It’s not easy being Tony Soprano, so actor James Gandolfini has some mixed feelings about playing television’s most conflicted mob boss.
“I’m not ready to say goodbye to the character, but I’m not going to miss him,” Gandolfini said Thursday as the hit HBO series “The Sopranos” heads into its fifth season after a 15-month hiatus.
“He’s got a lot of rage, and you have to scrape that up. ... Eight or nine months a year, 14-hours a day, it starts to take its toll after a while,” he said.
Gandolfini spoke about his Emmy-winning role during HBO’s presentation at the winter press tour of the Television Critics Association in Hollywood.
Especially challenging, he said, was production of the previous season’s critically celebrated season finale, in which Tony Soprano and his wife, Carmela, played by Edie Falco, split up in a hail of acrimony.
“Having gone through something similar personally, it was difficult having to dredge those things up,” said Gandolfini, whose real-life marriage ended in divorce in December 2002, as the show’s fourth season drew to a close. “Sometimes it was very hard to do some of those scenes.”
Just this week, Gandolfini, 42, revealed he was newly engaged, to a woman he met on the set of the film “The Mexican.”
“The Sopranos” returns to the premium cable channel, a unit of AOL Time Warner, for 10 more episodes starting on Sunday, March 7, and creator/executive producer David Chase said the series will pick up where it left off.
The show will introduce some new characters as a number of fictional mobsters serving lengthy prison sentences get out of jail and start hitting the streets as the “class of 2004,” Chase said.
One of them is played by actor Steve Buscemi, who is joining the cast as Tony Soprano’s maternal cousin, Tony Blundetto.
Declining to give away too many plot points of upcoming episodes, Chase said the fifth season overall “has to do with the limitations of family relationships and friendships in a materialist world.”
“Tony Soprano is sort of a maturer boss. He’s been doing this for a while now, and he’s learning what it takes to be a leader despite his feelings,” he said.
As for the longer-term future of the show, Chase said he planned to wrap up the series after a sixth season of 10 more episodes, but no production or air date has been set.
Another signature HBO series, the comedy “Sex and the City,” is nearing the end of its Emmy-winning run with the final episode set to air Feb. 22.
“I still think it’s the right thing to do,” star and executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker said of the decision to wrap up the series about the lives and loves of four single women in Manhattan while the show remains hot.
Fellow executive producer, Michael Patrick King, agreed, saying that to keep the show going would require it to “morph into another series, and it wouldn’t be the same.”
In other announcements, HBO said 12 new episodes of its Baltimore-based crime series “The Wire” will begin airing in late summer and that the network has renewed its quirky new drama “Carnivale.” HBO also is moving “Real Time with Bill Maher” from late night to prime time as the show returns for a second season Jan. 16.
A gritty new western drama, “Deadwood,” from “NYPD Blue” co-creator David Milch, is slated to premiere March 21.