American actor Tony Sirico, best known for playing Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri in the television series The Sopranos, has died at the age of 79.

“It is with great sadness, but incredible pride, love and many fond memories that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico wish to inform you of his passing on the morning of Friday, July 8, 2022,” said his family said in a statement on Facebook.

Another Sopranos star, Michael Imperioli, added: “It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great Tony Sirico passed away today.” “Tony was like no one else: he was as tough and as loyal and as tall as anyone I’ve ever known. [I] am heartbroken today,” Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti, wrote on Instagram.

Taken by the comedy virus in prison

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1942, he was frequently arrested as a young man, but caught the comedy bug in prison after watching a troupe of ex-convicts perform. He played several small roles as a gangster on television and in film from the late 1970s, appearing in series like Kojak and Miami Vice (Two cops in Miami), and mafia-themed films. , including Goodfellas and Mickey Blue Eyes

Tony Sirico was in his 50s when he was cast in The Sopranos, the groundbreaking 1999 HBO series that explored the private life of a New Jersey criminal gang. His character, Paulie, eccentric and sometimes brutal, delivered, until 2007, many of the most memorable lines of the series, displaying both a playful humor and a vicious loyalty to the boss Tony Soprano.