What Gandolfini definitely did was make Tony recognizable to viewers who might have had someone like him in their own families or neighborhoods. The voice, the carriage, the sentimentality (“it’s about family”), the sudden, explosive rages—even if their father or uncle or brother wasn’t a murderer, many people nonetheless saw something pretty familiar there. As a New Jersey native of Italian heritage, I suppose I saw something recognizable in Tony too, in the way he chewed up the words “Hacklebarney State Park” (site of numerous grade-school picnics) or fed himself cold-cuts in the light of the open refrigerator; friends from the midwest called after one episode desperate to know the meaning of “gabagool,” and I was able to inform them that it was capicola. It was good to be in the know.
See more at: Gandolfini and Tony
Tony's tête-à-têtes with Melfi were the best part of the show and I tuned in regularly just for that. The clip below illustrates their sessions as well as the range of acting skill that Gandolfini possessed.