Edie Falco and Aida Turturro Have a Sopranos Reunion
It’s been more than 15 years since we last saw the Soprano family on our television screens, but Edie Falco has kept busy. After playing the perennially bejeweled and strong-willed mob matriarch Carmela Soprano for seven seasons, and winning three Emmy awards along the way, Falco went on to star in Nurse Jackie and American Crime Story, in which she appeared as Hillary Clinton. Now, the reigning queen of television gets to show off her comedic chops in Bupkis, the loosely autobiographical sitcom by and about Pete Davidson, who plays Falco’s son. The name of the series, which premieres on Peacock today, got Falco’s former Sopranos co-star Aida Turturro wondering if Davidson was Jewish. “Bupkis is such a Yiddish thing to me,” Turturro told her TV sister-in-law when the two caught up a week before the show’s release. “Is there Jewish in Pete’s family?” While Falco and Turturro had quite a few scuffles as Carmela and Janice, their real-life friendship is wholesome and long-lasting, consisting of family trips to Sardinia and free tailoring (Falco, a prolific freelance seamstress, sometimes patches up Turturro’s old cashmere sweaters). For Interview, the pair got together to reminisce on the late James Gandolfini, Sunday dinners in the Soprano household, and their favorite vacation in the Mediterranean islands.
AIDA TURTURRO: You ready, Edie?
EDIE FALCO: As ready as I’m ever gonna be.
TUTURRO: You look great. Look at you, going all day. I’m having an anxiety attack just interviewing you.
FALCO: Oh my god.
TURTURRO: First question. Would you rather be interviewed or be the person who is giving the interview?
FALCO: I would rather be in your position, interviewing someone else.
TURTURRO: Very good. Me? No. This is my first time, and I think it’s a little harder.
FALCO: Let’s just say I owe you.
TURTURRO: Oh, no, no, no. This is going to be a little hard for me because you know I have a big mouth, right? And I’m gonna try to get you to talk and me not to talk. I’m gonna start with a simple question. I know you’ve traveled here and there, but I was thinking about you and me a lot and I thought, where was your favorite vacation?
FALCO: You know where my favorite vacation was. My favorite vacation was in Sardinia, off the coast of Italy. Because you and our other friend, Rosella, were always like, “Oh, Sardinia, someday let’s go.” So I was like, “Let’s go to Sardinia.” So we did.
TURTURRO: We did, and you took us.
FALCO: You gotta just make it happen. So it was a lot of beaches, a lot of food, a lot of cheese. And my kids had no idea that that’s not normal for a kid their age, to spend a summer in Sardinia.
TURTURRO: But it was beautiful. I loved hanging out in Sardinia and there was nothing better than going swimming with them. They were adorable. Alright, now I think I have to delve in. When I first heard about your new show Bupkis, I was like, “What do you mean, bupkis?” I didn’t know there were any Jewish people around. I mean, I grew up on the Lower East Side. So I was like, “Isn’t that a Jewish term?” Is there Jewish in Pete’s family?
FALCO: I actually just read yesterday that his real life grandfather is half-Jewish. I think that’s what it is. I could be wrong. I have no idea.
TURTURRO: “Bupkis” is such a Yiddish thing to me. And you’re a New Yorker. I grew up in the city. And I actually didn’t learn how to drive until way later in life. And I know that at this moment, your son is in the middle of getting his driver’s license, right? You’re a mom, and you’re portraying a mom [in Bupkis]. What kind of advice would you give to parents, as Edie and possibly as Carmela or Amy?
FALCO: Well, one of the things I noticed when doing Bupkis and playing Amy is that as written, she seemed really easygoing. Pete lives kind of a raucous lifestyle. He’s of a certain age where it’s almost impossible to get car insurance for kids his age, because it’s just a volatile age for men. As written, she was always like, “Oh, yeah, he’s doing this.” And I see the way I deal with Anderson, my son, and you know more than anybody how much I stress. And I learned from portraying Amy that maybe there is an easier way to go about it, not take it all so seriously. I mean, she has a son who’s one of the most famous people in the world right now, who has all kinds of social media chaos. Everyone knows every detail about his life. I can’t say I spent a ton of time with her, but she seemed very easygoing. And I thought, maybe there’s something in that for me to learn about parenting.
TURTURRO: Do you feel like she’s codependent? That’s the wrong word. But I feel like she’s a little too mommy-ish to him?
