Acclaimed ‘Sopranos’ Actor Vincent Pastore Visits John Jay High School
An afternoon to remember
“Do you call it sauce or gravy?” a John Jay High School student asked acclaimed actor Vincent Pastore, who has made a career of playing mafioso.
“You woke up this morning, got to school and this is the question you wanted to ask me?” retorted Pastore.
After asking students for a show of hands on what they call it—nearly all for sauce, he answered, “Gravy. Good question.”
Meeting Pastore was an afternoon to remember. The actor visited John Jay High School on January 23 to speak with students in Chandler Lewis’s senior elective Social and Theoretical Criticism in the Serial Narrative—known as the Series—and to sophomores and juniors in Bill Friedman’s acting class.
a chance connection at Curriculum night
Pastore’s visit came about because of a chance connection at Curriculum Night, John Jay’s open house for parents to meet teachers. Senior Sailor Orlovitz is enrolled in the Series. When her father, Al Orlo, heard Lewis say that the class would be analyzing The Sopranos as well as other series, he offered to contact a very good friend and bandmate who had been in the show—Vincent Pastore.
“When Pastore agreed to visit, we shifted the syllabus,” said Lewis. “It’s the centerpiece of the Series this year.”
Students in the Series are experts on Pastore’s role in The Sopranos. The class has watched nine of the 13 episodes in the show’s first season together, analyzing the story arc and characters, including that of Pastore’s— Salvatore Bonpensiero—a soldier in the DiMeo crime family.
Sailor, Al Orlo and Pastore
Pastore's approach: Go for it!
Pastore shared his rise to fame with the students—from growing up in West New Rochelle to being typecast as a "wise guy" when he was in his fifties. He also described his life now, 20 years after The Sopranos: his love for being on stage—in theater and with his band Gangster Squad—and teaching. “I now have 18 students on Zoom,” said Pastore.
Students had fun experiencing Pastore's signature swagger—the way he uses pauses and looks to punctuate his outer-boroughs accent. Pastore enjoyed himself, too; he joked with the students, cajoled them into asking better questions, dropped names and gave advice.
Questions for Pastore ranged from practical to playful
When you are in a show, what is the relationship like between the between the cast and crew?
Pastore: Family. In fact, this Thursday, The Sopranos have a wake to go to - together.
What is your go-to deli order?
Pastore: I don’t eat. I lost 35 pounds. I want to live! I have a fruit cup and yogurt.
Let’s say you get the part. What do you do next?
Pastore: Read the script. Look at the relationships. Listen to what other characters say about you. What’s next? Dress like your character. Do the outer layers and the inner layers are going to come. The role is inside of you.
What actor inspires you?
Pastore: James Gandolfini, the gifted actor who played Tony Soprano. I learned how to be generous from him. Acting is reactive. In scenes, I have to listen to what you say and respond. It’s not a selfish project.
photo opp with Pastore
a generous gift to students
There were so many questions that the Q&A session was as long as Pastore’s presentation. The line of students who wanted to have a photo with him was even longer.
“What a generous gift,” said Lewis, walking out of the auditorium. “What an opportunity for the students.”