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The surprising truth about being on The Sopranos - Exclusive

It may be hard to believe given that we live in an era when you can't swing an Emmy without hitting an hour-long, prestige drama on television, but there was a time when the idea of small-screen programming rivaling the movies in terms of production quality and impact was something of a foreign concept. Then along came The Sopranos, HBO's incredibly popular show about a New Jersey family and its connections to the mafia. It was a massive hit, running for eight years and firmly establishing the pay cable network as a source for high-quality storytelling.

Of course, just because the finished product ends up excellent doesn't mean that the process of making a thing is so great. There have been numerous examples of films and TV shows — from Mad Max: Fury Road to Luck (yes, even HBO can drop the ball) — that reached the pinnacle of quality but were torture for those involved in bringing them to life. According to one member of the team behind The Sopranos, though, that was far from the case on this David Chase-produced powerhouse.

Actress Kathrine Narducci, who played Charmaine Bucco on The Sopranos, recently opened up to Looper in an exclusive interview about what it was like to be a part of this particular pop culture phenomenon.

The cast of The Sopranos didn't realize how big it was

The primary thing Narducci recalls is that while they were involved in making The Sopranos, the cast really didn't have a concept of the way their show was gripping the public consciousness. "It wasn't about how popular the show was, because we didn't know," she says. "When you're part of the show, you don't realize how popular it is. And I said it on Good Morning America, we didn't realize. When we got to L.A. the first time for the Emmys, we were like, 'Whoa.' We didn't realize it."

Even today, with the series' thought-provoking finale more than a decade in the rearview mirror, the idea that she was a part of a project as significant as The Sopranos rocks Narducci back on her heels. "My God, me and my husband are watching, and I'm like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I was part of that," she tells Looper. "Like, to really appreciate when you're on something like that — really recognize and enjoy it, because it comes once in a lifetime. I would love to have that again."

The Sopranos team was one, big, happy family

Narducci adds that the cast of The Sopranos felt an intense and abiding camaraderie that was unusual for a production of its size, and that much of that was owed to producer David Chase. 

"Being on that set was not like any other set. We were so close. And there [were] no egos. [...] David Chase was just like our friend who was writing for us, and all the directors were like friends," says Narducci. "And the crew, the prop people, everybody was treated like family. It was like if you said, 'Hey, family,' to your own family, 'Let's all go make a movie.' And your uncle was the prop guy, and your aunt was doing– it really was that much love and respect for each other, and so different. So different."

Part of that feeling might have come from geographically-specific cultural factors as well, as Narducci cites the show's roots in and connection to The Big Apple as a factor. "It was a New York vibe," she says. "It was New York. It was, because I've worked in L.A. a lot, and it's great, I have nothing bad to say about L.A., but the family that we had, the love and the closeness [...] imagine that vibe lasting eight years, and being really close with everybody. And then it's just over."

For Narducci, that's the biggest take-away: the need to appreciate where you are when you're there. "You've got to appreciate when you're doing something like that," the actress says. "You've got to be in moment and appreciate it, and understand what's happening, and really try to live in that moment and appreciate it."