The Truth About Edie Falco And James Gandolfini's Relationship

When it comes to TV's golden-age antiheroes, it's difficult to name anyone (or two) more deserving of that title than James Gandolfini and Edie Falco as Tony and Carmella Soprano. Both are forever inextricably linked through their work in one of the medium's sweeping masterpieces, the HBO mafia drama "The Sopranos." Falco also staked her claim in the realm of antiheroic enigmas through her artful rendering of a drug-addicted medical provider with a savior complex in Showtime's "Nurse Jackie." And while Gandolfini, who died in 2013 from a heart attack at the age of 51, and Falco are arguably forever connected through the legacy of the show they shared, there's also something else that ties them together: their relationship in real life.

Even though Falco and Gandolfini played a dysfunctional couple on-screen, they were never a couple off-screen, at least romantically. But through numerous interviews each gave to the press after "The Sopranos" wrapped in 2007, both Falco and Gandolfini made it clear that they had a deep affinity for each other as both actors and as people. Keep on reading to find out what the relationship between them was like. 

James Gandolfini once said he was 'in love' with Edie Falco

In a 2012 roundtable interview with Vanity Fair, the creators and cast members of the beloved "The Sopranos" gave an oral history of the goings-on behind the scenes during their six-season run. James Gandolfini waxed nostalgic about the bond he shared with his co-star, Edie Falco, who played the dissatisfied, burdened, but ever-loyal Carmela Soprano to Gandolfini's Tony Soprano. Though both never pursued any semblance of romance with each other, it was very clear that both developed a deep understanding of each other — and more importantly, an infrangible bond.

"I'm still in love with Edie," Gandolfini said with Vanity Fair. "And, of course, I love my wife, but I'm in love with Edie [...] I don't know if I'm in love with Carmela or Edie or both. I'm in love with her." 

Falco, too, expressed similar sentiments toward the actor's abilities. Recalling endless table reads with actors that played Tony's many girlfriends, Falco stated that the experience, overall, was oddly emotional. "Occasionally I would get a sharp twinge at the back of my neck, because, especially if I'm tired, the emotional lines would bleed into each other and I'd have to kind of keep my bearings and remember, No, no, no, this is your job, and at home you have your life," Falco disclosed.

Clearly, even though they never dated, they are tremendous actors who rubbed off on each other. 

Edie Falco and James Gandolfini connected over their similar backgrounds

Like many of the "Sopranos" actors, both Edie Falco and James Gandolfini are East Coast natives; Falco is from Brooklyn and Gandolfini hailed from Westwood, New Jersey. They were also born two years apart (Flaco in 1963, and Gandolfini in 1961) to Italian-American parents. Both of them came from relatively large families, as Falco was one of four children, and Gandolfini was one of three, per the NY Daily News.

This parallel between their backgrounds is also what made for the remarkable chemistry between Falco and Gandolfini, according to Falco herself. "We had such a strangely specific, similar way that we work, and a similar background," Falco told the New Yorker in October 2021. "I don't know how to explain this. We were just really regular middle-class, suburban kids that were never supposed to become famous actors."

Falco added that this similarity meant they both had a humble response to the early success of the show. "He was like, 'What the hell is going on?'" she recalled. "I remember, when we got picked up for the second season, he said to me, 'Yeah, well, I just have no idea what the hell we did, but we've got to try to do it again.' And I said, 'I hear you. I don't know. We'll figure something out.'"

Edie Falco called James Gandolfini her 'soul mate'

Edie Falco and James Gandolfini were never romantically linked, but their bond as on-screen spouses and creative partners ran deep. Falco once referred to him as her "soul mate," when describing their process when working together.  "He was totally un-actor-y, and was incredibly self-deprecating, and he was a real soul mate in that regard," she said, per the New Yorker. "We did not spend a lot of time talking about the scripts. It was like when you see two kids playing in the sandbox, completely immersed in their imaginary world. That's what it felt like acting opposite Jim."

In a 2019 interview with Deadline, Falco expanded on her working relationship with Gandolfini. "It was just easy," she explained. "There was not a lot of thinking that went on, there was a lot of feeling." She added that the chemistry the two of them shared was "[not] something you can plan for, or else everybody would have that. I don't think any of us knew that he and I working together would be so satisfying."

Edie Falco couldn't bare to watch The Sopranos after James Gandolfini's death

Unsurprising considering their bond, Edie Falco has been open about how James Gandolfini's unexpected death in 2013 deeply affected her. In fact, she was so heartbroken by it that it has more or less prevented her from watching the show; she has still not watched it in its entirety in the decade since.  

In late 2021, Falco told the Irish Times that she and her castmate, Aida Turturro, who played Gandolfini's on-screen sister Janice, recently tried to watch the series for the first time since it aired, but could not do so, stopping after only four episodes. "This is killing me," Falco says she told Turturro. "It was too fraught, and a big part of that is Jim," she told the outlet. "People die and you move on, then you see them on screen, and it is too shocking." Whether Falco will ever be able to relive her astounding on-screen chemistry with Gandolfini is unknown, but she is definitely right about one thing: Gandolfini's presence will forever live on through "The Sopranos," which has only become more and more established as an undeniable element of American culture in the years since it ended.