“The Sopranos” was actually Steven Van Zandt’s first acting gig. Prior to playing Silvio, he was probably best-known as the guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. As Chase confirmed to Deadline in 2019, he first noticed Van Zandt during his charismatic 1997 speech inducting The Rascals into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and thought he’d be good for “The Sopranos.”
Per Van Zandt’s Cleveland.com interview, Chase indeed wanted him for the role of Tony, “It was one of those weird things. [Chase] wanted unusual, new faces and he really thought I could do it, and out of pure ignorance naiveté I thought I could do it. Luckily HBO wouldn’t let him, so we ended up with one of the greatest actors of all-time, Jimmy G.” “Jimmy G” is, of course, James Gandolfini, who delivered one of the greatest performances in television history as “The Sopranos” big boss.
As for Silvio, as Van Zandt tells it, the character’s genesis is a lovely story in and of itself. “[Chase] still wanted me in the show and I actually said to David, ‘Listen, I’m feeling pretty guilty about taking an actor’s job here,’ and he said, ‘OK, in that case, I’ll write you in a part that doesn’t exist,’ and [Silvio Dante] was born.” For his part, Van Zandt turned his acting break into steady work, claiming the lead on Netflix’s “Lilyhammer” before scoring a gig in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” — though he also continues his day job rocking with The Boss.