HBO's Richard Plepler: James Gandolfini Had 'Compassion for the Underdog'

The network's CEO says he used his experience as a struggling actor to "evince the pathos of his characters."

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

He was a hamisha guy -- decent, kind and unpretentious in everything he did. He had enormous compassion for the underdog and empathy for people trying to make their way. I think one of his qualities as an actor is that he understood what the underdog felt like. Before David [Chase] found him and Tony Soprano became part of the cultural iconography of our time, Jim was a character actor struggling to make a living. And that is a very challenging, difficult and lonely place to be. He took all of that and used it to evince the pathos of his characters. But also he never forgot what that felt like. He had a great connection with people who were fighting to make their way and to be seen in the world, whether that be a veteran or a fellow actor.

He came to The Newsroom premiere last summer in Los Angeles. He came for Jeff Daniels, who he was in [God of Carnage] with. When Jim got out of the car, all of the cameras and the paparazzi gravitated to him. And with no false modesty, he kind of stepped out of the way. It was Jeff's night. He was there to support him. You can't fake that. There was nothing artificial or manufactured about him. He was a total original in the best sense of the word. And he was a gentle man in the purest sense of both of those words.

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

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