Dark secrets the cast of The Sopranos tried to hide

Between millions of accolades, nonstop critical acclaim, and the various wannabe shows that came after, it's hard to overstate the tremendous impact that HBO's The Sopranos had on both popular culture and television history. Simply put, the show was massive and catapulted its stars to crazy heights of fame. 

During its eight years on the air, various members of the ensemble cast struggled to keep aspects of their private lives out of the spotlight. Check out the secrets that some of these actors and actresses tried to keep under wraps during and after the show's six-season run. Warning: major spoilers ahead.

Nancy Marchand was sick during filming

Watching legendary actress Nancy Marchand as mob boss Tony Soprano's domineering, up-to-no-good mother Livia Soprano, it's difficult to imagine such a formidable presence being anything but full of strength. However, during the filming of the show's first two seasons, Marchard was keeping a difficult secret. She'd been battling cancer for years.

Marchand died June 18, 2000, a day before her 72nd birthday. Since the show was entering its third season, critics speculated as to how the writers would handle the loss, particularly in lieu of lingering plot lines involving Livia. Ultimately, the writers and creators cobbled together footage of Marchand and worked in a CGI-Livia in the third season's premiere (to debatable success). The character of Livia died soon thereafter too.

Drea de Matteo hated her accent

Drea de Matteo took home a 2004 Emmy for best supporting actress in a drama for her role as hostess-turned-mob girlfriend-turned FBI informant Adriana La Cerva. Critics and fans were wowed by her convincing portrayal of the ultimate Jersey girl, but Christopher Moltisanti's hopelessly devoted better half reportedly couldn't stand her accent in the show.

In a 2012 cast tell-all with Vanity Fair (if you're a mega-fan, it's seriously worth a read), de Matteo revealed: "I hated saying 'Christopher' with my accent. I would beg [show creator] David [Chase] to let me say "Chrissy" because I felt like my accent sounded really, really fake." Luckily for de Matteo, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and millions of die-hard fans were clearly convinced.

...and she had a crush on James Gandolfini

In October 2014, Drea de Matteo said what we were all thinking anyway: charismatic co-star James Gandolfini has some serious sex appeal. 

During an "Ask Me Anything" session with Reddit, the actress revealed that "at this stage of the game, Deborah Lin Gandolfini won't be mad at me for saying this — I would have to say that he might have been the sexiest actor that i've [sic] ever had a chance to work with in a love scene capacity. Because he intimidated the S**T out of me with those eyes. He would walk into a room, and every single girl in the room FELT his presence that only us girls know."

Drea, we're right there with you.

Lorraine Bracco battled depression

Veteran mob-movie actress Lorraine Bracco (remember Goodfellas?) played the even-keeled psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi for the entirety of The Sopranos' run. In the role, she was tasked with sorting out Tony Soprano's various emotional demons, but during the early days of filming, Bracco was dealing with her own demons.

Years later, Bracco spoke about her own depression with WebMD. "A tough divorce, another major breakup, a major custody battle, and a very sick child — that definitely contributed to it… But it was only after my life started getting back into order, when my life was on an upswing, that I took a downswing." 

The actress revealed that struggling with her own mental well-being actually helped her get into character as Dr. Melfi. "Having firsthand experience as a patient helped me create a good character… I took the yin and yang of my male and female doctors and rolled them into one for Dr. Melfi. I did a lot of work to create Dr. Melfi." It certainly paid off: Bracco earned three Golden Globe and four Emmy Award nominations for her role.

James Gandolfini struggled with his own demons

After James Gandolfini's untimely death in 2013, a number of sources came forward to discuss how playing the demanding role of Tony Soprano took a toll on the actor while the show was in production. 

According to an excerpt from Brett Martin's book, Difficult Men (via GQ): "In papers related to a divorce filing at the end of 2002, Gandolfini's wife described increasingly serious issues with drugs and alcohol, as well as arguments during which the actor would repeatedly punch himself in the face out of frustration." Martin's book also describes a moment in the winter of 2002, when Gandolfini just didn't show up to work on The Sopranos for three days. The show's creators became increasingly worried about their MIA star's well-being. Gandolfini reportedly turned up at a Brooklyn beauty salon on the fourth day and called for a car to take him home.

Tony Sirico was arrested...a lot

Paul "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri is one of The Sopranos' most memorable characters, and actor Tony Sirico certainly had ample life experience to pull from to convincingly play the role of a hardened criminal. Before becoming an actor, Sirico was arrested not once, not twice … but 28 times. According to the Los Angeles Times, he did two stints in jail for weapons and armed robbery charges; other arrests were for disorderly conduct and more minor offenses.

