'Sopranos' thesp created memorable mobster

A man walked up to David Proval recently at a Ralphs supermarket and was almost reverent in offering a handshake to the veteran thesp.

Either the gentleman was a huge fan of “The Sopranos,” on which Proval portrayed the evil mobster Richie Aprile, or he thought that Proval was Aprile and that if he said the wrong thing, Proval would’ve whacked him on the side of his head with a roast.

Proval was so convincing as James Gandolfini’s future brother-in-law and nemesis that he just wants to prove everyone that he’s a nice guy. Really.

“I’ve played New York tough guys and Mafia types but not with this kind of darkness and edge. Frank Renzulli wrote the character and he likens him to Richard III. He’s a guy who spent 10 years alone and those are the guys that frighten me,” says the 58-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Proval, who’s had a diverse career and appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” back in 1973.

On concerns of being typecast, he adds: “I recently had a part on ‘West Wing’ and Aaron (Sorkin) said if he seen me in ‘Sopranos,’ he wouldn’t have let me play a rabbi.”

Is he upset that Aprile’s mind-blowing demise (“I thought it was a brilliant way to resolve the problem and constant threat to Tony,” he says. “I didn’t think having him killed in the traditional mob way would’ve worked.”) in the penultimate episode of this year’s season means he can’t come back next year and create hell for whoever gets in his way?

“Naturally at first I was disappointed was but then I thought the character had made such an impact that I didn’t know where to go with him,” he says. “Maybe I can come back if they do a dream sequence.”

For Tony, Silvio, Paulie and Christopher, those will definitely be nightmares.

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