The Sopranos has lost another member of its family.
Just over three months after the passing of the HBO series star Paul Herman (who played Beansie Gaeta, a member of the DiMeo crime family), Michael Imperioli, who played Tony Soprano’s protegé Christopher Moltisanti, announced another key player had died. Tony Sirico, who played Paulie Walnuts, the oft-hilarious foot soldier to James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, has died at 79 years old.
“It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great TONY SIRICO has passed away today,” Imperioli announced on Instagram. “Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone i’ve ever known. I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs.
He continued, “We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I am proud to say I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear pal Tony. I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten. Heartbroken today.”
Before starring as scene-stealer Paulie in the crime drama, Sirico had his own history with the law which landed him in prison. While there, he encountered a group of ex-convict actors who inspired him to enter acting. He initially auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior in The Sopranos, a part that was eventually played by Dominic Chianese. Sirico’s Paulie was a key player in six seasons of the Emmy-winning series, lending humor to the drama through his many one-liners and deadpan humor.
Outside of Sopranos, the New York native starred in GoodFellas, Bullets Over Broadway, Chuck. and The Grinder. He also lent his voice to episodes of Family Guy and American Dad!.
In addition to Imperioli, a number of Sopranos cast members, from Lorraine Bracco to Stevie Van Zandt, paid tribute to their late costar.
RIP Tony Sirico. Legendary. Silvio’s best buddy “Paulie Walnuts” in The Sopranos, Frankie “The Fixer’s” older brother Antonino “Father Tony” Tagliano in Lilyhammer. A larger than life character on and off screen. Gonna miss you a lot my friend. Deepest condolences to the family. pic.twitter.com/pAkDnqfLEs
— 🕉Stevie Van Zandt☮️ (@StevieVanZandt) July 8, 2022
We salute you Tony. pic.twitter.com/5K6FODPgSS
— 🕉Stevie Van Zandt☮️ (@StevieVanZandt) July 9, 2022