FALCO: I think that’s very interesting, because she and I are in a similar place in that we are single parenting a young man. You’ve got to be careful about that because mother son relationships are a very specific entity. It’s a weird version of a love affair, almost. Because he’s a boy, and he loves his mommy, and mommy loves the boy, and it’s kind of hard not to lose your way. “No, wait a second, I’m the mother, which means I have to say no, you can’t do that.” When what you really want to do is sit on the couch and throw popcorn at each other and watch the Knicks game. Pete and his mom, they went through a big trauma together in real life, and they had to help each other navigate that and you can get very close to that person.
TURTURRO: I mean, I’m not a mom. And I’ve always wanted to be a mom and love all my friends’ kids, because I don’t have that. Do you think Carmela had a good balance with her kids? Or was she in the same pocket with you guys?
FALCO: No, I think she had a better balance. First of all, she had a husband who was, to the extent that he was able, available for the kids and in on the decisions they made. Like, he’s the one who wanted to send AJ to military school. Right?
TURTURRO: Right, I think so. I don’t remember anything, do you? So, one thing about Bupkis I heard through the grapevine, were you guys sticking to the script or not sticking to the script? I will say, when I auditioned for Sopranos with Jimmy James, I was like, “Let’s keep this alive, let’s do the scenes,” and I’m throwing in stuff. And they basically called me in and they liked me, but they were like, “Aida, if you can’t stick to the script, we can’t hire you.”
FALCO: I didn’t know that.
TURTURRO: Yeah. I was like, “No, no, no, I can stick to the script. I can do that.”
FALCO: “I’ll memorize it, I promise!”
TURTURRO: “I promise!” But is it a different? In Sopranos, they made us stick to it, right?
FALCO: I mean, yeah. The writers, first of all, weren’t always on the set. The writers were in the writers room, and then we would shoot the thing over here. Pete was one of the writers and the other writers were always sort of around. And you hear from Video Village, “Why don’t you try saying blah blah blah,” and they throw some other line. And then we try it, and then I’d watch Pete try something else, and then he’d try something else. And at a certain point, I was like, “This stuff is not written, what the hell are they doing?” And then I thought, “Oh, I see. This is how it goes.”
TURTURRO: And then you felt like you could improv.
FALCO: Yeah. I forgot how much fun it can be to remember what it’s like to be a funny person in general. Anyway, I loved it for that reason. They were very cool. “Try whatever you think!”
TURTURRO: That’s great. I mean, on Sopranos, we didn’t have to try too much. It was really on the page. But going back to the humor, not only this Bupkis thing but you did this other film recently and it was a comedy. You’re amazing at the serious stuff, although Nurse Jackie was that dark comedy. But do you love being able to go to another level with this humor?
FALCO: You’ve been so devoted. You come see everything I do, and you come to see my plays and you’re like, “You’re always crying. Don’t you ever want to do a comedy?” And I’m like, “No, I live in the drama,” And she goes, “You’ve gotta do comedies.” And next thing I know, the next three projects that came in my field of vision are comedy. Like, why would anyone think of me for that? And I’m thinking, “Aida put that out in the universe.” I don’t have to carry the mood with me for the whole day. You go in, you laugh your ass off in a day of work, and then you go home. So yes, if you didn’t make it happen, then it’s a crazy coincidence.
TURTURRO: I don’t know, maybe I did! If you could go back and play any character in Sopranos, man or woman but not Carmela, who would you want to be?
FALCO: I’d want to be Tony. It’s funny, there’s something about being in charge that I kind of like. The difference between the character of Tony Soprano and Jim as a person, I don’t think anyone will ever know how far apart they were. He’s so humble and sort of self-deprecating, and I don’t think he ever knew how good he was. He told a story once that I know I won’t remember. It was late at night, and something happened in a cab. A driver got mad at him or something. Somebody was knocking on the window of his building because he was angry. And Jim Gandolfini, the person, came to answer the door and the cabbie saw that it was Tony and was like, “No no,” and was just backing away. Jim was in his bathrobe or something. Everybody was always scared of him. For some reason, I’d get a kick out of playing somebody like that.
TURTURRO: You know, it’s hard to talk about Sopranos, but the reason I loved it, besides the quality of it, the fact that the writing is good and the people were good, it was the family we continued to be. I mean, I’m good family with you now, because we met as family. And I think you feel similar to me. James is always kind of with me. Did you feel out way too?
FALCO: Totally right. It’s a story about a family and you can’t help but fall into that, with the people that you’re working with. Most of us are Italian, which may or may not matter. But Sunday dinner in my Italian family was a very big deal. And I remember the dinner scenes that we would have that would take a day-and-a-half to shoot. And we never stopped laughing, which made the crew furious. If I talk to Robert Iler, who played my son, it’ll never not feel like family.
