In the already infamous conclusion of “The Sopranos,” the camera ominously panned to a number of background actors populating the diner where the family sat down for its last televised meal.
Seldom have nameless extras been so integral to such a historic moment in television. Depending on your perspective, they could be viewed as either red herrings meant to distract bloodthirsty fans waiting for an explosive finale — or as Tony’s potential killers who struck at the instant the screen abruptly went black.
Paolo Colandrea, a 47-year-old owner of a pizza joint in Penndel, Penn., played the mysterious man wearing a Member’s Only jacket sitting at the bar. He was shown going to the bathroom — a way station of assassination to fans of “The Godfather.”
When a relative of Colandrea’s picked up the phone at his pizza shop, he exclaimed: “You’re trying to get in touch with him? Everyone’s trying to get in touch with him!”
But if Colandrea’s character was there to kill Tony Soprano, the actor who played him isn’t saying.
“I do have an idea, but I cannot really talk,” Colandrea said Monday. “I have papers signed that I can’t make any comments on that.”
Colandrea, who was born in Naples, auditioned for the role after a casting agent stopped for a bite at his shop. He claims to know definitely his character’s intent and what happens following the episode’s conclusion, but won’t divulge it. (A bit of trivia: Colandrea’s character wears a Member’s Only jacket; the first episode of the final season was titled “Member’s Only.”)
Most have read the ending as deliberately ambiguous, leaving a myriad of reasonable conclusions for the audience to decipher. Colandrea’s perspective, though, would have it that there’s an answer to the puzzle worth hiding.
Colandrea mentions the possibility of a “Sopranos” movie, which was discussed and eventually dismissed by Chase and the show’s producers years ago. Chase has said he’s almost certainly not going to make a “Sopranos” film. (Chase is currently in France and unavailable for comment.)
Others imagine the blackout signifies Tony’s death, coming in a flash. As Tony told Bobby Bacala while fishing earlier in the season: “You never see it coming.” In this scenario, Tony perishes having seemingly reached a level of peace; he chooses Journey’s optimistic “Don’t Stop Believin”’ on the juke box, not Frank Sinatra’s backward-looking “My Way.”
The final scene was shot at Holsten’s Old-Fashion Ice Cream Parlour in Bloomfield, N.J. Jimmy Spadola, a local of Bloomfield, also played an extra in the final scene.
He watched the episode with friends and family on a newly installed flat screen TV, which threw doubt into the abrupt black screen that finished the finale.
“Everybody screamed! Everybody screamed: “Jimmy your cable! What did you do? What did you do?” says Spadola. “You know something, I think that’s exactly what David Chase wanted.”