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The Inspiration Behind The Sopranos' Silvio Dante Isn't What You'd Expect

Longtime musician Steven Van Zandt may have regretted quitting Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band just before "The Boss" blew up in 1984 with "Born In The U.S.A." (via ET Canada), but his time away from the music industry allowed the guitarist to pursue other endeavors, including starring in the hit HBO series "The Sopranos."

Throughout the show's six-season run, Van Zandt portrays Silvio Dante, a member of the DiMeo crime family and part of Tony Soprano's (James Gandolfini) crew. Always immaculately dressed in a tailored suit and sporting his signature slicked-back hairstyle, the owner of the Bada Bing club often serves as a sounding board for Tony, rarely getting his own hands dirty. This, of course, comes with a few exceptions, especially his heartbreaking killing of Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) after she's blackmailed into becoming an FBI informant.

The character of Silvio might not have as deep a storyline as Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) or Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (Vinny Pastore), but "The Sopranos" wouldn't be the same without him. Let's take a look behind-the-scenes at how the persona of Silvio came to life.

Silvio Dante stemmed from a concept written by Steven Van Zandt

When casting for "The Sopranos" began, three men were up for the coveted role of Tony Soprano –- James Gandolfini, Michael Rispoli (who went on to play acting boss Jackie Aprile in Season 1), and Steven Van Zandt (via the New York Post). In an interview with Vanity Fair, Van Zandt reflected on how show creator David Chase initially wanted him as the leading man, but HBO was hesitant because of his lack of acting experience.

Though Chase was apologetic and informed Van Zandt that he could have "any other part you want," Van Zandt agreed with HBO. "I said, 'You know what, now that I think about it, I feel kind of bad taking another actor's part here. I'm a guitar player. These guys, they go to school, they go Off Broadway, they work for five, 10 years honing their craft and being waiters and whatever," he explained.

Chase offered to write a brand new part for Van Zandt, but the aspiring actor beat him to the punch. Upon deciding to pivot to acting, Van Zandt had penned a few story concepts, including one centering on Silvio Dante, an independent hitman who had just retired.

His character on "The Sopranos" is far from retired, but Chase liked the idea and they fleshed Silvio out into something iconic. In fact, some fans believe that Silvio, who is in a coma at the conclusion of the series, continues on in "Lilyhammer." The show follows Van Zandt as Frank Tagliano, a mob boss who enters the Witness Protection Program. According to a fan theory, the happenings of Frank might all be a coma dream of Silvio's.