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'Sopranos' Actor James Gandolfini

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'Sopranos' Actor James Gandolfini

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James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini, the barrel-chested actor forever known to millions of TV fans for his Emmy-winning portrayal of a conflicted New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano, in the acclaimed HBO cable television series, "The Sopranos," died Wednesday, June 19 while vacationing in Rome, Italy. Gandolfini was 51.

"Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving," said his managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders, who confirmed that the actor passed away while on vacation in Rome, Italy from an apparent heart attack.

HBO also released a statement: "We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family. He was special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility. Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time. He will be deeply missed by all of us."

Gandolfini, who began his career in live theatre in New York, also was known for his starring roles in films like "Get Shorty" and "True Romance." Although he had a full and illustrious acting career, it was the iconic role of the soul-searching wiseguy on "The Sopranos" that earned Gandolfini fame and accolades. Over the course of the shows six seasons, he picked up three Emmy Awards for Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

In addition, "The Sopranos" received high praise itself. Gandolfini was the anchor to the series which was named the greatest television series of all time by the Writers Guild of America in 2013. His charismatic performance of as a conflicted bad guy paved the way for the current crop of antihero dramas that includes "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and "Boardwalk Empire.""

Like the character he played, Gandolfini was a native son of New Jersey with strong ties to the old world. His father, James, was born in Borgotaro, Italy and was a building maintenance chief at a Catholic school. His mother, Santa, was American-born and raised in Italy. She was a high school lunch lady. After earning a degree in communications from Rutgers University, Gandolfini moved to New York, where he worked as a bartender, bouncer and nightclub manager.

When Gandolfini was 25, he joined a friend of a friend in an acting class and the rest, as they say, was history. Gandolfini maintained ties with his New Jersey hometown of Park Ridge by supporting its The Octoberwoman Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. He appeared at its annual October banquet and often brought other 'Sopranos' cast members to help draw larger crowds.

After "The Sopranos" ended its run in 2007, Gandolfini stayed busy with a variety of film and theater projects, starring on Broadway in 2009 in "God of Carnage" and in movies that tended to trade on his tough-talking image, including "In the Loop" and "Not Fade Away," from 'Sopranos' creator David Chase. He starred in the espionage thriller, "Zero Dark Thirty" and the comedy, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."

He also returned several times to his creative home at HBO, producing the biopic "Hemingway & Gellhorn" and the documentary "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq" and starring in "Cinema Verite," about the Loud family. At the time of his death, Gandolfini had been working on an upcoming new HBO series titled, "Criminal Justice."

Gandolfini is survived by his second wife, Deborah Lin, their eight-year-old daughter, Liliana Ruth, and a teenage son, Michael, from his first wife, Marcy Wudarski. He is also survived by his sister, Johanna Antonacci.

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I am so sorry to hear this. I will miss him. James Gandolfini was one of my favorite actors. I remember him in an interview explaining that he just got tired of The Sopranos and wanted to do other things and said that he was done with it. I liked his honesty.

One of my favorite little movies is Welcome To The Rileys with Gandolfini and Melissa Leo. It captured the essence of New Orleans and my youth there.

I am sad that he is gone.

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An American Icon for his portrayal of Tony Soprano...gone too soon..so sad my prayers are for his family

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