Jericho native Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who has multiple sclerosis, learned after actor...

Jericho native Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who has multiple sclerosis, learned after actor James Gandolfini's death that he secretly donated to MS charities. Credit: Mike Coppola / Getty Images for Tribeca Festival; Evan Agostini / Getty Images

Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who had kept her multiple sclerosis secret while playing daughter Meadow on HBO’s 1999-2007 mob-family drama “The Sopranos,” says series star James Gandolfini was the only castmate in whom she had confided — and that only after his death did she learn the extent of his commitment to helping those with the disease.

“As I'm working, my main focus was just, ‘How do I cover this up?’ ” the Jericho native, 43, told host Justin Long on Wednesday’s edition of his podcast, “Life is Short.” Beyond the pressure of being on a hit show, she explained, she had grown up learning to be “a people pleaser and [to] be a good girl and show up on time and not be the problem." Already feeling like a burden because “I had had an eating disorder in the beginning of the show, I had gotten married, got divorced, I was like, ‘Oh, now I'm going to give them another problem …?’ It just felt safer to keep it to myself.”

Three-time Emmy Award winner Gandolfini, who died in 2013 at age 51 of cardiac arrest, “was very protective of me, but not in an overbearing way,” Sigler said. By season 5, “The MS was really starting to affect me. For instance, it affects your bladder and I have to pee. And in the middle of a take I'd be like, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I have to pee.' And they'd be like, 'What … is wrong with her?' And nobody asked me what was wrong … except Jim.”

Gandolfini, she recalled, “pulled me aside one day and he said, ‘Jamie, what is going on?’ And I just fell in a puddle in his arms. And I was just, like, ‘I'm so scared, but I have MS and I don't know how to tell anybody.’ And he's, like, 'Your secret's safe with me.’ ” Moreover, she continued, “I found out after his death that he had donated to MS organizations constantly for me.”

He also encouraged her to deal with her physical limitations by using his own acting coach, Susan Aston. “He said to me, ‘Jamie, this doesn't mean you're not doing a good job. … Everybody you know has coaches. And let her just get you back [to] just focusing on the work and off of your body.' And so Jim and Susan, his coach, were the only ones that knew for a while.”

Sigler, who co-hosts her own podcast, “MeSsy,” with fellow MS-afflicted actor Christina Applegate, went public in 2016 with her diagnosis of the treatable but incurable autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, the symptoms of which can include loss of balance, muscle spasms and tremors, and excessive fatigue.

She has continued to work, most recently as a co-star on seasons 2 and 3 of ABC’s Montana-set 2020-23 crime drama, “Big Sky.” “Call me stubborn but I still have really big dreams that I want to pursue despite having this,” she told Long. “And so I have to be believe that there's a place for me somehow with it,” adding, “Who's to say that I can’t play somebody’s wife who walks the way I walk?”

Sigler and her second husband, Manhasset-born former baseball player Cutter Dykstra, son of former Mets player Lenny Dykstra, have two children: sons Beau, 10, and Jack, 6.

Top Stories


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.