James Gandolfini has been dead for eight years, but his Sopranos co-stars are still pretty eager to share surprising stories about things he did (or didn’t do, in this case) to get very, very, very easy money. Back in April, Edie Falco revealed that she and Gandolfini both reprised their Sopranos characters for a video in 2010 that was sent to LeBron James to convince him to play for The Knicks (a video we would still very much like to see, if anyone’s sitting on it), and this week, Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa claimed that HBO once gave Gandolfini $3 million to turn down an offer to replace Steve Carell on The Office.
The two shared this news on an episode of their Talking Sopranos podcast (via Deadline), because everybody who was ever on a TV show now has a podcast about being on a TV show, and they told original The Office co-creator Ricky Gervais that NBC had offered Gandolfini a chance to appear on the U.S. version of the show for $4 million. Schirripa says Gandolfini was going to do it, “because he hadn’t worked and it was a number of years removed from when [The Sopranos] ended,” but because HBO apparently wanted to retain the specialness of the Sopranos legacy, it paid him not to.
Timeline-wise, this presumably would’ve taken the place of the unfairly maligned Robert California season of The Office, where James Spader came in as a cartoonishly alpha rich guy who takes over Dunder Mifflin and runs things with a decidedly un-Carell-like energy that was actually smart even though people generally seem to think it was dumb. (Anyone in the office who replaced Michael Scott would’ve become the de facto main character of the show, which wouldn’t have worked because it’s supposed to be an ensemble, but Spader’s character is so obviously different from Michael Scott and so actively disruptive to the way things normally work that the show had no choice but to steer into the skid and recognize that it had to change.)
Back on topic, there was already an episode of The Office where Michael Scott thought he was being shaken down by a mobster, when it was really just an Italian guy trying to sell him insurance, so replacing him with an Italian guy who famously played a mobster would’ve been a little redundant. (That’s also why things didn’t really work with Ed Helms’ Andy Bernard as the boss, because the show tried to give him a Jim/Pam-style romance that absolutely didn’t work and it tried to insist that he was the new Michael Scott-style main character at the expense of the larger ensemble, so it was attempting to do multiple things it had already done, but worse, rather than trying out new things like it did with Robert California.) Thank you for attending this TED Talk on why the later seasons of The Office are Actually Good.