being an extra, you have a responsibility that you committed to, so you can’t leave just because you are cold. In some ways it was like I was being taught a lesson, having to stay the long hours, but I loved it. It was my personal fantasy come true. And for that crew member who asked for my autograph, "on the back of one of your checks would be just fine!"

 

Soprano Sue's Sightings ©2005

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