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
Olivia "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.
Olivia Pollio Soprano was born in Providence, Rhode Island to Teresa and Faustino "Augie" Pollio, Italian immigrants from Avellino. Livia's childhood was poverty-stricken and miserable and her marriage to the tough and charismatic Johnny Soprano was Livia's ticket out of her parents' house. Together they had three children: Janice, Tony, and Barbara. She also suffered a miscarriage years after her youngest child was born and almost died from heavy bleeding. Being a mob wife, however, was not happily ever after for Livia. Life as a housewife was unfulfilling to Livia and she felt overwhelmed by her three children and unappreciated by her unfaithful husband.
Cagey, manipulative, and self-absorbed, Livia Soprano seemingly derives little pleasure from life other than making the people around her miserable. On her son's wedding day, she tells her new daughter-in-law Carmela that marrying Tony was a mistake and eventually Tony would get bored with her. Her older daughter Janice moved to the West Coast when she was 18 and her younger daughter Barbara married into a successful family in New York. This left Tony with the sole responsibility of looking after Livia following Johnny's death. As she gets older, her misery and mental state get worse.
Years later on season one of the show, Livia causes problems for Tony as revenge for putting her in a nursing home and putting her house up for sale. This accumulates to Tony almost getting killed on two occasions. Tony narrowly avoids being killed by two hitmen after Junior Soprano finds out from Livia that Tony was subverting his power. Tony's best friend Artie Bucco draws a rifle on Tony after Livia reveals that he burned down his restaurant. Tony was able to convince him otherwise and Artie smashes his gun in frustration.
It is later discovered that the FBI had bugged Livia's nursing home, and the recordings of Livia conspiring with Junior were played to Tony. 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. Tony appears to be ready to smother her with a pillow, but she is rushed to the emergency room. He then publicly threatens to kill her, informing her that he had heard her conspiring with Junior from the FBI. However, Tony settles for cutting off all contact with her.
In season two, Livia's daughter Janice returns to New Jersey. She takes up residence in Livia's home and convinces Tony not to sell the house and instead let her take care of Livia. Livia is cautious of Janice's sudden concern for her well being and correctly guesses that Janice has ulterior motives. While Tony and Carmela avoid all contact with Livia, her grandchildren Meadow and AJ still visit her, unaware of past events. Livia grows paranoid and more difficult when AJ inadvertently reveals to her that Janice and Tony were discussing possible "do not resuscitate" options for her. When Janice is forced to flee the state, Tony gives Livia a stolen plane ticket so she can stay with her sister. However, before she is set to leave, she is detained at the airport.
Tony hires a home assistant to look after Livia at the beginning of season three. Livia dies soon after from a stroke. After her death, Janice discovers that Livia kept many of Tony's old childhood artifacts while only keeping some of Barbara's and none of Janice's. Livia appears as a younger woman in several flashbacks afterwards, as well as being frequently referenced, with Tony still far from resolving his feelings towards her.
For season three, 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 season three premiere episode "Proshai, Livushka" before the character, too, died.
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. Janice, during a conversation with Carmela, calls into question whether or not her mother loves them. She goes on to say that her therapist explained to her that Livia did indeed love them, but did 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, sharp-tongued, 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 say. Just like Tony Soprano, David Chase spent time in psychotherapy.
- Robin Dougherty (20 January 1999). "Chasing TV". Archived from the original on October 11, 1999. 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.
- Collins, Sean T. (February 9, 2016). "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
- 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.