Tony Sirico, an eccentric mobster from ‘The Sopranos’, dies at 79

“If I’m with five other Paulies,” he told The New York Times in 2007, imagining a rather unlikely situation, “and someone yells, ‘Hey, Paulie,’ I know it’s for me.”

After “The Sopranos” ended in 2007, he often worked with his co-stars.

He played Bert, in Steve Schirripa’s Ernie, in a Christmas special “Sesame Street” (2008), and continued to appear with Steven Van Zandt in the series “Lilyhammer” (2013-14), with Michael Rispoli in ” Friends and Romans” (2014) and with Vincent Pastore and others in the film “Sarah Q” (2018).

He also voiced a smart dog named Vinny in several episodes of the “Family Guy” animated series.

He appeared in a crime drama, “Respect the Jux,” this year.

Mr. Sirico married and divorced early. Besides his brother Robert, he is survived by two children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico; one sister, Carol Pannunzio; another brother, Carmine; and several grandchildren.

He brought at least one admirable lesson from the mob world to “The Sopranos”: He insisted that his character never be portrayed as a rat, someone who would expose his crime family. He was also reluctant to have his character kill a woman – Paulie suffocated an older nursing home resident with a pillow when she interrupted his theft of her life savings – but he was pleasantly surprised that people in the old quarter don’t seem to think less. of him after the episode aired.

At first, however, it sometimes escaped him that he had rejected the dark side.

“I was this 30-year-old former villain sitting in a class full of fresh-faced, serious acting students,” Mr. Sirico recalled in the Daily News interview. The professor “leaned over to me after I made a scene and whispered, ‘Tony, leave the gun at home.’ After so many years of packing a gun, I didn’t even realize I had it with me.

Vimal Patel contributed report.

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