To many actors, having a scene partner living right near you can be a big advantage. While working on The Sopranos Season 2, Vincent Pastore (Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero) and Louis Lombardi (Skip Lipari) made the most of their neighborhood connection. But Maureen Van Zandt lived even closer to her Sopranos scene partner.
Van Zandt, of course, is married to Steven Van Zandt, the musician and E-Street Band member who played Silvio Dante on The Sopranos for the entirety of the show’s run. Starting in season 2, Maureen began playing his wife, Gabriella Dante, on-screen.
In theory, such a couple might always find time for rehearsals of an upcoming scene. But Maureen Van Zandt didn’t see it that way. On a visit to the Talking Sopranos podcast, she couldn’t remember working on scenes at home with her husband. And she wouldn’t have liked to, anyway.
Maureen Van Zandt preferred to keep ‘Sopranos’ work at the office
Prior to her joining The Sopranos, Maureen Van Zandt’s experience as a performer came as a dancer and theater actor. That basically lined up with the acting career of Steven, who to that point had mostly appeared on the screen as a musician (in Springsteen videos, etc.).
Yet the two didn’t take their work home with them after departing the Sopranos set. On Talking Sopranos, Van Zandt pointed out that she and Steven didn’t share many on-screen moments over the course of her early appearances.
Their big moment came in the early episodes of season 6. During that stretch, Silvio has to serve as acting boss after Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) falls into a coma. “I was grateful to have that,” Van Zandt recalled. “We had up to that point not done scenes together.”
Still, they kept their off-screen lives separate. “I don’t think I would have wanted to run lines at home,” Van Zandt said. “I think I would have had to cross over too much. So I wanted to leave that separate. I went in as her — and he was Silvio — and it wasn’t us at home.”
Van Zandt had to audition and beat competition for the Gabriella Dante role
In the world of The Sopranos, a connection to another actor might have gotten you an audition, but it definitely wouldn’t get you a part. Van Zandt saw that firsthand after casting director Georgianne Walken approached her about trying out for the part of Gabriella Dante.
It didn’t start as Van Zandt’s idea. Paul Schulze, who played Father Phil on the show, mentioned to Walken that he’d taken a class with Van Zandt (thus confirming she was an actor). And when Walken asked her about auditioning, Van Zandt’s first reaction was to decline.
However, believing she wouldn’t get the part, Van Zandt reconsidered and took a crack at Gabby Dante. Her first visit to Walken’s office again made her think she had no chance. But Van Zandt made it to the final cut of four actresses.
“We all had to go in and [audition] in front of David [Chase] and all the writers and the whole production crew,” Van Zandt recalled on Talking Sopranos. “It was very daunting for me. But it was an experience I’ll never forget. And very interesting — very shocking — to find out I had it.”
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