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Dominic Chianese as Junior Soprano
|First appearance||"Pilot" (episode 1.01)|
|Last appearance||"Made in America" (episode 6.21)|
|Created by||David Chase|
|Portrayed by||Dominic Chianese
|Aliases||"Junior", "Uncle June"|
Capo (unknown-season 1)
Boss (season 1 - season 6)
Retired boss (season 6)
|Family||Corrado Soprano, Sr. (father, deceased)
Frank Soprano (uncle, deceased)
Johnny Soprano (brother, deceased)
Ercoli "Eckley" Soprano (brother, deceased)
Tony Soprano (nephew)
Janice Soprano (niece)
Barbara Soprano Giglione (niece)
Livia Soprano (sister-in-law, deceased)
Corrado John Soprano, Jr., played by Dominic Chianese, is a fictional character from the HBO TV series The Sopranos. Usually referred to as "Junior" or "Uncle June'", he is the official boss of the DiMeo crime family for most of the series, as well as the mentor and surrogate father for his nephew and DiMeo crime family capo Tony Soprano. A younger Corrado sometimes appears in flashbacks and is played by Rocco Sisto. Although Junior is portrayed as conniving and deceitful in the first season, he shows a more considerate and humorous side of him in the later seasons and reveals a sensitive side during his illness and house arrest, making the audience feel a slight bit of sympathy and compassion for him.
Junior is portrayed as an arrogant, selfish, misanthropic, impulsive, and insecure character. In Mafia jargon, he "ate alone." Junior was very envious of others who held an advantage or position of superiority over him (especially towards his own family). He had an uneasy relationship with his nephew Tony Soprano, for his fast ascendancy as a star of the family and their often conflicting business interests. Although Junior never directly murders anyone on the show, in Season One, he orders the murders of six people, including Brendan Filone and the unsuccessful hit on Tony after he believed Tony was conspiring against him. He also ordered a mock execution on Christopher Moltisanti for hijacking one of his trucks.
After a brief power struggle during season one, Tony stood aside and allowed Junior to become boss of the family. Shortly afterwards Junior was indicted for racketeering and placed under house arrest, leaving Tony as de facto boss. He would spend the next three seasons awaiting trial and trying to avoid prosecution on the grounds of his failing health, whilst struggling to cope with his virtual imprisonment; he was only allowed to leave the house for doctors' appointments and funerals. Eventually a member of Junior's crew managed to intimidate one of the jurors, resulting in a mistrial. Over this period Junior's mental state gradually deteriorated, resulting in him shooting Tony, believing him to be his old enemy Pussy Malanga. He was subsequently committed to a psychiatric hospital. When Tony visited him for the last time, it was apparent that Junior was in the advanced stages of dementia, as he did not even recognize his nephew.
The Junior Soprano character may have been loosely based on the real life presumed boss of the Gambino crime family, Peter Gotti, with similarities in look, age, inheritance of the leadership from his nephew, John A. Gotti, and his relationship with longtime girlfriend Marjorie Alexander. Junior is also based on "Uncle Joe" Giacobbe, a veteran made man in the DeCavalcante crime family. Likewise, his attempt to feign mental illness in order to escape indictment for his crimes mirrors the real life case of Genovese crime family boss Vincent Gigante. According to series creator David Chase the name Junior was taken from one of his own older cousins.
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Junior is Tony Soprano's uncle: Junior's younger brother was John Francis "Johnny Boy" Soprano, Tony's father. Both Junior and Johnny Boy dropped out of high school to join the DiMeo crime family. Junior and Johnny Boy were responsible for acquiring longtime Soprano hangout and de facto headquarters, Satriale's Meat Market, from the eponymous Francis Satriale. Mr. Satriale was a gambling addict that owed Johnny money and refused to pay and was avoiding Johnny. Mr. Satriale eventually committed suicide, leaving the pork store in the Soprano brothers' hands because of his large debts. Junior always watched after Tony but after Johnny Boy's death from emphysema in 1986, Junior became Tony's surrogate father. Junior acted as Tony's mentor, helping him rise through the ranks, eventually being made in 1982, and taking over his deceased father's crew in the late-eighties, becoming the DiMeo Family's youngest captain.
Following the arrest of DiMeo family boss Ercoli "Eckley" DiMeo in late 1995, Junior got into a trucking dispute with new acting boss Jackie Aprile, Sr. He fled to Boca Raton to avoid any repercussions but Tony arranged a sit down through Soprano soldier Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero to solve the problem. Junior greatly resented having to answer to Aprile, who use to fetch Junior sambucas.
In the opening episode, Junior planned to kill "Little Pussy" Malanga in Vesuvio, a restaurant owned by Tony's childhood friend, Artie Bucco. Tony made many attempts to prevent the murder and eventually resorted to fire bombing the restaurant to force its closure so the hit would happen elsewhere.
