HBO's Michael Lombardo: James Gandolfini Was 'Ready to Jump' Back Into TV

Michael Lombardo
John Shearer/Getty Images

On Feb. 12, HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo and architect Sonny Ward hosted a fund-raiser at their home for former Democratic congressman and combat veteran Patrick Murphy.

The exec says the late actor had been working on "Big Dead Place," a show about the U.S. Antarctic program, and was ready to "commit to a series and character that he hadn't committed to since Tony Soprano."

This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

I've worked with him for a long time. He'd been working on a project [Big Dead Place, about the U.S. Antarctic program] for the last few years and he was finally ready to jump in with both feet and commit to a series and character that he hadn't committed to since Tony Soprano. The character was crafted with him, for him. And he was so excited about it. The tragedy here is that here's a man who was finally ready to reclaim his place as an artist fully and completely. Jim just absolutely had no tolerance for dishonesty. And this character is a man who sometimes is politically incorrect, sometimes stepped on people's toes, but always struggles to tell the truth, his truth. And Jim connected with that. He also really embraced his blue-collar roots. And this character is a working-class guy. Jim had a very strong connection with his audience. That's what they embraced in Tony Soprano. Of course it was a mob show. But it was a guy who came from the same place they came from.

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

Patricia Arquette: James Gandolfini 'Slept in His Suit to Stay in Character'

Annabella Sciorra: Working With James Gandolfini Was 'Once-in-a-Lifetime' Experience

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

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