During its six seasons on the air, "The Sopranos" became a regular part of Sunday nights in America. Before it made it onto small screens everywhere, the show was born from the Sunday night traditions of the series creator, David Chase. Many of his characters were based directly on his own family members and the conversations they would have over dinner at the end of each week. One such character was a huge favorite for Chase, the cast, and viewers alike — Uncle Junior.

The idea for "The Sopranos" was conceived in Chase's family home. "I used to tell people stories about my mother," Chase recalled in "Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos". "My wife, Denise, was the first one to say, 'You got to write a movie about her, or you got to write a TV show about her, because she's so funny.'" With this mindset, Livia Soprano was actually the first character ever imagined in the world of "The Sopranos." Tony's mother was ripped right from Chase's real life, but he had to make some modifications to his self-insert character to keep things interesting. "I thought, 'The guy has got to be a tough guy, or something,'" he explained. "That's when the idea came, 'Oh, a mob guy, yes.'"

Livia wasn't the only character that was based on one of Chase's real family members. The TV producer also had an Uncle Junior figure in his family. "I did have an uncle Junior," he admitted. "Actually, he was my cousin. What is it, cousin once removed or something?" Chase's cousin bore a lot of similarities to Uncle Junior but was slightly more upbeat. "Nobody is that grumpy," the writer joked. Chase's real-life cousin actually made his own recurring appearances on the show as Beppy, a member of Junior's crew.

Uncle Junior Was Chase's Favorite Character To Write For

Uncle Junior was also one of the series creator's favorite characters in "The Sopranos." "I have to say my favorite character to write for — I loved them all … but I guess my favorite was Junior," David Chase conceded in the book. "Junior could say just about anything."

The old man was, in Chase's words, "dirty, old-fashioned, and intellectual." His dialogue was as street-wise as it was book-smart. "He would use words that you wouldn't expect him to use," the writer added. Uncle Junior and Livia, two characters based closely on Chase's own family members, were very near and dear to his heart. "I loved Livia too, obviously, that was a great character, another one who could and did say whatever came into her mind," he explained. "With those two characters, there was no self-censorship at all."

Junior remained Chase's favorite character right till the very end. In fact, his favorite scene in the finale episode was Junior's — when Janice tells him that Bobby is dead. "I loved the scene with Junior at the end," the writer told Television Academy. "I loved everything with Junior, especially in that episode."

Chase was not the only one on the set of "The Sopranos" that appreciate Junior's bluntness. Steve Schirripa played Bobby Bacala, who worked as Junior's assistant for a large chunk of the series, so he got to know the character well. "I love Uncle Junior for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that he says whatever he's thinking," Schirripa said in "Woke Up This Morning." "He doesn't hold back." But as Schirripa points out, it wasn't just Chase's written dialogue that made Junior such a likable character. A lot of the credit for Uncle Junior is due to the actor who portrayed him, Dominic Chianese.

Chianese And Chase Both Took Inspiration From Their Uncles

Dominic Chianese was the only actor on "The Sopranos" that had a speaking role in "The Godfather" series, which made him, in Steve Schirripa's words, "mob movie royalty." The actor had experience playing a wise guy, but he was still unsure of exactly how to approach Uncle Junior at first — that is, until he got some words of guidance from Chase. Here's what he had to say in the book:

"There was a scene where I was driving a car. David [Chase] said something to me: 'Come on, Dominic. Give me something, give me an attitude.' I went right back to an uncle of mine, whom I loved. He was a boxer, and he would drive the car like it was boxing. David said, 'That's it, that's it.' I used a lot of my family intuitively, it was my father, it was all my uncles, I had a lot of uncles. Uncle Junior was everybody. He was a neighborhood."

In the end, Chianese drew from the same places as Chase for his character — his family, his neighborhood, and his uncle. The actor didn't just embody the written words, he elevated them. "It's not just the writing," Schirripa explained. "Sure, he had some great lines … but it was the way he delivered them — that deadpan look, and spitting out the words like they were olive pits — that's what made it so great."

Uncle Junior was a crucial character in "The Sopranos" right up till the very end. Even as he sank into dementia, his every word felt both biting and pathetic at once. Between Chianese and Chase, Uncle Junior became a thoughtful portrait of the elderly Italian-American men in their lives.

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