PASADENA, Calif. – Tony Soprano can be tough on James Gandolfini, too. "It's a dark, dark world and you're in it a lot," the star of "The Sopranos" said of his career-defining character. "However, if you're in a dark world, I can't think of any other to be in. There are a lot of pluses. It just takes a heavy toll sometimes."
Gandolfini was reflective on Friday talking about "The Sopranos," which returns to HBO on March 12 after a hiatus three months shy of two years. Fans are eager for something new, yet Gandolfini is in the midst of filming the last several episodes.
Seated on a stage with co-stars Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli, Gandolfini noted that only Bracco had much success prior to the series and many of the show's actors went through the whirlwind of sudden fame.
"It's been an incredible life lesson that a lot of us wouldn't have had without this opportunity," he said. "It teaches you about what's important."
The actors, and series creator David Chase, did a delicate dance with reporters in trying to say something but ultimately reveal nothing about the final season. Twelve new episodes will start in March, and a final eight in January 2007.
Repercussions from the jailing of New York mob boss and rival Johnny Sack will define the new season, along with Tony's reconciliation with Carmella. Julianna Margulies, who plays a real estate agent; Hal Holbrook, who plays a businessman ensnared by the mob; and Ben Kingsley, who plays himself, are among this season's guest stars.
Although there have been false alarms about "The Sopranos" ending in the past, "it does feel like the end this time," Gandolfini said.
"It's made me think of how I approach work and make sure that you work just as hard now as you did in the beginning," he said.