Sirico's history may not be common knowledge, but he has talked about his past — and he seems sort of proud of it. "I got 28 arrests and only two convictions, so you gotta admit I have a pretty good acting record," he told Paste magazine.

Jamie Lynn Sigler had serious health problems

Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Tony Soprano's precocious daughter, Meadow Soprano, harbored some dangerous health secrets during filming. She was battling an eating disorder, in the form of exercise bulimia. According to CNN, the disease worsened between shooting the pilot and HBO picking up the show. Despite seeking treatment, when "she returned to The Sopranos set to shoot the first season in the summer of 1998, she was still 35 pounds thinner than when she shot the pilot."

Sigler has since openly discussed overcoming her private struggles, telling HuffPost Live that the show's staff was instrumental in her recovery. "They were concerned, I think, for my health, but [also], they just didn't feel I was the picture of a girl that lived in an Italian household that ate pasta all the time, so they were big catalysts in me taking a step back and realizing the issue."

In January 2016, a 34-year-old Sigler told People that she had also been battling multiple sclerosis, or M.S., since the age of 20 but had hid her symptoms while filming the show. "Sometimes all I needed was like five or 10 minutes to sit and recharge but I wouldn't ask, because I didn't want them to be suspicious," she said. 

Edie Falco was involved in an affair

Edie Falco was unforgettable in the role of Tony's wife, Carmela Soprano, and the emotional intricacies of the couple's on-off relationship made for some of television's most riveting moments. Behind the scenes, the actress was also contending with her fair share of romantic drama.

In the early 2000s, rumors spread that Falco was carrying on an affair with married actor Stanley Tucci, who had been her co-star in the 2002 play "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune." A source told the New York Daily News that Falco and Tucci "were always together" when they were an item. "She's the best, and he's a nice guy."

But Falco offered minimal commentary on the subject. In 2004, she told The New York Times, simply, "We were together and then we broke up… Because there's no way for that to be a good thing. He's a lovely man, and he's back with his wife and kids, and I'm thrilled."

Louis Gross was a real-life criminal

Louis Gross played Tony's bodyguard, Perry Annunziata, during The Sopranos' sixth season. Like his on-screen boss, the actor wound up running into a pretty substantial set of legal troubles. Gross was reportedly arrested in April 2006 after breaking into a woman's Queens apartment, claiming that some of his belongings were there. He avoided jail time, despite also getting arrested in February 2006 for leaving a New York clothing store without paying for items.

But Gross didn't stay out of trouble. According to the New York Daily News, he was arrested yet again in 2014 and convicted of "criminal possession of a forged instrument" after trying to use fake $100 bills at a restaurant. He managed to avoid time behind bars yet again and was sentenced to five years probation instead.

Robert Iler was in some trouble, too

Actor Robert Iler, who played Anthony Soprano Jr., also ran into the trouble with the law when he "and his friends took $40 by force from two 16-year-olds on a York Avenue street corner" in July 2001, reported The New York Times. At the time of his arrest, police said "he had a bag of marijuana in his pocket, and a small bong, or water pipe. All four teenagers were charged with robbery." 

HBO's response at the time? "No comment." Clearly the show's creators didn't want to make a big thing of AJ's real-life exploits. Iler pleaded guilty to a larceny misdemeanor charge in April 2002 and received three years probation.

Tony Borghese was involved with the mafia

Tony Borghese (stage name Tony Darrow) proved he had mafia chops as a cast member of the perennial classic Goodfellas. He put that experience to good use playing Lorenzo "Larry Boy" Barese, a crime family captain, in The Sopranos, but movie fans may not realize that the actor has personal connections in the criminal world. Growing up in East Brooklyn, Borghese mingled with noted crime world personalities. "I knew John Gotti — I knew all those guys from the neighborhood," he told the New York Post

Borghese was arrested in 2009 for trying to extort a man in 2004; a reputed Gambino soldier was also arrested for involvement in the same crime. In 2011, Borghese admitted to the New York Post that he had arranged for "mobsters to beat up a deadbeat… using mob enforcers to teach the debtor a lesson he wouldn't forget — the pounding the victim took in upstate Monticello left him with a broken jaw." That incident earned Borghese six months of house arrest and two years probation. According to the Post, the judge in the case showed leniency because Borghese had appeared in a "public-service announcement warning against the mob life" after his initial arrest (and no, we're not talking about The Sopranos).