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From podcast to page: 'Sopranos' stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa dish all in new book

Michael Imperioli, left, and Steve Schirripa, have now

Michael Imperioli, left, and Steve Schirripa, have now written a book based on their popular podcast, "Talking Sopranos."   Credit: Courtesy of Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirippa

After wrapping (violently) their run on "The Sopranos" back in 2007, Michael Imperioli (who played Christopher Moltisanti) and Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccalieri) went on to successful writing and acting careers — Schirripa as a longtime cast member on "Blue Bloods," while Imperioli is currently developing an HBO series with Emmy-winner Alec Berg ("Seinfeld," "Barry") loosely and comedically based upon his life.

But these longtime friends are also the unofficial keepers of the flame — "The Sopranos" flame which has burned ever more brightly since HBO Max began streaming repeats upon launch in May 2020.

They began their popular podcast, "Talking Sopranos," in April, 2020, and Nov. 2 marks the release of the companion book, "Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos" (William Morrow).

Rollicking, profane and often very funny, "Woke Up This Morning" is packed with trivia, facts, episodic details, evaluations and re-evaluations. The authors also assembled 46 cast members and 21 members of the production crew, including showrunner and creator David Chase and some of the producers and directors (Phil Abraham, Henry Bronchtein, Martin Bruestle, Robin Green, Ilene Landress and Terry Winter) without whom "The Sopranos" would not have been "The Sopranos."

"Woke Up This Morning" (the famed theme song by Alabama 3) tells the well-known story of a series that almost never got made (a couple of commercial networks passed) and the lesser-known one of a star, James Gandolfini — referred throughout as "Jim" and to whom the book is dedicated — who would become burdened by both the workload and success.

In a recent phone interview, Imperioli said they conceived of the book as a companion to the podcast "which is going to end up being 270 hours, which is kind of immense, so in order to have a more condensed format, we said a book might work." Schirripa adds,"there's [also] so much interest now. We thought it was a natural progression."

Indeed, there is. The ending (that ending) remains as ever a topic of speculation in the culture at large and the book gets around to its own ideas. The movie prequel, "The Many Saints of Newark," launched on HBO Max last month, and Chase, according to reports, is now exploring series prequels and sequels for the service.

Schirripa says Gandolfini — who died in 2013 — may have been open to the idea of a "Sopranos" spinoff. "After it ended in 2007, Jim wanted nothing to do with Tony Soprano," he says. "He was done, done, done. It took him two years to get that out of his system — doing independent films, smaller movies — then he told me and a few others that if they paid him enough money, he would revisit [Tony]."

Imperioli says "just the amount of time he had to spend on set and not see his kids — we're talking months at a time, working every day, and long days — took its toll physically and mentally, and the other thing was that he was suddenly really famous … He was Tony Soprano and where he went he brought that with him, which took a lot of adjustment."

Before they began the podcast, both wondered whether there would be enough material to fill the hours. Once that was settled, they knew the book shouldn't be too much of a challenge either. "I hadn't watched [the series] since it had gone off the air so I was kind of worried before we started the podcast if we were going to be able to talk for two hours," says Imperioli, "but it turned out we have a never-ending supply of material and what's really become evident [by re-watching] is how it's an examination of the failure of the American dream."

Any surprises in the book? Plenty, for both the reader and the authors. (Did you know, for example, that Jerry Stiller nearly took the role of consigliere Hesh Rabkin, which ultimately went to another Jerry — Jerry Adler.) And Imperioli says just about everyone they wanted for the book they got, with two key exceptions — Drea de Matteo (Adriana La Cerva) and Tony Sirico (Paul "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri), for scheduling reasons.

Imperioli says "we also wanted to get the Russian, Valery [Vitali Baganov] from [the classic 3rd season episode] 'Pine Barrens,' but he had no interest. I think he's a fisherman in Key West now."

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