If there was one thing that's remained popular during the pandemic is podcasts revisiting some of the most popular TV shows over the past few decades. In fact, there are ones dedicated to NBC's The Office and HBO's The Sopranos. One potential bombshell involved Sopranos star, the late James Gandolfini, who played patriarch Tony Soprano, and his possible courtship to the long-running NBC sitcom according to his co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa, the hosts of the "Talking Sopranos" podcast (via The Hollywood Reporter). Imperioli played Christopher Moltisanti and Schirripa played Bobby 'Bacala' Baccalieri on the HBO series.
The duo talk to guest Ricky Gervais, who created the original UK version of the series, which was later adapted for American TV along wish Greg Daniels and star Steve Carell. Upon Carell's exit, Imperioli made the revelation. "You know, they talked about having Gandolfini at one point replace him, did you know that?" he said. Schirripa expanded on the story to Gervais' surprise. "I think before James Spader and after [Steve] Carell, they offered Jim — I want to say $4 million — to play him for the season, and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it. That's a fact."
When Gervais called it a "good decision", Schirripa explained Gandolfini's initial interest was "because he hadn't worked and it was a number of years removed from when the show ended." The Office ran on NBC for nine seasons from 2005-2013 whereas The Sopranos ran for six seasons from 1999-2007. Gandolfini passed in 2013. The comedian inquired "So they paid him that to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure?" with Schirripa pointing the actor's existing deal with HBO. "I guess that and also he had a deal with them. He was doing The Night Of, developing that."
The tease of Gandolfini's involvement was initially revealed by Rolling Stone writer Andy Green, who wrote "The Office (The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History). For more on what was discussed between the actor and the series, you can go to THR. The legacy of The Sopranos continues in the prequel film The Many Saints of Newark, which stars the late actor's son Michael Gandolfini as his younger self, comes to theaters and HBO Max on October 1.