Gary Pascoe, chief creative officer at Commonwealth//McCann, speaks to LBB's Addison Capper about working with the creators of The Sopranos to painstakingly re-create the show's opening titles for Chevrolet's 2022 Super Bowl ad
The finale of The Sopranos is, I think it's fair to say, the most vehemently dissected and debated ending to any major TV show ever. This is not a place to extend that discussion and, anyway, I wouldn't want to ruin one of the greatest shows of all time for anyone yet to see it.
But if Chevrolet's 2022 Super Bowl commercial is something to go by, one thing is certain: Tony Soprano's children, Meadow and AJ, continue to live a fruitful life. You've probably seen it by now: the spot in question is a painstaking remake of the original Sopranos opening titles, but with Meadow driving an all-electric Chevy Silverado instead of James Gandolfini's character Tony in a Chevy Suburban.
The spot was created by Commonwealth//McCann, who enlisted the help of the creator of The Sopranos, David Chase, and the show's original director of photography, Phil Abraham, to bring their idea to life in the most exact way possible.
The entire original opening title sequence was re-created shot by shot. Every single shot is new and the team revisited each New Jersey location this past January. Brilliant, tiny details in the commercial include a flock of ducks in the background of one shot, the significance of which any Sopranos fan will understand. The presence of the Freedom Tower in a shot that originally showed the Twin Towers marks how times have changed, as does the presence of a 'No Antibiotics' sign out front of Satriale's Pork Store. Meadow opts to suck on a lollipop instead of her father's preferred cigar. What's more, AJ undoubtedly approves of Meadow's decision to go all-electric after her previous non-compliance to his teenage arguments for hybrid vehicles.
Anyway. The true reason for this article is to find out just how the team at Commonwealth//McCann and the original Sopranos family went about putting this all together. LBB's Addison Capper spoke with Gary Pascoe, chief creative officer at Commonwealth//McCann.
LBB> When did the Sopranos idea first come into your discussions? Once it came up was it set in stone quite quickly?
Gary> We were inspired by the Chevy brand’s role in pop culture. After all, Chevrolet or Chevrolet vehicles have been in thousands of songs and hundreds of TV shows and movies. As we started brainstorming, we realised that Tony Soprano drove a 1999 Chevy Suburban in the opening title sequence of The Sopranos. That was really interesting to us - this idea that Chevy has always been a big part of America’s cultural past and with the introduction of an all new, all electric Silverado pickup truck, the brand will also be a big part of America’s future. That was the idea we needed: communicate that the Silverado EV is a whole new truck, for a whole new generation. To play off this idea of the next generation behind the wheel, we chose to feature Tony’s daughter, Meadow.
LBB> The Sopranos is obviously a fairly old show now but I feel like it transcends generations and appeals to most - can you speak a bit about that and why the connection is suitable for Chevy and the people you are trying to reach?
Gary> The Sopranos has two different sets of fans, the people that watched its original run on HBO from 1999-2007, and then a whole new generation of younger people that found it over the last few years of quarantine. We knew we had to appeal to both. We knew everything had to be authentic because the fans would know. Right down to the bracelet Meadow is wearing, each detail was thought through. We felt that if we paid homage to the original, but modernised it, and brought it into the future with the all new Silverado EV, true fans would understand it and appreciate it.
LBB> How did you get David Chase, Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler involved? Were they on board easily?
Gary> Once we had the idea, the first thing we did was call David Chase, the creator of the Sopranos. What an intimidating call that was, after all, we were talking to the man that created one of the greatest television shows in history. The good news was he immediately saw the potential in the idea and thought it was an interesting way to revisit the characters he created. The next thing we did was enlist Phil Abraham, the original director of the Sopranos opening. Next came Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano) and Robert Iler (AJ Soprano). It was really important to have the creator, the crew and the cast. We learned that the people that are associated with the Sopranos truly are a family. It was great to watch.
LBB> Tell me about the process of shooting the new footage and keeping it true to the original titles. It's really uncanny - how did you pull it off? Where did it take you? Please tell me all!
Gary> We worked with David Chase and Phil. We knew we had to be completely authentic, so we went back to those exact New Jersey locations, 20 years later, and filmed them for real. There are no Hollywood backlots, no CGI locations - that’s Jersey, 2022, in January. We even shot on film, rather than digital, to match the original 1999 look and feel. Authenticity can’t be faked, so we didn’t try.
LBB> How was it working with Jamie-Lynn on achieving those shots?
Gary> Jamie-Lynn came to set completely prepared. She talked about paying homage to James Gandolfini, she said that she felt his presence in the truck, and her stellar performance is the result of that preparation. She felt it was a huge honour to recreate something that he made famous, it was all very personal for her.
LBB> Overall, what was the production process like? And what were the trickiest moments?
Gary> David Chase is an amazing collaborator, he never stops thinking, ever. We had multiple creative meetings where we talked about different ending options, so many different ideas. It was David’s idea to have Meadow and AJ meet at the restaurant, he thought it added another element of intrigue. Who else is there? Why that restaurant? There’s a marina behind it, what does that mean? He was really focused on the ending and getting it right (which is probably why the finale of the Sopranos is still talked about and debated today). So, on set, we talked about the ending right up to the moment we shot it. Literally. It was changing by the minute, which was a little stressful, but when he shot it, we all knew we had it. It's a moment I’ll never forget.
LBB> Are you a Sopranos fan? If so, personally how was this for you to work on?
Gary> I am a huge Sopranos fan and, without a doubt, this was the highlight of my career.