James Gandolfini: Jeff Daniels says 'Sopranos' star 'broke rules'

jeff-daniles-james-gandolfini-2009-tony-awards-500-gi.jpg
"Jim was a great friend," Jeff Daniels says of James Gandolfini.

The two actors did close to 500 stage performances together during the 2009-10 Broadway run of the Yasmina Reza drama "God of Carnage." Following the "Sopranos" star's death, Daniels -- who begins Season 2 of HBO's Aaron Sorkin-produced series "The Newsroom" Sunday, July 14 -- is reflecting fondly on his former co-star.

"I think I'll come out of 'The Newsroom' with a lot of friends, and that's unusual," Daniels tells Zap2it. "We're gypsies and we're nomadic. You see somebody again 10 years later, and you really haven't kept in touch with them ... but that wasn't the case with Jim. Or with Hope [Davis] or with Marcia [Gay Harden, the other two 'Carnage' stars, both of whom appear on 'The Newsroom' this season].

"We went through something together, four people from four completely different places doing one thing. I think he was very, very proud of that. And I know I was proud of him." Harden earned a Tony Award for the play; the other three actors also scored nominations.

Daniels also is grateful to Gandolfini for what the latter's stardom on "The Sopranos" has meant for other actors, Daniels himself included. "He broke rules. [MSNBC host and political analyst] Larry O'Donnell said to me, 'I think "The West Wing" redefined television drama,' and I think 'The Sopranos' did a similar thing. And Jim certainly did that for leading roles on television.

"You didn't have to be likable. You hear that in Hollywood a lot: 'Where is the speech where I redeem myself two-thirds of the way through?' You didn't hear that with Jim, and you certainly didn't see it with Tony Soprano."

As "God of Carnage" performances began, Daniels recalls, "The curtain would go up, and the crowd would cheer. And it wasn't just 'entrance applause' ... they cheered. And we hadn't done anything yet. They liked me, they liked Marcia, they liked Hope. They loved Jim.

'I remember him saying, 'I wish they wouldn't do that. It gets in the way.' And I said, 'Jim? They're thanking you. You gave them six years of a character they love, and what they're doing is saying, "Thank you. Now go ahead and do this other thing. We're with you."'

"He made a lot of things happen for a lot of people," Daniels concludes, "and I'll miss him terribly."

Gandolfini died Wednesday (June 19) after suffering cardiac arrest while on a family trip to Italy.
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images
SHARE IT ON: