Peter Riegert would not play assemblyman Zellman’s heaviest scene whereas David Chase wrote it
When Peter Riegert arrived on the set of The Sopranos, he was approaching a really profitable present in his third season. Riegert knew this nicely. Earlier than touchdown the function of assemblyman Ronald Zellman, Riegert had auditioned for the function of Eliot Kupferberg, psychiatrist to Dr Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).
Whereas that function finally falls to Peter Bogdanovich, Sopranos creator David Chase stored veteran actor Riegert (Native hero, Circulation) in thoughts. And when Chase wanted somebody to play corrupt New Jersey Zellman polo, he known as Riegert.
The second time round, the forged was an ideal match, as audiences noticed for 3 episodes of Season 3 (2001). However issues took a flip on the finish of Zellman’s character arc in Season 4. The final one we noticed of him, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) savagely beat Zellman with a belt.
It may have been worse. As Riegert recalled, Chase’s authentic script had an much more humiliating ending for the assembled. Riegert refused to comply with him as Chase wrote.
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On the Speaking concerning the sopranos podcast, Riegert appeared again on his remaining scenes, which got here in “Watching Too A lot Tv” (Season 4 Episode 7, 2002). As Chase initially conceived it, Tony (Gandolfini) would mortify Zelleman (Riegert) by undressing him.
Within the episode, Tony turns into enraged that Zellman has began seeing his former goomar Irina. Late at evening, Tony visits Zellman and Irina. At that time, Tony needed to rip Zellman’s underwear. Instantly, studying the episode, Riegert knew this was an issue.
“Personally, I might have favored a heads-up,” mentioned Riegert. “This one actually caught me off guard.” Gandolfini observed that Riegert was lingering after the studying and requested him what he thought; Riegert mentioned he was not pleased with it.
So Gandolfini introduced Chase over to speak about it. Riegert did not see the creator / showrunner look into the script. “That is how I wrote it,” he recollects Chase telling him. And the dialog resulted in a useless finish. However Gandolfini informed Riegert he would help the actor it doesn’t matter what he determined to do.
Riegert discovered a workaround within the belt Tony Soprano makes use of on Zellman
The underside line was that Riegert did not see the necessity to humiliate the actor with a purpose to humiliate his character Zellman. That is how he put it to Chase. “I mentioned, ‘David, I promise the viewers will likely be horrified by what they see. However you do not have to humiliate me to get this by way of. ”
Whereas Riegert risked getting fired for difficult the showrunner, he had Sopranos the star Gandolfini by his aspect. It meant all the things. “No matter you resolve to do, I’ll help you,” he remembers, telling Gandolfini. And so Riegert walked into that remaining scene figuring out that Gandolfini would respect his needs.
Earlier than the cameras rolled, Riegert discovered a Styrofoam belt within the props division that he thought he may use for the stage. After asking the prop grasp to hit him with it, he realized that Tony hitting Zellman with it is perhaps an alternate humiliation. And that is what Gandolfini did (convincingly). The whole lot labored ultimately.