HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 27 — Livia Soprano, the malevolent and manipulative
matriarch of the
Soprano family, was fond of tearfully waving a wet tissue at her family and saying, in the tone of a
martyr, "I wish the Lord would take me now." Livia used other familiar bits of dialogue when she spoke
to her gangster son, Tony, who, incidentally, she had tried to ice. She often said: "Me? What did I do? I
didn't do anything." Or "Out of sight, out of mind." Or "What do you care?"
The death in June of Nancy Marchand, the distinguished actress who played
Livia, was a personal loss to
David Chase and the cast. But it also posed a creative problem because Livia had been a vivid character
in "The Sopranos," whose sudden disappearance would have to be explained in the script.
So, armed with video technology, Mr. Chase said, he and his editors
transposed filmed sequences of Ms.
Marchand from the series's past years, including outtakes, and Mr. Chase wrote new scenes
incorporating these bits of Livia's dialogue.
"We tried to use them all," said Mr. Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos,"
the acclaimed HBO series.
"We tried to use her basic repertoire. She had these riffs that she would use over and over again. And
that's the footage we used."
The series returns on Sunday night at 9 with two episodes. In the second,
Livia has some scenes with her
son and members of the family before the story has her dying peacefully in her sleep.
When these scenes were filmed, James Gandolfini, who plays Tony, recited
his lines to a stand-in. Then
the editors inserted the image of Ms. Marchand onto the scene.
"It wasn't that complicated but, on the other hand, it was complicated,"
said Mr. Chase. He said the
scenes made sense because Livia had, in her manipulative and self-pitying way, repeatedly used the same
lines that drove Tony and her other children crazy.
Ms. Marchand's death at 71 was not unexpected. She had been suffering
from cancer and chronic
pulmonary disease. When she auditioned for the role more than three years ago, with more than 100
other actresses, she was given the part immediately.
"Nancy just nailed it," said Mr. Chase. "No one else came close. She
walked in and understood it perfectly."
By all accounts she told Mr. Chase she was ill but never specified her medical problems. "She just
continued to work and surprise us," he said. "We took it a season at a time, a week at a time."
"The younger performers and me learned from her," he said.
"She knew all the angles. She knew about the business. She knew who she was."