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LISTEN: Steve Schirripa Praises The Brilliance, Generosity Of James Gandolfini

'I've Been Numb The Last Few Days. He Was Like A Brother To Me'
James Gandolfini and Steve Schirripa (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Exploring the Arts)

James Gandolfini and Steve Schirripa (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Exploring the Arts)

NEW YORK (WFAN) – The news of James Gandolfini’s passing on Wednesday sent shockwaves through Hollywood and a community of millions of fans who loved and respected the actor’s work.

As expected, Gandolfini’s castmates from HBO’s “The Sopranos” were shaken up by the unexpected loss of the wonderfully-gifted leading man.

One of those castmates, Steve Schirripa, joined WFAN host Mike Francesa in studio on Friday to discuss the life of Gandolfini and expound upon the man that he was, both on the screen and off.

It was a powerful and moving interview, to say the least.

“My legs came out from under me,” Schirripa said upon first hearing about the news of Gandolfini’s passing. “I was completely stunned because Jim is the kind of guy who is invincible. He’s like that kind of guy … Nothing could happen to this guy. I called (my business manager) back and said, ‘Are you sure?’ … I called Michael Imperioli, and before you knew it all the guys kind of knew and everybody was shocked.”

Schirripa played the character of Bobby Baccalieri — better known as “Bobby Bacala” — on “The Sopranos” from Season 2 up until the 20th episode of Season 6 when his character was killed off the program.

Schirripa stressed the fact that although Gandolfini was a brilliant actor, the New Jersey native was also a sensational human being.

“He was a really good guy,” Schirripa told Francesa. “A really good guy. As good of an actor as he was, he was a better guy. A generous guy. The guy gave us $33,000 each — 16 people. There’s a lot of people who made a lot more money than him. In Season 4 he called every one of the cast members and gave us a check. He said, ‘Thanks for sticking by me.’ It’s like buying 16 people a car.”

When “The Sopranos” ended production, the notoriously press-shy star appeared in a string of movies — including “Zero Dark Thirty,” where he played the director of the CIA.

He also won rave reviews in the hit Broadway play “God of Carnage.”

Gandolfini had most recently lived in Greenwich Village, where he made headlines in 2010 for helping dig out a driver whose car got stuck on an unplowed Bedford Street during the infamous December blizzard that year, according to published reports.

“I’ve been numb the last few days,” Schirripa said.  “He was like a brother to me.”

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