'Sopranos' Star Robert Iler Gives Rare Interview to Talk HBO Series, Personal Struggles

The actor talked about walking away from the business, overcoming his addictions and why he has never watched most of the hit mob drama.
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Robert Iler

Reclusive Sopranos actor Robert Iler gave a rare interview in which he talked about his time working on the hit HBO series and shared some insight into his life post-acting, including personal struggles.

Iler, who played Anthony John "A.J." Soprano Jr. on the show, joined his former co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa for an installment of their podcast Talking Sopranos, which posted Monday.

The 35-year-old has largely been out of the public eye since The Sopranos concluded in 2007, taking only a couple of minor acting jobs to avoid other work.

"After Sopranos, I told my manager I wanted six months off to go play poker and hang out with my friends and just do whatever," Iler told Imperioli and Schirripa." And he kept calling — 'It's been a year,' 'It's been two years.' The only thing I have done since Sopranos is I got called to do jury duty and I didn't want to do jury duty … so twice, to get out of jury duty, I did an episode of Law and Order."

Iler first remembered how he didn't think he had a shot at the A.J. role because all the other kids at the audition were Italian, but show creator David Chase laughed every time the young Iler said "fuck" and somehow that landed him the job, he joked.

As for going back into acting, Iler maintained it is a complicated internal struggle for a number of reasons — but not for lack of offers.

"I still get calls randomly to do shows … and it's like you played for the [New York] Yankees and now people are like, 'Hey, do you want to do this thing?,'" he said on the podcast. "For me, I was extremely spoiled with my first thing. It was perfect. So there is a part of me that thinks if you do something else, I will mess it up. … There are times when I think 'no, never.' And then there's times where, like last week when in this quarantine, where I was watching Ozark … it blew me away … and I could see doing something like this and I would really enjoy it."

Post-acting, Iler explained he was making a living, for a while, as a semi-pro poker player, but has since dialed that back since it was tied to his drug and alcohol addiction. "I was drinking a lot back in the day, so I would make money playing poker and then I would lose it betting on sports or roulette," he said. However, Iler is now clean and sober. "I have not been drunk in over seven years and hardcore drugs is also seven years. But I was taking Xanax every day and it took to me a long time to get off Xanax, and I had to go see a specialist, so that has been five years."

When The Sopranos wrapped, Iler was 22, and he said to this day, he has seen very few of the completed episodes for two reasons: He hates watching himself onscreen and it would be too painful seeing the late, beloved James Gandolfini, who died in 2013. The two were close.

"I've probably not seen 80 percent of the episodes," Iler explained, calling it "torture" to watch Gandolfini now. "He met me when I was 12 … and it was very [like a] father figure. Iler said one day on set, Gandolfini overheard him say he had never been to a play before, so his TV father he got them tickets to see a show together. 

While not going out for any shows or movies currently, Iler talked about working on a podcast of his own with none other than his Sopranos' sister, Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Called Pajama Pants, the project is be a bit about The Sopranos, but more about their individual lives and stories, he said. 

Watch Iler's full Talking Sopranos segment, below.