Just start the season already!!

‘Sopranos’ cast mum on final season
PASADENA — Remember The Sopranos? The little mob drama was a bit of a hit a few years back. Fans will have waited 22 months before the next new episode airs March 12 at 9 p.m. on The Movie Network.
And, yes, this is it. Creator/writer/producer David Chase confirmed that there will be 12 new episodes, then eight, then that’s it.
James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Edie Falco (Carmela), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi) and Michael Imperioli (Christopher) all joined Chase at HBO’s portion of yesterday’s press tour. Did they spill the beans about the finale?
In the half-hour session and again later out in the hall of the hotel, critics tried every which way to squeeze the actors for info. Gandolfini was mobbed like a rock star, backed against a wall and surrounded by digital recorders. Might as well try to get Paulie Walnuts to sing. Chase has them all sworn to secrecy.
Critics were shown a terrific clip reel with the juicy voice-over from Richard III, “Now is the winter of our discontent…” Was this some sort of Shakespearean clue to Tony’s final fate?
“Nah, it’s just a stupid line of dialogue,” Chase said after the session.
Here’s what we do know: After the next 12 episodes, the series will take another six-month break before coming back in January of 2007 with the final eight.
Production on episode 11 starts next week in New York. After shooting No. 12, the actors will break until June before shooting the final eight. Chase will keep writing. All swore they didn’t know how it would end — including Chase, although obviously he has some idea.
Will Tony and the gang stop going on, or just go on without us, asked the clever critic from Miami. “They’re going on without you,” quipped Chase, who admired the question but wanted the dude whacked for asking it.
“Truth is, both really. Obviously, they’re not all going to go up in a nuclear cloud.” Here’s what we do know:
* Among the guest stars this season will be Ben Kingsley, who plays Ben Kingsley. Chase hinted after the session that it all has to do with a movie being made. Maybe Christopher finally sold that script.
* Julianna Margulies plays a real estate agent. Does she have an affair with Tony — or even Carmela? “Can’t say,” Falco said.
* Hal Holbrook plays a scientist who becomes involved with the mob. “That happens to Hal Holbrook all the time,” Chase said.
* Anthony Jr. (Robert Iler), along with Christopher, will have big years. So will Paulie, if the clip reel rings true.
Will guys get whacked? You bet. Does the cast have some sort of ritual when somebody is killed off?
“We take them to dinner,” Imperioli said. “When you’re asked to go out to dinner, it’s not such a good thing.”
The story will pick up in real time, nearly two years after the fifth season finale. After the capture and trial of rival boss Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola), there is a ripple effect. People are dissatisfied, suggested Imperioli. “Disquieted,” Chase corrected.
Discontented? Viewers may be after such a long wait. Has the show lost its thunder? “Nobody signed anything to watch this show,” Falco said. “If they find something else to watch, God bless them.”
And what about Gandolfini? He didn’t sound as discontented yesterday as he has in the past. He’s developing other projects (including a spin as Ernest Hemingway). Will he forever be typecast as Tony? Gandolfini shrugged. “What am I gonna do?”
Besides, he was a virtual unknown, along with the rest of the cast (except Bracco), when The Sopranos began. The show has changed his life, both good and bad, and he can live with that. He says he’s learned all he needs to know about “success and money and celebrity.” At this point, he knows what’s important.
Sure, there were times inside his trailer in Long Island in the middle of the night when he felt “mobbed out.” Then he sees yesterday’s clever clip reel and goes, “Wow! This is good stuff. It’s been a great ride in many ways.”