'Sopranos' Actress Reflects On Why James Gandolfini's Funeral Was Particularly 'Surreal'

"How many times had we done funeral scenes, as a cast?"

“The Sopranos” dealt with a lot of death throughout its six seasons on HBO. So when the show’s lead, James Gandolfini, was found dead from a sudden heart attack in his Rome hotel room in 2013, his co-star and TV daughter Jamie-Lynn Sigler felt a cruel irony in the immense loss.

For Sigler, losing Gandolfini wasn’t just about coping with the death of a colleague. As she tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, the 51-year old had become like family ― not just to her, but to everyone on “The Sopranos.”

“Our cast was very much like a family,” she says. “James Gandolfini was one of the most humble human beings I’ve ever met, but also just one of the most powerful presences I’ve ever been around. He didn’t even realize, I think, the strength and light that he brought into every room that he walked into.”

Hearing the news of Gandolfini’s death is a moment Sigler remembers with heartrending clarity. 

“I was here, in this room, and I got a phone call from Vince Curatola, who played Johnny Sack. He said, ‘All of us were confused about who should call you because we know you’re pregnant, but... Jim’s gone,’” Sigler recalls. “I didn’t have words. I still don’t. It was just such a shock, you know? We had all just seen him three months before. Not much was said. It was just a lot of crying.”

For Gandolfini’s funeral, HBO chartered a private plane to fly the Los Angeles cast members out to New York. Attending the funeral, Sigler says, added another layer to the pain.

“It was surreal, because how many times had we done funeral scenes, as a cast?” she says.

With Gandolfini gone, Sigler says that she and the rest of the cast were left without the man who seemed to bind everyone together.

“He was sort of our leader. He was the sun and we were the planets all around him,” she says. “The whole ‘Sopranos’ life really came to an end at that moment.” 

Sigler’s full interview airs this Saturday, Nov. 5, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. You can also watch episodes on demand via the Watch OWN app.

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