Chatting With Leon Wieseltier About His Sopranos Cameo

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

Chatting With Leon Wieseltier About His Sopranos Cameo

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

Chatting With Leon Wieseltier About His Sopranos Cameo
Talking television.
March 29 2004 9:15 AM

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

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Dear Jerry and Leon:

Before we get to our main business today, I would like to make three minor points:

1) I don't mean to brag, but I was right about Feech—"Did I learn nothing from Richie Aprile?" Tony finally asks. You would owe me money if we had bet on this, which we didn't, in part because I don't think we in fact disagreed.

2) Edie Falco does not need Botox. She's fine the way she is. Did you catch, by the way, the first intimation that Carmela worries that Anthony Jr. is going to be sucked into his father's business?

3) In re: Feech—this episode makes a subtle, counterintuitive point about a case we've discussed, the Louie DiBono killing (see last week's dialogue). It was assumed, in all the coverage of John Gotti's downfall, that the DiBono hit—Gotti ordered him murdered because he didn't come to the Ravenite Social Club to pay obeisance to the boss—was the work of a vainglorious man, and vainglorious men make flawed managers. But here we see Tony draw the correct conclusion about Feech's sycophancy-free reaction to a lousy joke. Sometimes, obsequiousness, or the lack of it, means something real. 

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But enough of my horseshit. I'd like to welcome all of you to a very special episode of "Capeci and Goldberg Blow Hard About the Mob." We have with us today a genuine star of premium-channel cable television, Leon Wieseltier, who plays—I want to get this exactly right—a character referred to as "This Fucking Stu Guy" for the 32 most important seconds of last night's episode, the massive Jewish-wedding car-heist that leads to Feech's downfall.

Leon's credits include an extended and continuing run playing "the literary editor" of an off-Broadway comedy of manners called the New Republic. He joins us today from his immodestly sized trailer on the set of The Shield, where he is preparing for his new role as a drug kingpin who uses Lurianic Kabbalah to render himself invisible to the police.

Leon, welcome. I must say this: You looked very tall on television, especially for a Jewish person. I never fully noticed this before about you. What are you, 6 feet 2 inches? (That would be 6 feet 8 in Jewish inches, I think.) It's very impressive. And not only that: Your enunciation of the word "motherfucking" was perfect. I smell Emmy.

Really, a good scene: In half a dyspeptic minute, we're left feeling hopeless about the entire human race. And such a clever crime: It's so obvious in retrospect that car thieves in search of high-end German automobiles would raid the parking lots of suburban Jewish weddings. 

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Your scene allows me to try, once again, to provoke Jerry into criticizing TheSopranos for its portrayal of Italian-Americans. Leon, you should know that Jerry is no soft-headed, special-pleading sob-sister. From what I can tell, he doesn't give even a single shit about the effect of The Sopranos on the reputation of the Italian-American community. When I was writing about the mob, this is something I actually worried about; every so often, I would have to resist the temptation to note, apropos of nothing, that Enrico Fermi and Michelangelo were also Italian.

A saving grace of The Sopranos is that it offends equally. African-Americans are invariably portrayed as corrupt ghetto politicians, crack-heads, or gangsters; Jews are money-grubbing, black-songwriter-exploiting pussies. Even standard-issue white people come off as moral hypocrites. No one looks good. Still, I have to ask about the wedding scene: Good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?

There are so many questions: Who'd you meet? Did you meet Edie Falco? How long did the scene take to film? Did they feed you? What did they feed you? At least there must have been a chopped liver mold, or a cascading display of whitefish. And for dessert—a Viennese table, maybe?

Best,
Jeff

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.