Upon Jackie's death, Tony and Junior squabbled over control of the family. Brendan Filone, an associate of Tony's crew, was killed by Junior's right-hand man, Mikey Palmice. Before the situation could be elevated to a war, Tony agreed to let Junior become boss. Although Junior technically became the boss, Tony had more control of the family and was using Junior as a front to distract law enforcement with the agreement of the other caporegimes (all of which was unknown to Junior).
Junior Soprano gained the distrust of the others when Mikey Palmice, a soldier in his crew, busted up a card game under DiMeo capo Jimmy Altieri's protection, as his first act as boss. Furthermore, Tony had to deal with the other family captains when Junior attempted to tax Herman "Hesh" Rabkin and demanded a piece of his shylocking business. Junior received $250,000 as a result, although the others believed that Junior was abusing his position.
Junior and Tony argued again when Tony made reference to Junior's sexual relationship (specifically cunnilingus, seen as embarrassing for a mafioso to give) with a longtime friend, prompting Junior to end the association. Tony also upset Junior by placing his mother, Livia Soprano, into the Green Grove retirement community. Resentful, Livia tried to take advantage of both of their grudges and covertly gave Junior the go ahead to kill Tony. She prompted the action by revealing Tony's visits to Dr. Melfi, a therapist. However, the hit failed and Tony used the situation to cut Junior out of the loop in the family almost completely by arranging for Junior's top men, Mikey Palmice and Chucky Signore to be murdered. Junior was coincidentally arrested on federal racketeering charges on the very day he was to be assassinated, foiling Tony's plan, but leaving Tony as the street boss of the family.
This cut Junior's ability to pull another attack and sent his former crew into turmoil. Junior's underboss, Joe Sasso, was arrested at the same time as Junior. Junior's replacement capo, Philly "Spoons" Parisi, kept commenting on the conflict between Tony and his uncle and also Livia's involvement, so Tony had him killed. Finally, Tony moved two soldiers from Junior's crew, Patsy Parisi (Philly's twin brother), and Gigi Cestone, over to his crew. This left Junior the senile Murf Lupo as capo, Beppy Scerbo and the dimwitted, obese Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri as soldiers. Through Bobby, Tony informed Junior that he could keep the title of Boss, almost all of his businesses were forfeited, and Tony would let him keep a 5% tribute, which would be (barely) enough to live on and pay his legal bills.
Soon, Junior was released from jail and placed under house arrest while awaiting trial, after his attorney convinced the judge that Junior was much sicker than he actually was. This mimics the real life tactics of Genovese crime family mob boss Vincent Gigante who feigned mental illness to avoid federal prosecution. While he was under house arrest, Soprano captain Richie Aprile was released from prison after serving ten years, and actively sought Junior's friendship. Soon, Junior found himself at the epicenter of a growing power struggle between Richie and Tony, with Richie wishing to assume Tony's position as "street boss". Junior was extremely conflicted over which side to favor, but eventually decided that while Tony could be selfish and impulsive, Richie simply did not have the respect of the family members, and his violent and brutish tendencies could mean the end of the family itself. Junior finally told Tony of Richie's plans against him. Grateful for the warning, Tony increased by half (5% to 7.5%) Junior's percentage of his former businesses, and the two (more or less) buried the hatchet.
During this time, Bobby Baccalieri became Junior's replacement, right-hand man and closest confidant. Bobby accompanied Junior on hospital visits during his battles with stomach cancer, which he eventually overcame. Junior tried to warn Bobby not to get involved with his always scheming niece, Janice, after the death of Bobby's wife, but Janice persisted and Bobby and Janice eventually were married and had a child together.
Junior found various ways to get around his house arrest—using his doctor's office to conduct business (until the feds placed an agent there posing as a nurse) and attending as many funerals and family functions as possible.
Although Tony considered him to be arrogant and incompetent as a boss, he has often turned to Junior as the voice of experience. Although Junior has survived cancer and possible prison time, the toll of a series of 'mini-strokes' and the confinement of house arrest has since left him confused, depressed, and borderline senile, giving reason to gradually retire him as the official head of the DiMeo Crime Family and making him increasingly dependent on family care and support.
In Season Six of The Sopranos, Junior's dementia has worsened over the two year interval, as he becomes paranoid that his long-deceased enemy, "Little Pussy" Malanga, is after him. Tony, however, refuses to put his uncle in a nursing home, feeling obligated to care for Junior himself with the aid of his sisters and Bobby. The decision proved nearly fatal. Tony arrives at Junior's house one evening and finds that his uncle is missing his false teeth. Tony sends Junior upstairs to look for the missing teeth while Tony prepares dinner for him. When Junior hears Tony's voice from downstairs telling him that dinner is almost ready, his dementia comes into play once again. Junior descends the stairs and believing his nephew to be Malanga, he shoots Tony in the abdomen. Frightened and in a state of panic, Junior runs upstairs, hiding away in his bedroom closet while Tony struggles to dial 9-1-1 before losing consciousness.