TURTURRO: The dinner scenes were my favorite scenes. I’ll never forget watching Nancy Marchand when she filmed them because that woman would eat. I was like, “This is brilliant.” Anyway, there’s so many qualities about you that I love, but one thing I love most, which people don’t know about you, is that you grew up with your grandma. And she was a brilliant creative and really great seamstress. And thus, I feel that you have inherited her talents, because I have been lucky enough to have you as my seamstress. So, tell everybody. If you could support yourself, would you love to do that as a career?
FALCO: I absolutely would. I sit in my little room in my house in New York City, my little crafty room, and I sew by hand. I don’t use a machine. I sew by hand, because making stitches is very repetitive and meditative. I found out later on it’s used as a form of therapy, or whatever. But I’ve been doing it for a gazillion years, making a shirt into something else, or getting rid of sleeves, for nobody’s joy but my own. Aida has me upholstering her furniture, which I love.
TURTURRO: I mean, I don’t have money to go to someone in East Hampton and have these people, $400 for a cover? I want everybody to know that, thanks to Edie, I can cover my outdoor furniture. I mean, you’ve reupholstered your whole couch. You’re psychotic, amazing. I’m just like, “Can I drop off six cashmere sweaters that have holes in them?”
FALCO: You know how nice it is to have projects to do? Like, “I can do that yellow cashmere sweater today.”
TURTURRO: I think I’m more excited about that than anybody else. If you were to go back, if you had to put one of your characters into a time capsule for the future, what character would it be and why? It could either be to teach the world, or for you to show off your talent to the world. It’s a hard choice, because you have so many.
FALCO: Well, it’s different. Which ones were meaningful to me, and which ones had a bigger response in the world, you know what I mean? I think I’d have to send Carmela up there. Just because the show ended up being what it ended up being. None of us really could have known that it would have the effect that it’s had. And to know that it was part of television history, one of the first sort of bingeable shows on a cable network. And all different types of people, not just Italians, not just mob guys, seem to have responded to this. It’s a tremendous good fortune.
TURTURRO: I mean, that is true. Okay, let’s talk about how much you love animals and dogs.
FALCO: I’ve always loved them. I’ve always had dogs, and I talk about them a lot. And I was contacted by various animal charities over the years and I do a lot of work with Animal Haven in New York City, so I’ve learned so much more about animal welfare. Anyway, I’m in really deep now. I lost my beloved Sammy, as you know, my little dog died in January, and I just adopted a little pit bull pup named Maggie. And he’s a little beast. Right now, the biggest activity in my life is trying to keep myself from being mauled by this little puppy and his little puppy teeth.
TURTURRO: There’s nothing better. Since we’re here and it’s gonna go into writing, I was just thinking maybe in our future as we just get a teeny bit older, you and I can open up our own animal haven and we could take care of lots of animals.
FALCO: That’s a dream.
TURTURRO: That’s a dream. Back to the moms, if you went to lunch with Carmela and Amy, how would it be? What would you say? What would they say?
FALCO: I think the children would really hit it off. You know, raising kids in the outer boroughs of New York City, and being just on the outside in the tristate area. I don’t see myself as very much like either of them. You know what I mean?
TURTURRO: Would you be able to hang out with them? Would you be really uncomfortable?
FALCO: I guess I would, but it’s so weird. I see them as very traditional mothers. I get the feeling that they were mothered really well and they went into it knowing how to do it. Like it was maybe expected of both Amy and Carmela that they would have kids. None of that is true of me. I feel a little feral insofar as having had kids and how I raised them, and I’m doing the whole thing by the seat of my pants and trying to show up for my jobs here. And I get sitters, you know what I mean?
TURTURRO: I understand. I just have to say, I know those are your feelings and as much as you feel like it doesn’t come as instinctually, watching you, you’re one of the people who I admire the most. I’m not just saying this. Being a mom or a parent, nobody’s 100%. It’s insane. I couldn’t imagine it. It’s the hardest job in the world. But you will put yourself in situations that are really hard so that it’s better for your children. You fit right in playing a mom because inside, no matter what you feel in your gut, you are a really good mom.
FALCO: That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.
TURTURRO: But it’s true. It’s easy to be mommy and pack the sandwiches, but it’s the hard stuff of facing the truth and the hard work that you have to do. Okay, in the future, if we got an opportunity to work together again, what kind of movie would it be?
FALCO: You know what it would be? It would be me and you touring Italy.
TURTURRO: Friends going through Italy.
FALCO: Two middle-aged, losing-our-memory women trying to find our way through Rome. That should be a reality show.
TURTURRO: Okay, they’re telling us to shut up now. We’re done. Edie, thank you.
FALCO: Aida, thank you so much.
TURTURRO: I’ll see you in a few days.
FALCO: I’ll call you later.