This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On an artistic level, working with James Gandolfini was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'll treasure that time forever. He was a deep and giving actor who made it safe enough for me to go out on a limb and delve into the depths of insanity, intimacy and violence right along with him without question or fear. He always made sure I knew he would be there to catch me and to support me. James was the sweetest, gentlest, loving soul you could imagine. Everyone wanted to be near him, to feel the warmth that emanated from him. Everyone wanted to feel his arm around them. On The Sopranos, he set the tone of respect and community that I've never seen anywhere else. People were free to argue, cry and laugh without judgment on the set, which is a rarity. Everyone's input was respected. Everyone counted. Everyone contributed. That was all Jim.
Read more tributes to Gandolfini below:
David Chase on the Last Time He Saw James Gandolfini (Q&A)
Jeff Daniels: James Gandolfini Pushed for 'God of Carnage' Raises
Chris Albrecht: James Gandolfini Stood With Cast in 'Sopranos' Contract Dispute
Marcia Gay Harden: James Gandolfini Helped Me Through My Divorce
Vince Gilligan: Without Tony Soprano There Would Be No Walter White
HBO's Richard Plepler: James Gandolfini Had 'Compassion for the Underdog'
Patricia Arquette: James Gandolfini 'Slept in His Suit to Stay in Character'
Drea de Matteo: James Gandolfini Was a 'King Through and Through'
Nicole Holofcener: James Gandolfini Played 'Sexy,' 'Hilarious' Romantic Lead
'Sopranos' Star Dominic Chianese Recalls Parisian Night With James Gandolfini
HBO's Michael Lombardo: James Gandolfini Was 'Ready to Jump' Back Into TV
Edie Falco: Onscreen Love With James Gandolfini 'One of the Greatest I’ve Ever Known'
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: James Gandolfini Made You Feel 'Everything Would Be All Right'
Wounded Warrior Project Co-Founder Remembers James Gandolfini's Charitable Side
'Taxi-22' Producer: James Gandolfini 'Had an Unmatched Detector of Creative Integrity'
Roger Bart: Why I Encouraged James Gandolfini to Pursue Acting