Steven Van Zandt Only Took ‘Sopranos’ Role Because He Needed the Cash

The Sopranos Steve Van Zandt, Season 5, Ep.64, 'Long Term Parking' aired May 23, 2004. 1999-2007
HBO/Everett Collection

Steven Van Zandt is an iconic musician, best known for playing guitar in Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street Band. Many also know him as Silvio Dante in the hit HBO series The Sopranos. The series creator, David Chase, wanted Van Zandt to audition after seeing him perform and being impressed by his stage presence. He auditioned for Tony Soprano and while that role ultimately went to more experienced actor James Gandolfini, Van Zandt was cast in another lead role, which Chase wrote specifically for him.

Later on, his real-life wife Maureen played his TV wife Gabriella in the series. He is beloved for the role but it almost never happened! He recently admitted that some people told him that he shouldn’t be on television because he is a rock and roll musician and it just doesn’t fit. At the time, many people believed that actors and musicians should stay in their own lanes.

The Sopranos Steve Van Zandt, (Season 1), 1999-2007

HBO/Everett Collection

However, Van Zandt revealed that he really took on the role because he was broke! He even helped Chase create a backstory on the character and used his friendship with Springsteen as an inspiration. He explained, “I wrote a whole biography on him. He grew up with Tony Soprano — that was his best friend. And I kind of used my relationship with Bruce [Springsteen].”

The Sopranos Steven Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, (Season 7), 1999-2007

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO/Everett Collection

Of course, it was a great choice for Van Zandt as the show and his character remain popular. These days, Van Zandt is still touring with Springsteen and gearing up for the release of his new documentary called Stevie Van Zandt: Disciple which follows the musician and actor during his career as well as his activism efforts over the years. It will be released on HBO on June 22, 2024. Tell us, who is your favorite character in The Sopranos?

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