The famous Office line “I want people to be afraid of how much they love me” takes on a different light when you imagine The Sopranos‘ James Gandolfini as the one to utter it.
The idea’s not far-fetched, it seems, as the late actor apparently was offered to replace boss Michael Scott as branch manager of Dunder Mifflin on The Office after Steve Carell left the NBC show in 2011. But apparently, HBO actually paid Gandolfini $3 million to turn down the role, according to one of the actor’s Sopranos’ costars.
That surprising tidbit was revealed during Monday’s episode of Talking Sopranos, a podcast hosted by two of the series’ stars, Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa.
The actors were speaking to Ricky Gervais, whose U.K. Office and character on the series inspired its American counterpart.
Related video: James Gandolfini’s widow on his son as a young Tony Soprano
Schirripa, who played Tony Soprano’s (Gandolfini) brother-in-law Bobby Baccalieri in the mob drama, said, “I think before James Spader and after Carell, they offered Jim, I want to say, $4 million to play him for the season — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it. That’s a fact.”
By the time Carell departed The Office, The Sopranos had already been over for roughly four years, and Schirripa said “Jim was going do it because he hadn’t worked.”
“So they paid him that to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure?” Gervais inquired.
“I guess that and also he had a deal with them,” Schirripa responded, adding that Gandolfini was developing The Night Of for HBO. Before he died in 2013 at the age of 51, the actor was set to star in the miniseries, and he still retains a posthumous executive producer credit on the critically adored title.
HBO didn’t immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.
The Sopranos’ legacy is also adding another chapter soon with HBO Max’s The Many Saints of Newark, led by Gandolfini’s son Michael as a young Tony Soprano. The prequel film will hit theaters on Oct. 1 and stream on the platform that month.
Listen to the episode below: