Nancy Marchand as Livia Soprano
|First appearance||"Pilot" (episode 1.01)|
|Last appearance||"In Camelot" (episode 5.07)|
|Created by||David Chase|
|Portrayed by||Nancy Marchand
|Family||Faustino "Augie" Pollio (father)
Teresa Pollio (mother)
Gemma Pollio (sister)
Quintina Blundetto (sister)
Settimia Pollio (sister, deceased)
Mickey Pollio (brother)
A.J. Soprano (grandson)
Meadow Soprano (granddaughter)
Tony Blundetto (nephew)
Corrado Soprano Jr. (brother-in-law)
Ercole Soprano (brother-in-law)
Carmela Soprano (daughter-in-Law)
Thomas Giglione (son-in-Law)
|Spouse(s)||Johnny Soprano (deceased)|
Barbara Soprano Giglione
Livia Soprano (née Pollio), played by Nancy Marchand, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. She is the mother of Tony Soprano. A young Livia, played by Laila Robins and later by Laurie J. Williams is sometimes seen in flashbacks. Series creator David Chase has stated that the main inspiration for the character was his own mother.
Livia Pollio Soprano was born in Providence, Rhode Island to Faustino "Augie" and Teresa Pollio, Italian immigrants from Avellino. Livia's childhood was poverty-stricken and miserable, and she spent her adult life punishing everyone for it. Marriage to the tough and charismatic Johnny Soprano was Livia's ticket out of her parents' house. But married life, however, was not happy ever after. Livia wasn't particularly interested in housework and as for motherhood, her take on it was that babies were "animals...no different from dogs." Although Johnny was a good provider, in Livia's estimation he was never good enough. She constantly pressured him to earn more, but when he came to her with a plan to move the family to Reno in order to pursue a new business opportunity - something he wanted very much - she quickly put the kibosh on it. Although Livia belittled Johnny practically every day of his life, when he died she instantly canonized him.
Cagey, manipulative, and possessing an encyclopedic memory of every slight she ever suffered Livia Soprano, the family matriarch, seemingly derives little pleasure from life other than making the people around her miserable, especially her three children: Janice, Tony, and Barbara. On her son's wedding day, she tells her new daughter-in-law Carmela that Tony would eventually get bored with her. Years later (in season one of the show proper), she manipulates her brother-in-law, Junior, into putting out a hit on her own son after he tries to put her in a nursing home by mentioning that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist. She later tells Junior that Tony looks exactly like her cousin Cakey after he had a lobotomy, saying that his mother said it would have been better if Cakey had died rather than go on living like that. It is later discovered that the FBI had bugged Green Grove (Livia's nursing home), and the recordings of Livia conspiring with Junior were played to Tony. While she was in hospital, she received a visit from Artie Bucco. She then tells him that Tony burned down his restaurant, presumably in another attempt to have Tony killed. Tony's plot for revenge is foiled when Livia suffers a stroke (said to be induced by repressed rage) and is taken into a hospital. It appeared Tony had originally been planning to suffocate her with a pillow he grabbed on his way to her room, but he is not given the chance when he hears she had suffered a stroke and he sees her being wheeled out on a gurney. He then publicly threatens to kill her, informing her that he had heard her conspiring with Junior, thanks to the FBI tapes, saying, "I'm gonna have a nice, long, happy life, which is more than I can say for you". However, Tony sees Livia smirking at him, and, when Tony points this out, he has to be restrained by the hospital staff. When she gets out, Tony settles for acting as if she were already dead, attempting to end all contact and financial support.
In the second episode of the third season, "Proshai, Livushka", Tony meets with her briefly, and they get into an argument that ends with Tony storming out of the house.
Based on her conversations with Tony, Dr. Melfi speculates that Livia might suffer from some form of borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. Additionally, Tony tells Adriana (in "Irregular Around the Margins") that Livia suffered from Irritable bowel syndrome all her life.
After the second season, a storyline was planned where Livia would be called to testify against her son in court, giving evidence on stolen airline tickets she had received from him, but Marchand died in 2000 before it could be filmed. Existing footage and computer-generated imagery was used to create a final scene between Tony and Livia in the episode "Proshai, Livushka" in Season Three before the character, too, passed on. In the same episode, Artie experiences a brief flashback of a meeting with Livia, showing footage of a scene from a first season episode. Livia nevertheless appeared as a young woman in several flashbacks after then, as well as being frequently referenced, with Tony still far from resolving his feelings towards her.
Janice, during a conversation with Carmela, calls into question whether or not her mother loves them. She goes on to explain that her therapist explained to her that Livia does indeed love them, but does not know how to express it.
During the sixth season episode "Mayham," when Tony is comatose from a gunshot wound, he has a vivid dream that ends with Tony being beckoned into a house by his dead cousin Tony Blundetto; a woman who looks similar to Livia can briefly be seen in the doorway of the house. Tony then hears a child's voice calling "Daddy, don't go, come back." He then awakens to see his daughter Meadow and wife Carmela standing over him.
David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, based Livia heavily on his own mother, Norma Chase. He described her as being paranoid, prone to often insulting others, abusive, and disregarding her son's career achievements. Many of Livia's memorable lines, such as "Poor you" or "daughters are better at taking care of their mothers than sons," are what Norma Chase would use to say. And, just as Tony Soprano, David Chase spent time in psychotherapy.
- Robin Dougherty (20 January 1999). "Chasing TV". Retrieved 7 September 2013.
- Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""Once You're in this Family, There's No Getting Out:" Meet the Sopranos". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
- Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""Woke Up This Morning": The Birth of a Show". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.