The Sopranos’ Jamie-Lynn Sigler On Heading to Mob Town
The upcoming indie gangster film Mob Town tells a historic story. The Sopranos' Jamie-Lynn Sigler brings tradition.
The gangster genre will live on even after Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman appeared to close the books on membership. Directed by Danny A. Abeckaser from a script by Jon Carlo and Joe Gilford, Mob Town dramatizes the infamous American Mafia summit of the late ’50s. The film stars David Arquette (Scream), Jennifer Esposito (The Boys, NCIS), and PJ Byrne (The Wolf of Wall Street). But it is held together by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow, the daughter of New Jersey crime family boss Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini on The Sopranos.
Sigler is a Mafia princess. Her first film credit was in the 1998 indie gangster film A Brooklyn State of Mind, and she came into people’s living rooms every Sunday night on the series which changed crime family programming forever. She is part of TV history, prefacing the binge-happy cable streams from the end of its golden age. Mob Town tells the beginning of the end of an era. On Nov. 14, 1957, 101 top mobsters representing all 27 U.S. crime families tried to have a quiet barbecue in the sleepy town of Apalachin, N.Y.
The government might never have known about the existence of La Cosa Nostra if it weren’t for the meeting. It was called by New York family boss Vito Genovese, played by Robert Davi in Mob Town. He took over the Luciano family after Charles “Lucky” Luciano was deported, Albert “The Lord High Executioner” Anastasia was executed and “Prime Minister” Frank Costello stepped down after taking a bullet in the side of the head.
Genovese’s summit was held at the house of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara, and his wife Josephine prepared the food. She was also the person who faced the feds at the door. In the book Mafia Summit, Gil Reavill describes the former Josephine Vivona as an “Endicott girl” because she went to a private college for a privileged few. Sigler, who grew up acting on an iconic television classic, updates her in classic The Honeymooners‘ Alice Kramden fashion in Mob Town. Giving as good as she gets while urging her husband to better himself in the world. Den of Geek spoke with Sigler about the gangsters, old and new.
DEN OF GEEK: You played Josephine like she was the ’50s wife of the man in the gray funnel suit who needs to move up in the firm. Could you tell me a little about that?
JAIME-LYNN SIGLER: Well, to be honest, it was so fun for me to get to play the flip side of the mafia world. The Sopranos was more like a current-date dated show. There were those mafia wives that took pride in like their husbands ranking. So, to get to like live out and play such a character in a period piece and have her be kind of like the driving force behind his manic energy to get it all together, just to live their “dream” was such fun to play.
The Appalachian meeting was actually a very significant event. Did you do a lot of research on the time period?
I did a bit. Danny, our director, gave me tons of info. And to be honest, to me, the script was really well done. It really explained the era and the climate and the feelings about the mob and what was going on. And there is so much information out there about it. So, yes, I did. I did quite a bunch of readings.
You did most of your scenes with the director Danny Abeckaser. He had just played Louie the Deadbeat in Irishman. Did he come on the set trying to be Scorsese?
No. Danny’s been directing for a while and he did tell me a lot of things that he learned from Scorsese, like how to work with actors a lot more. But I’ve known Danny since I’m 17 years old from New York City, so he and I go way back. So, to me it was working with my friend and you know, seeing each other in a different light and working together. I had so much fun and I think he’s such a interesting character and person to watch and he’s just an unafraid to just kind of go there and be. Like embellish his own personality to serve as all these different characters. And I think he’s phenomenal. I had so much fun with him.
When you were doing it, did you at all imagine Josephine being like a young Carmella?
Well, not like the young Carmela. But maybe more like one of the peripheral wives that was around, like a Gabrielle Dante or one of those because she was. Carmela I think just had that overall state of confidence, because of her husband and who he was. But she was a bit conflicted because she was a person of faith and was trying to constantly battle the moral parts of her life and what her husband does. And almost trying to shut that off and be in denial. As opposed to Josephine, who just embraces it, because she just feels like this is what will lead her to a life of “glamour.”
further reading: David Chase Intrigued About A Time Before The Sopranos
What about the spouse roles in gangster movies? Is the wife complicit in this one?
I think she probably would like to just not talk about what it is specifically he does. She’s obviously very well aware. She would like to believe that he doesn’t kill anyone, per se. Maybe just rough somebody up. I could see Josephine sort of having a conversation like that. But to her, I mean, look, they live in this small town, not the most glamorous. So, this is what would bring her money and have her be the “Queen Bee,” which is all she’s ever wanted.
