NEW YORK – What will Tony Soprano do with Jackie Aprile Jr.— the handsome, mixed-up son of his former boss and the kid that sleeps (or used to, anyway) with his daughter?
"You know, I think the real fans don't want to know," says Jason Cerbone, the 23-year-old from Yonkers who plays Aprile on the hit mob opera The Sopranos.
"I'll start telling them what's gonna happen and they're like, ‘No, no don't tell me!"
And there is plenty to tell. On the show, Aprile is an accident waiting to happen.
One moment he's telling pretty Meadow Soprano he loves her — and the next he's fooling around behind her back.
One minute he's promising he'll stay out of trouble, the next he's getting busted by Tony at a strip club or in an illegal casino.
What do you expect from a kid who swears he's in school getting his degree, when he is actually playing the wheel-man in a hold-up of his old college — or trying to run an Ecstasy ring?
What a glorious time to be young and playing Jackie Jr.
"Try and imagine being cast in your favorite show," he says. "It's really unreal."
Cerbone got his start in show business as a two-year-old, appearing on a commercial for Sesame Street.
Around age 10, he was cast two music videos, one for Bon Jovi's "Silent Night" (1985) video and in Suzanne Vega's 1987 hit, "Luka."
That was supposed to be the beginning and the end of a life on the stage.
Cerbone quit acting and went off to earn a degree in biology.
"I wanted to be a physical therapist, actually," he says.
"But somewhere along the line the interest faded out and acting started coming about again. So I don't know where I'd be right now if I wasn't doing this," Cerbone says.
"Hopefully I won't have to find out."
How long will his Sopranos gig last? That's the question.
"To tell you the truth, I don't think anybody knows right now," he says.
Don't even try to get him going about whether or not The Sopranos will return for a fifth season in 2003.
Star James Gandolfini's contract expires at the end of next season and Sopranos creator David Chase has said that he's moving on after the show's fourth.
Now there are reports (unconfirmed) that Chase is having second thoughts about leaving after next year.
Cerbone pleads ignorance.
"Maybe David [Chase] knows and he's not saying or he's undecided," he says.
"The talk on the set, was that it's up in the air and I don't think anybody is sure. Frankly, I think [the cast's] feelings have been more like ‘Hey, the guy is a genius and let's trust whatever he does.'"
Has he experienced any guilt on the job from the worry-warts, like NBC honcho Bob Wright, who suggest The Sopranos may be too violent for TV?
"Look, despite the violence, it's basically a show about a guy who deals with everyday life problems just like everybody else," he says.
"It just so happens that he's in the Mafia, so for a television show that adds some spice to it."