“The Sopranos”: Lorraine Bracco speaks from the heart

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Dr. Jennifer Melfi may have been primarily concerned with the health of her psychiatric patient, Tony Soprano, in ‘The Sopranos,” but her alter ego, actress Lorraine Bracco, has made her own health a top priority. And she has her late parents to thank for it.

Lorraine Bracco signed copies of her memoir, "On the Couch," during her appearance in Martinsville, NJ, on Feb. 19./ Photos by Ava Gacser

“I don’t want to put off anything until it’s too late like they did,” Lorraine confessed to a crowd of about 250 during a Somerset Medical Center program entitled “Talking about Your Heart!” held on Feb. 19 at the Martinsville Inn.

“I want to be healthy,” she said, adding that she quit smoking years ago. “I want to do whatever it takes me to enjoy my children and my future grandchildren.”

Lorraine lost both her mother and father to heart-related diseases within 11 days of one another in November 2010. That time – and the many months of illness leading up to it – was a “huge roller coaster ride” for her.

“I was overwhelmed dealing with my parents and watching them suffer,” said Lorraine. The elder Braccos were both 84 when they died and had been married 64 years.

Her father, Sal, had congestive heart failure. Her mother, Sheila, was a smoker, and she suffered a mild heart attack and battled emphysema. She also had a stent put in to treat an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

“If she were alive here today, she’d deny she had that heart attack,” said Lorraine. “My parents were both so stubborn.”

Her father, she said, had a habit of not taking his medicine regularly. It became such a concern to Lorraine that she once had her “Sopranos” co-star, Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts), give him a call.

“Sal, did you take your f***’ing medicine?” she recalled him asking.

Neither of her parents had concerns about the way Italian-Americans were portrayed on the long-running award-winning HBO series.

“Lorraine, it’s a TV show,” her dad, an Italian, said when she asked him about it.

Her mother, however, did object to the salty language – especially when she helped Lorraine run her lines by reading Tony Soprano’s part.

“Does he always have to use this language?” Lorraine recalled her mother asking.

These days, Lorraine is back on TV in the TNT drama “Rizzoli & Isles.” The show, based on characters created by thriller author Tess Gerritsen, returns for a second season this summer.

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“I’m the annoying mother which I love,” Lorraine said of her role as Angie Harmon’s mom.

Much of the question and answer portion of the actress’s appearance naturally involved “Sopranos” talk. The multiple Emmy nominee confessed that co-star (and Jersey native) James Gandolfini is a good kisser, and that she was just as confused by the ending of the series as many fans were.

“No. Could you explain it?” she asked the audience. “I can’t.”

She also expressed appreciation for her many rotund male costars.

“Thank God they made me look thin,” she laughed.

Lorraine Bracco was nice enough to pose for a photo with me after her talk.

Following the program, Lorraine signed copies of her memoir, “On the Couch.” The book recounts her struggle with depression and long child-custody battle with former partner Harvey Keitel (Lorraine is most recently divorced from actor Edward James Olmos), as well as her successful acting career (which includes an Oscar nomination for “Goodfellas”).

In 2007, Lorraine appeared in an episode of the WeTV program “John Edward Cross Country.” John Edward, the Long Island-based psychic medium, read for her and her family.

I asked Lorraine if she had contacted John since her parents’ passing to see if he has any messages from them.

“It’s too soon,” she confessed, but said that the thought had occurred to her. “They wanted to be together.

“I’m sure that’s what John will tell me, too.”

1 Comment

  1. shaun wetzel said,

    May 9, 2011 at 9:33 am

    The Sopranos is a great American television drama series which has six seasons and 86 episodes. All episodes are too good to watch and still I watch all my favorite episodes online. Thanks.

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