You do a lot of cooking in the movie. I know the cars were authentic. What about the kitchen? Was it a period kitchen?
They did such a wonderful job transporting everything. Yes. I mean from the cookware, everything that they did to transform. All these women walked in, very modern looking girls and immediately were transported. They did a phenomenal job. And the house that we filmed at was, it’s kind of, I think it’s a historical landmark where everything is very kept very old school. There’s not much that’s updated in that house in general.
further reading: How The Godfather Killed The Mafia
I know you’re not actually Italian but have you adopted any of the traditions, speaking of the cooking? Do you now have an extended Italian family since The Sopranos?
Definitely, I’m about to play in another Italian in a film. I start filming tomorrow and it’s familiar to me. It’s very much a part of me. I wouldn’t say in my daily life, but as far as acting, it’s something I completely identify with. Very easily.
Garry Pastore plays the same character in Mob Town that he plays in The Irishman, but they’re killed by two different people. So, do you think Joe Gallo and the Barbershop Quartet killed Anastasia or Frank Sheeran?
Oh, you know, I actually didn’t know about that. So, I’m just going to stick with our movie and go with the Gallo brothers.
further reading: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman Glosses Over a Key Point
The Irishman seems to spell out a swan song for a generation of the gangster genre. But where do you see it going? And have you seen things like The Godfather of Harlem or any of the newer gangster stuff that’s coming out?
I haven’t. Honestly. I have two very small children. So, my time, other than when I’m working or with them, is very limited. And I don’t get to watch a lot of the current shows and movies that are out there. But I have always been a fan of mob movies and Martin Scorsese in particular because I think he’s just such a storyteller. He’s just so good at giving the fans what they want, usually, out of mob movies, by giving the characters to such a rich story and identity as well. And I know it’s a time investment for The Irishman. And I need, over the holidays when everything slows down, I’ll be able to give myself the three and a half hours or whatever it is to savor it. Because I really look forward to that.
I was at a SopranosCon event and I was wondering if you expected The Sopranos, when you’re doing it, to move into the Comic-Con generation?
No, I never thought that that would be that type of attraction, that’s for sure. But with that being said, I understand and from what I hear from other people, it’s an iconic show to them. And something that people revisit, which I just love to hear. And think it’s really cool that I’m a part of something like that. So, I guess it goes along with, you know, things that belong, at those Con-type things. But no, I never envisioned Sopranos to have that type of attraction.
Are you still in touch with the actors from The Sopranos?
Yes. I’m actually driving right now to see Robert Iler, who played my brother. We’re closest, closest of bestest friends. And, yeah, the rest of us keep in touch and support each other and our other projects. And, a lot of the crew are still really close friends of mine. I see Drea [de Matteo who played Adriana La Cerva] a bunch. We have such a history together and we have been through so much together that no matter how much time would ever pass, when we speak, it’s like you pick right back up. That bond is always there.
further reading: The Sopranos: Most Memorable Hits
Did you see Josephine Barbara as like the anti-Meadow?
For sure. She is the complete opposite of Meadow. This is somebody that Meadow would probably detest. Unless, she grew up with her, and then she you know. Meadow could overlook certain things because she’s, there was people she loved, that she grew up with. And if she grew up with Josephine Barbara, I’m sure she would be conflicted. But if she didn’t know her? No. She would not be a fan.
You have a kids’ movie coming out this month called Adventure Force 5, what’s that about?
It’s kind of a mix between Goonies and Big Hero 6, about these five, kind of outskirt kids, that come together to kind of help save. Their town is under attack, like kind of a cyber-attack. I don’t want to give too much away. But I played two of the boys’ mom. And it was really fun. I loved those types of movies growing up and it was cool to be part of something that I know my son can watch, finally.
further reading: Explaining The Sopranos’ final scene
The ending of The Sopranos is open to interpretation. Do you think parallel parking saved Meadow’s life?
Very well could have. She’s never had an issue before, so yes, everything happens for a reason. It very well could have.
Did you have any ideas on how it ended yourself?
I don’t. I’m with everyone else. I have my own ideas. I just feel like his life could’ve ended at any moment, whether it’s then or 10 years from then or 10 days from then. It was sort of an inevitable fate. And these people had to live their certain way of “in denial.” And I feel like that’s what that last scene meant to me: That this whole show could have been shot that way, of all the potential threats of him at any moment. But they have to keep, bury their heads down and focus on their family and keep living life as long as they can.
Mob Town hits theaters, and will be available On Demand and Digital, on Dec. 13.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.