Junior was arrested and taken into Federal custody over the shooting, but his lawyer secured him a release into a cushy mental institution, claiming he is currently unfit to stand trial. Tony is apparently unaware of this, having refused all contact with, or even mention of, his uncle since the shooting. Junior remains confused and distressed by proceedings and denies that he could have deliberately shot his own nephew. Junior's dementia has progressed to such an extreme state that when his great-nephew A.J. Soprano visits him with the intention of killing him as revenge, Junior does not even recognize the peril he is in. Junior's advanced dementia causes him to think A.J. is actually Tony and he states, with great excitement when A.J. arrives, "Anthony! My nephew!" Fortunately, A.J.'s plan is botched when he inadvertently drops the knife on the floor. He attempts to escape when a staff member shouts, "Knife!", informing everyone else, but is caught, arrested, and jailed. Tony pulls some strings with former Assemblyman, now State Senator, Ronald Zellman to get A.J. released with no censure and after he and A.J. have an intense, verbal fight over whether A.J.'s actions were justified, Tony finally calms down and is just thankful the plan fell through.
In the Wyckoff therapeutic center, Junior began to put portions of his old life back together. He still collects weekly payments from his organizations and is occasionally visited by Pat Blundetto and Beppy Scerbo, where he delusively tells them that he expects an apology from Tony over his commitment (the two men nervously say they'll relay the message to Tony). Within the walls of the home, Junior behaves like a typical Mafia chieftain; bribing orderlies, organizing card games and physically abusing rivals. A young Chinese American looks up to Junior as a mentor and father figure. However, after Junior loses control of his bladder, the center's administrators conclude that he is ditching his medications. Junior is confronted with the choice of either taking the medication that will make him docile or being moved to (probably) a less pleasant facility. Junior agrees to take the medication. The result is numbing as he first loses his aggressiveness and personality. He is badly beaten by his anger-prone protégé, who doesn't want to lose Junior as a mentor. In the final scene of "Remember When" Junior sits passively, black and blue, with broken glasses from his beating, silently sitting and petting a cat sitting on his lap.
In the episode "The Blue Comet", Janice approached Tony while he is draining his pool. She tells him that Junior has run out of money, and will be removed from the Wyckoff therapeutic center unless someone helps him out, with her strongly implying that Tony should step in because she and Bobby don't have the money to help significantly. Tony shows no sympathy for Junior, and offers a single five dollar bill to Janice, an insulting gesture designed to demonstrate his indifference to Junior's predicament. Janice walks away without accepting the derisive offer, and leaves after Tony tells her that he is finished with Bobby over Bobby's support for her plan, as Tony goes back to draining the pool.
In the final episode, "Made in America", Janice visits Junior at a state facility, his home since being removed from the Wyckoff facility. He calls her Livia, her mother's name. He also thinks Janice's daughter is actually Janice herself. She tries to tell him that his former soldier Bobby is dead, but he doesn't comprehend (thinking she meant Bobby Kennedy). Tony later visits a now sick and feeble Junior for the first time since the shooting. Junior recognizes him as someone he used to play catch with, remembering playing with Tony as a child. Tony tries to remind Junior of who he was, and even who his brother was, but Junior cannot remember. Tony tells him that he and his father used to run all of North Jersey, "this thing of ours" (meaning Cosa Nostra), to which Junior simply smiles and replies, "Well that's nice". A frustrated and visibly saddened Tony finally knows Junior is in an advanced stage of dementia. Tony simply looks at Junior then tearfully leaves his wheelchair-bound uncle without saying goodbye.
Murders ordered by Junior Soprano
- Pussy Malanga - Murdered on orders from Junior for reasons unknown, although it is known Malanga was Junior's arch enemy (first mentioned in the pilot episode, 1999).
- Brendan Filone - Shot clean through the eye in his bathtub by Mikey Palmice for hijacking Junior's trucks (in episode 1x3, "Denial, Anger, Acceptance", 1999).
- Rusty Irish - Thrown off the Paterson Falls bridge by Mikey Palmice for selling drugs to Old Man Capri's grandson (in episode 1x6, "Pax Soprana", 1999).
- Donnie Paduana - Shot on Junior's orders by Mikey Palmice for making jokes about Tony's mother wanting him clipped (in episode 1x12, "Isabella", 1999).
- Jimmy Altieri - Sanctioned a hit on him (executed by Christopher Moltisanti and Silvio Dante) after Tony convinced Junior that Jimmy was an informant (in episode 1x13, "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano", 1999).