Steven Van Zandt's Bruce Springsteen History Came In Handy On The Set Of The Sopranos

There's no one quite like Silvio Dante. The well-coiffed consigliere to New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano (played by the late James Gandolfini) brought level-headedness to David Chase's HBO drama "The Sopranos," a crime show filled with hot-headed characters who assault first and ask questions later. As Tony struggles to find a zen balance between work and his family life, Silvio is one of the few men he can really count on to orchestrate sit-downs and mediate in such a way that everyone comes away satisfied. It's a role that wowed audiences during the show's 1999-2007 run, partially because it was E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt's first acting role.

In series stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa's book "Woke Up This Morning," the former characterizes Silvio as "the one who has the most confidence in terms of being honest with the boss," the one unafraid to tell it like it is, and Tony will give it genuine consideration. Asked where that fearlessness came from, and Van Zandt credits his relationship with singer Bruce Springsteen, whom the E Street Band backs for:

"I thought part of that job is to watch the boss's back, to protect the boss. Which gives you a fearlessness, because it's not about you, it's about protecting somebody else. It's easier to be fearless about protecting someone else than it is about yourself. And so, I decided this guy is going to be a real tough guy, even though he ended up a bit more in the diplomacy part of the family. At that stage of his life, he had gone through being the muscle, being the hit man, and now you're going to graduate to an executive position. But he still had that toughness. So I just wrote it into the character."

From E Street to Bada Bing

In Brett Martin's "The Sopranos: The Complete Book," Van Zandt himself pens an ode to Silvio Dante, describing him as "probably the only member of the family who was happy where he was." Tony's right-hand man had few aspirations to advance any higher in the DiMeo crime family, and fewer resentments towards his boss or the life he lived. Often (but not always) the only time he would lose his composure is outside of the job – at a girl's soccer game, for instance. He had to be level-headed when he dealt with Tony, who couldn't always weather the negative without going off on the messenger. As Van Zandt tells Imperioli, being the bearer of bad news and handling the fallout was something he had practiced in his E Street days with The Boss:

"Every scene I had with Jimmy [Gandolfini] was memorable, but mostly there was one where I had to bring him bad news, and he gets mad at me, which was directly out of my life with Bruce. I was one of the very, very few people who could bring him bad news, and very often he'd get mad at me. It's part of the job. It's part of the job of being somebody's best friend, or in this case being the consigliere, being so close to the boss. So there's one scene in the back room of the Bing, and I had to tell him something that was not what he wanted to hear, and he gets mad at me."

The scene:

Van Zandt continued, "It's a really great, very, very realistic scene. It was useful that I actually lived that thing in real life."