The Best Crime Series In History Almost Had An Unbelievable Bit Of Familiar Casting

By TeeJay Small | Published

The Sopranos is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential television series of all time, with each individual puzzle piece of the show coming together to make something truly special. Having said that, the show nearly made a serious casting error, which would have turned the entire venture into a cheap knockoff in one fell swoop. Before Lorraine Bracco took on the role of Dr. Jennifer Melfi, she was initially offered the role of Carmela Soprano, which would surely have reduced the series into a cheap imitation of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

Lorraine Bracco Played A Mob Wife In Goodfellas

Nearly a decade before Lorraine Bracco signed on to star in The Sopranos, she led the cast of Goodfellas as Karen Hill, the erratic, violent mob wife to Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill. Her role in the film is widely regarded as her greatest feature-length performance, setting the standard for future fictional mob wives to follow. While Carmela Soprano is written with a significantly different temperament and demeanor than Karen Hill, seeing Bracco in the role would have definitely been a retread of an existing work.

She Almost Played Carmela In The Sopranos

Back in 2015, Lorraine Bracco sat down with Huffpost to discuss her casting on The Sopranos, explaining that she was initially offered the role of Carmela, but ultimately turned it down. While describing her reasoning, Bracco elucidated that she had already received an Oscar nomination for her mentally taxing role as a mob wife, and that she didn’t think she could bring anything new to the part. Instead, Bracco claims it was her own idea to go against type by performing in the role of Jennifer Melfi, Tony Soprano’s calm, measured, and highly professional therapist.

Edie Falco Was The Perfect Choice

Fans of Goodfellas were certainly shocked after tuning into the pilot of The Sopranos and seeing the Karen Hill actress take on the task of calmly navigating Tony’s mob life with the lawful standards of a straight-laced clinician, but Bracco’s performance was ultimately a major hit. Additionally, Lorraine Bracco’s refusal to take on the Carmela Soprano role left an opening for Edie Falco, who absolutely shines as the perpetually-spurned First Lady of the North Jersey crime family.

Casting Choices Made The Sopranos What It Is Today

the sopranos

The writing of the HBO series has been widely hailed as some of television’s best, but the on-screen performances in The Sopranos are part of what made the show so unique. No character feels like a movie character plucked from the cinema and lazily pasted into the world of Tony’s criminal empire. Casting Lorraine Bracco in the role of Carmela Soprano would have made about as much sense as casting Dwayne Johnson in a 15th film where he needs to trek through the woods in a tight-fitting tan shirt.

The Sopranos Wouldn’t Be A Hit Without Carmela

While the show likely wouldn’t have failed if this familiar casting had gone through, the final product would have definitely been vastly different than what we wound up getting. Carmela Soprano is a lot more than a run-of-the-mill mob wife, and her role in the show is one of the single most important elements of the series’ success.

Furthermore, even considering depriving the world of Lorraine Bracco’s performance as Dr. Melfi in The Sopranos should be considered a cardinal sin on par with whacking a made man without permission from the boss.