Years ago, that was a goal of mine, [because] I never considered myself what you would call “leading man material.” A lot of good character actors have some incredible, well-defined careers — guys like Richard Jenkins, who was one of my acting teachers at Trinity [Repertory Company in Providence]. He’s one of the prototypes that I’ve looked at as a template, in his work ethic, in the way he carries himself as a theater actor. There’s a guy who can cross over.
WHAT WAS YOUR PROUDEST ACTING MOMENT? I was cast over the phone by Georgianne Walken [wife of Christopher Walken] for The Sopranos. The day that I wrapped my scenes — which means no more shoots — the director says, “And that’s a wrap for Armen!” Everyone starts applauding. This had never happened to me. I’m covered in blood, ripped up; I’d been shooting from 9 in the morning until 10 at night. When they cast me weeks before, they said, “Welcome to the team.” So at my wrap, everyone was applauding me, the whole place. I looked at Jimmy [Gandolfini] and he’s applauding.
I started to cry. I couldn’t believe it. They wait for you to say something. I was trying to fight back my tears, trying to talk. I said, “Never before have I been made to feel so nice and so welcome. Thank you all. I’ll never forget this.” I hugged Jimmy and I kissed him on the cheek and I said, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I was doing today.”
And he said, “No, no, no. . . If it wasn’t for you. If it wasn’t for you.”
That’s the kind of person he was. At one point while we were rehearsing there was an issue as to whether we would do something one way or another [way, as] more of a physical thing. And I said, “Hey, look. Whatever you want. You’re the boss.”
I meant that in terms of his seniority as an actor and [as] the guy who is pretty much the namesake of the show. And he said, “No. No. No. It’s you and me. We’re in this together.” He was very, very humble. That’s what makes his passing so difficult.