Chase delivered his eulogy as a letter to Gandolfini, on his unique quality as an actor:
Reverand Dr. James A. Kowalski on Gandolfini's Tony Soprano:
"I tried to write a traditional eulogy, but it came out like bad TV... I saw you as a boy, a sad boy, and that’s why I think you were a great actor. It was a child reacting–they were just simple emotions, straight and pure. My theory was [audiences] saw the little boy.”
"If a violent character could force me to think more deeply about family conflicts and the possibility of redemption, maybe there is this thing called hope."
Variety on Chase's final poignant memory of a "Sopranos" scene that never saw the light:"People mattered to him. He was always secretly helping someone... He cared about others more than himself."
Hitting an especially poignant note, Chase described a scene he once planned, then scrapped, for a “Sopranos” episode, in which Tony would have found himself lost somewhere in the Meadowlands without his car, eventually forced to take a public bus. The episode would have ended, Chase said, with a close-up on Gandolfini’s face while Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” played on the soundtrack with its familiar chorus, “What if God was one of us/Just a slob like one of us/Just a stranger on the bus/Trying to make his way home.” If the actor’s funeral were a “Sopranos” episode, Chase added, it would end the same way, only with the song extended to include this later refrain: “Trying to make his way home/Back up to heaven all alone/Nobody calling on the phone/Except for the Pope maybe in Rome.”
Hitfix does a lovely job on describing the service:
Chase recalled the first time he fell in love with his friend, the fellow son of an Italian-American worker who came of age in blue-collar New Jersey. It was early in the run of The Sopranos, and they were filming in the hot New Jersey summer. Between scenes, Gandolfini had pulled an aluminum beach chair into the shade and was sitting with his pant legs rolled up to his knees exposing his black socks and black shoes, with a damp towel draped over his head. "And I thought," said Chase. "That's not really a good look. But I was filled with love because I saw my father and my grandfather do that. And it made me so proud of our heritage."
They had been here so many times before, in funeral clothes, looking solemn, huddling close together. But that was fiction. This was real, and this was without the man who always stood at the center of those scripted gatherings, casting a giant shadow upon them.
This was "The Sopranos" cast and crew, and friends and family, coming together one more time to say goodbye to James Gandolfini.
Everywhere one looked in the front of The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, one could see echoes of the life of Tony Soprano — and, therefore, the life of the complicated but beloved man who played him. There was his wife Carmela — or, rather, Edie Falco. There were all the memorable characters from the series, and the grieving actors who had played them: Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Lorraine Bracco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Tony Sirico among them. There were actors whose characters had died onscreen at the hands of Tony, like Joe Pantoliano and Steve Buscemi. There was the man who almost was Tony Soprano, actor Michael Rispoli, who was the runner-up to Gandolfini for the landmark role. There were former guest stars like Julianna Margulies, movie co-stars like Steve Carell, Alec Baldwin, Broadway co-stars Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden, members of the news media (including Brian Williams and Dick Cavett).
And of course, there were so many members of Gandolfini's family, including his wife Deborah, son Michael and baby daughter Liliana. Whether they grew up with him, worked with him or loved him, they were here to say goodbye to a man eulogized by his friend Thomas Richardson as someone where "as immense as his talent was, he was an even better person."