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Were The Sopranos' Steve Buscemi And James Gandolfini Friends In Real Life?

Despite its already massive ensemble of regular and recurring characters, "The Sopranos" was never a show that was resistant to adding in new faces. This is why it wasn't a huge surprise when Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi) popped up as a major restructuring force in the crime drama during its penultimate season.

Tony B. is the first cousin of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and a close childhood friend. However, given that Buscemi directed a few episodes of "The Sopranos" and how closely the two actors worked during Season 5, fans might be curious to know whether the easy chemistry between the two performers translated off-screen as well.

It would certainly seem that it did based on how Buscemi spoke of his "The Sopranos" co-star in a moving tribute. "James Gandolfini was a friend, an inspiration, and an extraordinary talent whose presence is missed by all of us who knew and loved him," Buscemi said while presenting an honorary award to the deceased actor. "It is an honor to present this tribute at the Gotham Awards recognizing his impact."

It's clear how much respect Buscemi had for Gandolfini

While many actors who have shared the screen with James Gandolfini have offered passionate accounts of the late actor, Steve Buscemi's was definitely among the most emotional and heartfelt. His words were also indicative of the deep respect that he held for his friend and co-star.

"Jimmy was very gracious and patient with me, and the more I worked with him, the more relaxed we both became," Buscemi recalled. "To be accepted by Jimmy as a director was the best feeling in the world because I respected his talent so much, and I marveled at his process."

Given that Gandolfini spent six seasons playing one of the most layered and compelling characters on television, it's easy to see where Buscemi's effusive praise is coming from here. Furthermore, considering the late actor's sterling reputation, it also makes sense that those who knew him best had such admiration for him. While Buscemi only worked with Gandolfini across two episodes of the now-iconic series, the relationship that he built with the series star clearly had a profound impact on him.

"Anyone who knew Jim knew how generous and big-hearted he could be, how compassionate and understanding," Buscemi continued. "I feel that all of Tony's best qualities were enhanced by Jimmy's own character, his own pain, his heart, and of course, his own mischievous and wicked sense of humor. And that's why we loved him."