Whatever Happened To The Actor Who Played A.J. On The Sopranos?

It's hard to compare HBO's "The Sopranos" to any other mafia-related series. The crime drama kept fans on their toes throughout its six seasons, which aired from 1999-2007. It was ranked as the best television show of all time by Rolling Stone, but that's all thanks to an incredible cast of characters. 

Though much of the cast is forever linked to their "The Sopranos" roles, including the late James Gandolfini, who played mafia boss Tony Soprano, several of them have gone on to do incredible things in Hollywood. There's Edie Falco, who starred as Tony's wife, Carmela, who has continued to have an impressive career, including starring in the tv series "Nurse Jackie." Actor Michael Imperioli, who starred as Christopher Moltisanti, worked in several movies and the hit show "The White Lotus." Other stars like Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Drea de Matteo have also nabbed roles in television and film.

However, fans rarely hear about actor Robert Iler. Starring as spoiled A.J. Soprano, the son of Tony and Carmela Soprano, we haven't heard much about the actor since the show ended and left us in the dark (quite literally). Iler nailed his role of A.J., and fans would assume that he would find himself immersed in other exceptional roles as an adult. To much surprise, this star left Hollywood behind. Read on to see what happened to Robert Iler after his time on "The Sopranos."

Robert Iler took on one final role before leaving acting behind

Robert Iler was only 12 years old when he starred as A.J. Soprano in "The Sopranos." The actor worked on the series until its sixth and final season in 2007 when he was 22, though he did find work elsewhere during his stint portraying the son of mafia boss Tony Soprano. In the early 2000s, Iler acted in the films "Tadpole" and "Daredevil" and was on episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "The Dead Zone."

Iler took up one more acting gig before leaving Hollywood behind for good. During an interview with his "The Sopranos" castmates Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa on their 'Talking Sopranos" podcast, Iler stated that he starred in a 2009 "Law & Order" episode titled "Lucky Stiff." However, it wasn't because he necessarily wanted to return to acting. "I got a call to do jury duty, and I didn't want to go to jury duty, so I called my manager, and he was like, 'Well, I can get you a job, and it'll get you out of doing jury duty.' Twice, to get out of jury duty, I did an episode of 'Law & Order,'" Iler shared.

Iler also admitted that after telling his manager that he wanted a few months off after "The Sopranos," it eventually led to years without a job. Iler was quite alright with that, though, and has taken up a totally different profession. 

He became a professional poker player

Robert Iler didn't find more work in Hollywood like his "Sopranos" co-stars. Instead, the actor became immersed in the world of poker — something he's enjoyed playing since he was young after his grandmother taught him. He told Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa on their "Talking Sopranos" podcast, "There's something about it. It's, like, the only thing I was really good at in school was math, so [I like] the math side of it ... and it's like figuring out what people are thinking, I love it."

In the same interview, Iler shared that he had participated in underground poker rooms in New York City and had moved to Las Vegas after the series, where he continued playing poker. The former actor participated in live and online poker games and has participated in several World Series of Poker events. "You go play poker, and there are no rules. You can come whenever you want, sit wherever you want, play whatever game you want, and leave whenever you want. Since I'd been acting since I was 6 years old, I think that's what was so attractive to me about poker," Iler told US Poker

However, in 2020, Iler told his co-stars on their podcast that despite still playing poker, he no longer makes a living out of it, adding, "I definitely don't love it as much as I used to."

He overcame addictions to drugs and alcohol

Robert Iler had found a way to pay the rent by playing in poker tournaments, but it also went hand in hand with drug and alcohol addictions. Living a life of gambling, partying, and drugs in his twenties, Iler told US Poker, "I remember thinking that I had to get out of there because I started losing what reality is. I'd be in a strip club like on Wednesday afternoon at 1 pm, just the dumbest stuff. Then my friends came to visit me and were like, 'Yeah, you need to get out of here.'"

Iler shared on the "Talking Sopranos" podcast that he would regularly use his poker winnings to go out and party and blow his earnings on other casino games and alcohol. Fortunately, Iler found a way to escape that lifestyle and got sober in 2013. He continued, "I haven't been drunk in over seven years ... and hardcore drugs is also seven years. But I was taking Xanax every day, so it took me a long time to get off of Xanax, and I had to go see a specialist, so that's probably been five years."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Was Iler bringing work home with him?

"The Sopranos" was riddled with crime, gangsters, and violence, but did that "lifestyle" find its way to Robert Iler in real life? Unfortunately, Iler found himself in trouble with the law while working on the show. 

As reported by ABC News, in 2001, when Iler was 16 he was charged with robbery and possession of marijuana in New York City. Reportedly, Iler and three others demanded money from two teenagers in a park in Manhattan. The suspects took only 40 dollars from the two teens, with Iler also getting charged with having a small amount of marijuana on him. The New York Times reported that Iler pleaded guilty and avoided jail time. He was given three years probation. 

After the incident, Iler gave a statement that read: "I feel terribly embarrassed. I never, ever would or did rob anybody in my life. I know the events of the past two days have been extremely difficult for my family and friends, and for that, I am deeply sorry." 

He hasn't watched most episodes of The Sopranos

It's not uncommon for actors to not like to watch their own performances. Stars like Reese Witherspoon, Johnny Depp, and Andrew Garfield are just some of the many actors who enjoy their job but would rather not be around to watch the final result. Robert Iler is also one of these stars, and he has stated that it can be uncomfortable to see himself act.

