Sixth “Sopranos” co-star dies this year

Call it the curse of “The Sopranos?”

On Friday, Tony Sirico — best known for his role as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” died at the age of 79.

According to The Associated Press, he died at an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Sirico, both an Army vet and an ex-con, was inspired to try acting out after a prison visit by a troupe made up of ex-convicts.

While he made a number of smaller appearances in films throughout the years, most notably in the works of Woody Allen, it was his work as Tony Soprano’s loyal henchman that catapulted Sirico to fame.

“Tony Sirico was one of the kindest, fiercely loyal, and heartfelt men that I’ve ever known,” said Michael Gandolfini, son of late “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini.

“He was always Uncle Tony to me, and Tony always showed up for me and my family. I’ll deeply miss his pinches on my cheek, and his infectious laugh. He was a phenomenal actor and an even better man.”

While Sirico’s death is news in its own right, it’s also notable because he’s the sixth former actor on the HBO show to pass away so far in 2022. While the cast of “The Sopranos” skewed older than the average drama, the statistical anomaly is beginning to look to some like a curse.

On Jan. 6, Peter Bogdanovich — the legendary New Hollywood director who also played Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, the psychiatrist who treated Tony Soprano’s own therapist — died at 82.

Ned Eisenberg, the veteran character actor who played a Jewish businessman in a key early episode of the series, died on Feb. 27 at the age of 65.

On March 29, Paul Herman, who played Peter “Beansie” Gaeta, died at 76.

Bruce MacVittie, known for his roles on “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City,” died at 65 in May.

And, then, of course, there was the big one — Ray Liotta, the veteran Hollywood actor who starred in “Goodfellas,” passed away at 67 later in May.

Liotta had played a pivotal role in “The Many Saints of Newark,” a prequel story to the “Sopranos” set in the 1960s.

While the death didn’t occur in 2022, it’s also worth noting that the star of the series — James Gandolfini — also met an early death.

The 51-year-old actor died in Rome after a day of sightseeing with his family at the age of 51 in 2013, just six years after the series wrapped. The official cause of death was a heart attack.