James Gandolfini once stood up for a ‘Sopranos’ actor who was uncomfortable being naked in a scene, according to a new book

James Gandolfini and Tony Soprano (left) and Peter Riegert (right)

James Gandolfini helped guest star Peter Riegert navigate a tough scene on “The Sopranos”.Anthony Neste / Getty Images; Derek Storm / FilmMagic

  • “The Sopranos” actor Peter Riegert said James Gandolfini helped him push back towards a nude scene.

  • Riegert said Gandolfini realized he was uncomfortable with the scene during a table reading.

  • “Jim recognized on my face that there was an actor in trouble,” Riegert recalled.

James Gandolfini helped a guest star on “The sopranos“navigate in an unpleasant nude scene, according to a new oral history of the show.

Actor Peter Riegert guest starred as Assemblyman Zellman in seasons three and four. He told comic book stars Steve Schirripa and Michael Imperioli in their new book “Woke Up This Morning” that Gandolfini helped him stand up to creator David Chase over the difficult scene that takes place in season four, episode seven.

“I show up at [table] read and find out what I was going to do. The scene was Tony, who knocked the living shit out of me with a belt, but in the scene description it says that he pulls my underwear off, “Riegert remembered.

According to the actor, he was “not happy” about having to be naked the scene, which, as originally written, featured Tony pulling down Zellman’s underwear and hitting him on the back with a belt.

“I wanted to be naked. As for me, I wish I had a heads-up on it,” Riegert said.

He remembered that after the table was read, Gandolfini came over to check on him. When the award-winning actor learned that Riegert was unhappy about being naked in the scene, he immediately called Chase to discuss the situation, and according to Riegert, the “Sopranos” creator reluctantly agreed to let Riegert remain half-dressed.

“I did not know if I would be fired or not, but Jimmy [Gandolfini] said to me, ‘Whatever you decide to do, I promise you I want your back’, “Riegert recalled.

Per Riegert, he eventually decided to keep his underwear on for the stage. After testing the support belt (made by Styrofoam) that Gandolfini would use on him, he told the deceased actor that he could “vault” on him under beatings – thereby humiliating Zellman in another way.

Riegert had nothing but praise for Gandolfini and remembered telling him he was a “mensch” after they finished filming that night.

“The thing was, I at the table read was not aware that Jim recognized on my face that there was an actor in trouble,” Riegert said. “And he did, so it was my choice.”

“Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of ‘The Sopranos” is on sale now.

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