James Gandolfini was many things: A dear friend of SpongeBob SquarePants and a lover of Green Day’s Dookie. Above all else, though, he was an incredibly talented actor who captured every aspect of Tony Soprano with aplomb, from scenes of the mobster shuffling around in a bathrobe, eating slices of gabagool in front of the refrigerator to, as Nerdwriter explores in a new video, suffering a panic attack during a therapy session.
The video focuses in on a scene from the show’s fifth season where Gandolfini, opposite Lorraine Bracco’s Dr. Melfi, finally gets to the truth of why his anxiety skyrocketed after his cousin Tony B. left jail. The clip shows how Gandolfini uses subtle physical movements and “musical rhythms” in his dialogue to build up a portrayal of anger, frustration, and panic. The clip also gives credit to the episode’s script and direction, which gives the audience room to sit with Tony’s emotions and understand why his characters is reacting to Melfi’s questions the way he does. Still, it’s hard to imagine any other actor pulling off the performance as well as Gandolfini does, regardless of the rest of the production.
The Nerdwriter calls the scene “one reason why his performance as Tony is probably the greatest acting achievement ever committed to the screen, small or big,” noting that there are many, many others from throughout the series worth singling out. Another (much louder) scene worth rewatching to appreciate Gandolfini’s skill is the fourth season’s finale, which sees the equally talented Edie Falco work with him to portray an explosive, horrible argument between Carmela and Tony.
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