Speaking on the "Talking Sopranos" podcast, Iler stated that he's only watched the first and sometimes the second episodes of every season of "The Sopranos." He shared, "I've probably not seen like 80% of the episodes." However, besides not liking to see himself on screen, Iler found it even more challenging to watch the late James Gandolfini, who starred as his father for six seasons; in 2013, Gandolfini died of a heart attack in Rome, Italy, when he was only 51. 

"To watch 80 hours of videos about Jim, to me, it would feel like torture," the former actor said. Developing a genuine father-and-son connection with Gandolfini made watching the show emotionally hard for Iler.

Don't mess with Iler

While Robert Iler considered James Gandolfini a father figure, he remembered his co-star Tony Sirico as his protector on the set of "The Sopranos."

Having starred in the series at such a young age, Iler recalled on the "Pod Yourself A Gun" podcast that he was never bullied or treated wrongly by anyone in Hollywood thanks to Sirico, who, unlike his co-stars, had a real-life mobster past. "Once we did the second or third episode, Tony Sirico just came over to me and said, 'Hey, uh, if anyone ever bothers you, or anyone says anything, you tell Uncle Tony, okay?' And that's how I felt in f****** school,'" Iler said. He continued, "Like I was 13 years old, and I was like, 'Oh, this kid thinks he's gonna mouth off to me? I'll have Tony Sirico come down. No matter how old you are, you see somebody that has black hair here and silver hair on the sides — and just the way he always had a handkerchief in his pocket — you go like this dude will f*** you up."

Sirico, who starred as Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri on the show, was diagnosed with dementia and died in July 2022 at 79.

Is that A.J. on Tinder?

Rarely do you hear about celebrities using dating apps. For one thing, who would believe it's actually the real-life celeb looking for love on Bumble or Tinder? To much surprise, Robert Iler had no shame in his game when it came to finding love wherever he could. 

Speaking to Alison Rosen on her "Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend" podcast in 2011, Iler confirmed that he was in a relationship after meeting his significant other on the dating app. Stating that he was hesitant at first to use an app after being single for a few years to focus on himself, he shared, "I met somebody, and it's been good." 

In fact, he revealed that many of the users did not believe it was Iler — aka A.J. Soprano — looking for love! "I've also had people write on there, 'You're such a loser! You're using A.J. from 'The Sopranos' pictures.' Like, people who will think it's not me. Girls have gotten really angry,'" Iler said.

Iler and his on-screen sister created a podcast

Jamie Lynn-Sigler starred as Meadow Soprano, the older sister of Robert Iler's character on the HBO series. Having worked together for six seasons, these two stars formed a real-life sibling relationship. In a joint interview with the Associated Press in 2007, they gushed about keeping a strong bond after the show's run. "I truly love him and we've always looked out for each other," Sigler said. "It's so boring that we like each other so much," Iler added.

So it was no surprise when Sigler and Iler created a podcast together. Speaking to Page Six, Iler shared that the two had the idea after they reunited with their costars from "The Sopranos" for the show's 20th anniversary in 2019. "Seeing all those people, all we would do is laugh. It was me and Jamie sitting around the hotel for the anniversary in pajamas. We've been best friends for 20 years," he shared.

Along with their friend and YouTuber Kassen G., the "Pajama Pants" podcast was born. Launched in September 2019, the three stars dished about their lives and anything else under the sun. However, their final podcast episode was in December 2022. Even though "Pajama Podcast" is no more, fans can watch Iler and Sigler discuss their lives on another podcast, called "Not Today, Pal," on YouTube

He isn't opposed to acting again

Several people might give Robert Iler a lot of flack for quitting acting, but the star has his reasons. On the "Talking Sopranos" podcast, he went in-depth about his decision to stay away from the spotlight, having told his co-stars that finding work that he would enjoy and a role that would leave a lasting impression isn't as easy as people would assume. He also stated that any other job he would potentially find would never be as great as his time on "The Sopranos." "For me, I was extremely spoiled with my first thing ... There is a part of me that's like, if you do something else, you're going to mess it up," Iler confessed. 

However, there was some glimmer of hope when Iler revealed that he could see himself working in Hollywood again, especially in a darker role. "There are times when I think, no, never. And then there's times where, like, last week when I'm in quarantine, where I was watching 'Ozark.' It blew me away ... There's times where I'm sitting at home watching that, and I'm like, I could see doing something like this, and I would really enjoy it," Iler said.

Seeing Iler on a show like "Ozark" would be epic.

He reunited with his The Sopranos co-stars in 2019

In 2019, the cast of "The Sopranos" reunited to celebrate the show's 20th anniversary. Edie Falco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, Lorraine Bracco, Steven Van Zandt, and Robert Iler were all in attendance. The group discussed their time on the show, the late great James Gandolfini's iconic performance as Tony Soprano, and the lasting impact the series made on viewers across the globe. 

For Iler, it was also one of the fondest times in his life. "'Sopranos' might be the only relationship in my whole life where I look back and I can't find a bad memory. I just smile. Everything I think about makes me laugh, and I don't know if it's selective ... it's just all smiles and happy," he shared in the reunion interview with Today

Despite Iler having a love/hate relationship with Hollywood, we hope to see the star give acting one more try.