The Power of the 'Soprano' Women

If you are going to have coffee at an Italian restaurant, who better to have it with than the women of "The Sopranos"?

At Fiamma, a chic Italian eatery in downtown New York City, I sat down with Carmela, Meadow and Dr. Melfi -- or more specifically, Edie Falco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Lorraine Bracco.

I had coffee.

As for them? Well they had to listen to my questions. As the show wraps up its sixth and final epic season, I didn't just want to talk about whackings, I wanted to talk about the women of the show.

From the first seconds of the opening credits of every episode of "The Sopranos," we are told that this is a show about Tony. He's the mob boss. He is the one driving the car literally and figuratively.

It's Not Just About Tony

But scratch the surface of this epic drama, and you realize it's not just about Tony.

"Tony happens to be in the Mafia, but I think it's not really just about that," Sigler said. "It's about him balancing all these relationships in his life."

It's about Tony and his wife, Tony and his daughter, Tony and his psychiatrist.

It is the women in "The Sopranos" that give the show its texture and its depth.

"It has to be, you know, three or four or five of the, the better women characters written for television or movies today," Bracco said.

"We're not just the 'goomars' or whatever," Sigler said. "Did I say that correctly?"

"That was perfect," Falco said.

It is safe to say that Falco's Carmela is not just the stereotypical mob moll. There is a certain depth and complexity to her character.

"Carmela went through 10 years of a woman's life," Falco said, "as the kids are getting older, as you re-evaluate your marriage, and um, the way any woman would change and grow if they stay alive for a 10-year period, you know?"

Well, not quite any woman, as Bracco -- ever the analyst -- noted: "[Carmela] is married to someone who is doing despicable things. She's living a good life. She's trying to bring up children in a good way, give them an education, instills things that are important. She has her own family, and she deals with it in an unbelievably dysfunctional family that she's going to feed every Sunday, whether she likes it or not. Am I right?"

Oh, she is right, Carmela has dealt with dysfunction at a level most of us can't imagine -- from infidelity to whackings. But she's made it so relatable. She added a touch of ordinary to the extraordinary.

"If you think about it, you find ways to get through every day, even though there are little pieces that just don't match up," Falco said. "And you have no choice but to put them in that little place in your brain where you say, 'I'll deal with that another time.'"

The Women's Power

And the women of "The Sopranos" are far from powerless victims. They might not be mob bosses, but they pull the strings in their own ways.

"My power with Tony Soprano is very simple," Bracco said. "I was smarter than him."

Bracco's Dr. Melfi is one of the off-kilter defining roles in this drama. The shrink who tells the mob boss what to do.

Bracco said, "I was a woman that he never met, really, before, or had anything to do with. And I think it was an intelligence game between Melfi and Tony."

But it wasn't just about brains, there is also the matter of the legs. I tried to ask without blushing, "How about the legs? Are the legs empowering?"

Bracco had something of an instant education for me: "I think legs on a girl are always empowering. Come on!"

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