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June 19th, 2013
11:12 PM ET

Kevin O'Rourke on his cast mate James Gandolfini: "He was ... a wonderful big hearted giant of a guy who was not at all like his character"

On the heels of the shocking and saddening news of actor James Gandolfini's death, on Wednesday evening Piers Morgan dedicated his entire program to remembering the star of "The Sopranos."

A veteran of more than 40 films, it was the iconic portrayal of crime boss Tony Soprano in HBO's hit show "The Sopranos" that garnered Gandolfini the most acclaim.

Joining "Piers Morgan Live" by phone, actor Kevin O'Rourke remembered his late coworker and friend:

"He was a wonderful, generous and loyal actor and incredibly supportive of the other people on the show," noted the man who played Coach Donald 'Don' Hauser in the series' first season. "He came from the theater and he was one of those actors who you could tell had that foundation in the way he did his work. I was lucky enough to work with him in that instance and also, he would generously donate time to the Screen Actors Guild when I was on the negotiating committee. He was ... a wonderful big hearted giant of a guy who was not at all like his character on 'The Sopranos.'"

O'Rourke began working with Gandolfini before "The Sopranos" became a hit, and neither man ever dreamt the show would become such an influential part of American pop culture and television history:

"When I worked with James, 'The Sopranos' had not yet aired, so no one knew what it was. No one knew the kind of phenomenon it would turn into," O'Rourke explained in his primetime interview. "The first day on the set he turned to me and said 'who would watch a show about a big Italian guy like me?' Well, of course we all did. At that point none of us realized and James didn't realize how big this would be or how it would affect his life."

Gandolfini's death came while on vacation in Rome, and is said to have been the result of a possible heart attack.

He was 51 years old.
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Filed under: The Big Story
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. worldcares

    I learned of his passing a couple of hours ago. My tears shed . He had the ability to put inflection in his voice that was infectious and touched one's soul.
    My heartfelt thoughts are with his family and all that knew him.
    He was a damn good actor.

    June 20, 2013 at 1:47 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bigmicmusicmachine

    Good Christ.. CNN's continuing "tribute" to James Gondolfini on Piers Morgan and other shows, features clip after clip of Tony Soprano crashing to the floor unconscious from anxiety attacks. Tremendous class and wonderful judgement..
    .."We can't actually show you James's death, but we can show you the next best thing.."

    June 20, 2013 at 6:35 am | Report abuse | Reply

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