Has there really not been a new episode of The Sopranos since June 2004? Season 6 doesn't arrive until March. One of the HBO crime-drama's stars, Steve Schirripa, has made the most of his downtime from playing Bobby. In addition to steady gigs on Spike TV and The Tonight Show, the author of The Goomba's Guide to Life and The Goomba's Book of Love has a third book hitting stores on Sept. 13, Nicky Deuce: Welcome to the Neighborhood. And get this — it's for kids. When Schirripa's rep pitched TVGuide.com an interview with him, it was an offer we could not refuse.
TVGuide.com: You've got a lot cooking these days!
Steve Schirripa: Yeah, we got a lot of s--- going on. I try to stay busy, brother.
TVGuide.com: So, tell me about Nicky Deuce.
Schirripa: It's a young-adult novel for, like, 8- to 12-year-olds. It's set in Brooklyn, a kind of a fish-out-of-water story. A 12-year-old kid named Nicky grows up in a very rich, WASP-y and square neighborhood in New Jersey, then winds up spending the summer in Brooklyn. He might as well have landed on Mars, because he doesn't know what the hell's going on. And though it takes place now, I describe it more as the Brooklyn of the '60s and '70s, from when I grew up.
TVGuide.com: Parents shouldn't worry if their kid comes home with a book by that Sopranos guy? "Junior, why are you saying 'fuhgeddaboudit' all the time?"
Schirripa: Nooo, please! It's not a manual on how to be a juvenile delinquent, don't worry. [Laughs] I have two daughters who are 9 and 13, and they don't watch The Sopranos, so I wanted to do something for them. They liked the book; their friends liked the book.... It's something different.
TVGuide.com: I hear that one of your Goomba books might be made into a sitcom?
Schirripa: I made a deal with Touchstone to do a half-hour sitcom based on The Goomba's Guide to Life. We'll see, when I'm done with The Sopranos, what happens. You know how that goes.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about The Sopranos. What's in store for Bobby next season?
Schirripa: All I know is that I'm still alive through Episode 6. That's all I can tell ya. This year has been a little extrasecretive. It always has been, but the regulars used to at least get the whole script; now we just get our sides. It's on a need-to-know basis. If that's what makes them feel comfortable, that's OK.
TVGuide.com: Do you sympathize with fans who grumble, "It's a such a long time between seasons"?
Schirripa: It is a long time, it's a really long time. It's a long time for us. But if that's what the creative process is — if that's what the writers and the creator need — there is no way around it, so it's really a moot point, you know what I'm saying? You can't rush it. It's like telling an artist, "Hey, man, hurry up with the f---ing paintings! We need more product here!"
TVGuide.com: Did you ever see the Saturday Night Live skit where they had Sopranos characters forgetting where the previous season left off? "Do I hate you? Like you? Didn't I kill you? Wait, aren't I dead?"
Schirripa: [Laughs] It was very funny. Like I said, there is no way around it. It's not done purposefully, like the writers haven't been working the whole time. And it's not a Dave Chappelle thing.... Hey, what's the worst f---ing show you ever saw? Pauly Shore's Minding the Store, that was one of the all-time worst — I just wanted to throw that in.
TVGuide.com: Noted. Anyway, the down time allows you to do all these other things.
Schirripa: Yeah, I've been lucky, because I like to stay busy. Some guys like to golf, but goombas don't golf. I have another Nicky Deuce book that I'm working on, and I have The Goomba Diet coming out in May, for people with an appetite for life. I do Casino Cinema [gambling-themed movie wraparounds] on Spike with Beth [Ostrosky], Howard Stern's girl, and that's going very well — some are great movies, and some are crappy Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. We've had some very good guests — Rob Schneider was just on, we've had Michael Imperioli and Stevie Van Zandt, a bunch of guys from [Sopranos].... It's like we're playing cards or shooting craps in the basement of my house, so it's fun. And I'm getting ready to do my 15th Tonight Show piece, as a correspondent covering Fashion Week. There's talk of us, if schedule permits, covering the Olympics for The Tonight Show.
TVGuide.com: And that's not to mention the line of high-end shirts you and some of your Sopranos buddies are putting out.
Schirripa: Yeah, it's called Truffatori [Italian for "confident male"]. You'll see some of the characters, like Bobby and Tony, wearing them on the show.
TVGuide.com: Will you offer a refund if someone brings one back with a bullet hole in it?
Schirripa: [Laughs] We'll give you the shirt for free if you get whacked.