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Vincent Pastore: Sopranos Iconic Big Pussy Branches Out

PastoreVincent Pastore is best known for playing Italian-American mobsters, but his career has actually been much broader, ranging from film to radio to stand-up comedy. Now, he’s got a new production that plays off his signature role in ‘The Sopranos.’

In his latest effort, he’s put together “Big Pussy’s Rat Pack Revue,” with fellow-Soprano Vince Curatola, which will debut, April 12.

Pastore honed his acting skills in small parts in 1990’s “GoodFellas” and 1993’s “Carlito’s Way.”

In the 1990 Martin Scorsese masterpiece, he’s rolling a coat rack through the kitchen of the Bamboo Lounge. In “Carlito’s Way,” he’s listed in the credits as “Copa Wiseguy” for a walk-on part in a key scene.

From there the roles grew. In the 1996 HBO television movie “Gotti,” Pastore played Angelo Ruggiero, alongside fellow future Sopranos cast members Tony Sirico and Dominic Chianese.

Then, his breakthrough role came in “The Sopranos,” probably the best dramatic series in the history of television. He was larger than life as the gangster Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero.

Although his character was murdered in Season Two, Pastore’s Big Pussy became one of the iconic figures of the series.

In 2007, he starred in the independent feature film “P.J.” with Sopranos co-star John Heard and Robert Picardo.

He’s also had parts in daytime soap “General Hospital” and 2008’s “College Road Trip,” with Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné.

Outside of film, Pastore hosted “The Wiseguy Show,” described as a “weekly three-hour celebration of Italian-American culture” on Sirius Satellite Radio. The show was Executive Produced by Sopranos co-star Steven Van Zandt.

And, when he’s not doing that, he’s working stand up comedy. He most recently toured with Joe Rogan.

Pastore will present “Big Pussy’s New Rat Pack Revue” at The Gramercy Theatre (127 East 23rd) on Monday, April 12.

The actor sat down with TheImproper recently to talk about the storied HBO crime series and his latest endeavor, “Big Pussy’s Rat Pack Revue.”

Improper: Your character on “The Sopranos,” Sal ‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero, was instantly memorable. Tell us how that casting happened?

Pastore: David Chase called me in and I read for it. I got it immediately, no call back, which is always nice.

IM: Our friend, Robert Funaro, who was also on the show, said that when you got a call from David Chase, you never knew if it was good news, or bad news. Robert said that Chase said to him, ‘I got good news and bad news.’ Chase said his character was going to be killed off, but it was a great send off episode, nonetheless. Is that pretty much how it happened to you too?

Pastore: I think I was the first one to get a call like that. It started with me!

IM: What are your feelings all these years later? And, how would you have ended the show?

Pastore: The end was what it was over. It was what the whole show was about.

IM: Obviously you’re still in touch with all of them? Certainly with Vince Curatola, who you’re doing the “Big Pussy Rat Pack Revue” with. Tell us about that show and the other performers.

Pastore: It’ll be a great night of comedy and singing. The Rat Pack set the bar; everyone says ‘The Sopranos’ can’t sing, well, we do! Paul Mercurio; Killer Joe and the Lido Soul Revue; Marco Asanti; Al Sapieza from ‘The Sopranos,’ Steve Maglio; Nick Puccio, Gommbah’ Johnny from radio.

Diana Fazlone will co-host with Vince and I. Also, Armand Assante will be making a special appearance. It’ll be fun for sure.

IM: You’ve done a lot of theater work since ‘The Sopranos’ ended. Tell us a bit about where that loves comes from.

Pastore: I just bought tickets for ‘A View From the Bridge.’ I love theater. I love the live audience too, you can’t get a reaction like that from film or TV; it’s immediate. There’s terrific material out there, and nothing is better than from a live audience.

IM: How’d General Hospital come about? I love you on those shows. And, I loved your character’s name even more, Maximus Giambetti.

Pastore: I hope they get me back … I am not dead, just deported.

IM: I have to tell you, I loved you in ‘Mickey Blue Eyes (1999).’ Tell us a bit about that project.

Pastore: Liz Hurley is the bomb. It was great script; great film all around; Jimmy Caan, Hugh Grant. Terrific time.

IM: Also, your voice on the animated “Shark Tale” was great. You must have had a ball doing that. Give us some thoughts on that.

Pastore: I was originally “Gigi” the whale but Jeffrey Katzenberg from Dreamworks, bumped me up. The concept was great … I think I’m totally suited for animation.

IM: What was your favorite episode of ‘The Sopranos’ with your character?

Pastore: When we whacked “Lilo,” definitely.

IM: You’re a terrifically talented performer, equally at home on the stage, screen, and even on radio. What would you ideal role encompass?

Pastore: Would love to hit a long running play in New York City.

IM: Do you have one special role you know you want to play?

Pastore: Eddie Carbone from A View From the Bridge Liev Schreiber is doing that role right now. He’s terrific.

IM: I’ve got to ask, what was ‘Celebrity Fit Club’ like? I know they call it reality TV, but how much of it was really real?

Pastore: “Fit Club” was real, so were “The Apprentice” and “Repo Man; Stealing For A Living.”

IM: The ‘Wise Guy Show’ on Sirius was terrific. Give us a take on that whole experience

Pastore: Well, I could never get a word in working with those guys, so in the end I got frustrated and gave it up, but I would love to return to Sirius someday; radio’s terrific.

IM: After “The Rat Pack Revue,” what’s next for you?

Pastore: Three indie films back-to-back, more appearances and mounting dinner theater in Sayreville, New Jersey. A moving target is harder to catch!

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