Sunday, August 14, 2016

Steve Schirippa on his Knicks, Lin in Brooklyn, & Tomato Sauce

Steve Schirippa, who rose to fame on The Sopranos, is currently starring on Blue Bloods. He can also be seen in his courtside seat at Madison Square Garden watching his beloved Knicks.

I caught up with Schirippa recently, and touched on that, plus his tomato sauce, Uncle Steve's.

How did you get involved in Blue Bloods?
"I got a call, they sent me a script. I thought the writing was great. I never really watched the show, to be honest, I was aware of it, but never really watched it. They offered me this role, I was happy to do it, they offered me another one, another one, another one, and I'm coming back this year. We return to work next week and I should do double the amount of episodes, last season I did eight, I plan on doing 16 of the 22. It's a great show., very popular, great acting, the writing is fantastic, and that's why it's been winning Friday nights six consecutive years. 13 million people are watching."

The closest character you work with is Bridget Moynahan's Erin Reagan. What's she like?

"she's great. From day one, we got along great, from the first scene we did together, I think she's great. A really, really good actress, and I've worked with a bunch of them, and she's as good as any of them. I really enjoy going to work, and working with her, we're shooting on the streets of New York, in Brooklyn, and it's been fantastic.I look forward to this season.

What about the rest of the cast? 

I worked with Donnie Wahlberg once, I've met the other ones. I haven't even met everybody yet because don't forget, there's different storylines. Everybody thinks, you're on a show, you're all best of friends, like Tom Selleck, I met twice. He was great, but I haven't worked with him.
Wahberg was great, I love what he does on the show. Some of the guys, the crew, are from The Sopranos, so I knew some of them. The directors have been great. I couldn't be happier, happy to be a part of it.

You and Donnie get into it about sports, since he's a Boston guy and you're New York?

We talked a bit early in the year about the Knicks and Celtics. He's a die hard Celtic guy and that's good. The Knicks, I'm hoping, I'm cautiously optimistic.

You excited about Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and the other new Knicks?

I certainly am, we're going to be better. It could be great if everyone stays healthy, and (Jeff) Hornacek. It's really a new beginning, it could be great. I just hope these guys stay healthy, you know.

What do you think of Jeremy Lin going to the Nets?

They're trying to expand their fan base, I'll be politically correct. I'm not a Jeremy Lin fan. I think he's cocky and I don't like what he had become. I loved Linsanity, I was there for it. I was there the night with the Lakers. Incredible, incredible guy, which the Knicks needed at that time, but I don't like what he's become since then, and let's see what he's going to do with the Nets. It's great for them, but I think they're trying to expand their fan base. I think it's more than his play that they hired him for, let's put it that way.

They're also paying him an awful lot of money, man. I mean, I think $12 million a year, he's really a backup guard. You can't take away and deny Linsanity. It was a great moment in New York Knick history.

Do you have confidence in Phil Jackson?
Listen, he didn't have an easy job. I think he came in, he's staying the course, that's for sure. I know Phil, I like Phil, he made some nice moves. Not all were popular moves, starting with Porzingis. Nobody liked that at the beginning, remember? Also, I think he's staying the course, and like I said, with a little luck, we could make the playoffs. A little luck, everyone stays healthy, Hornacek does his thing, I think so.

Do you sit with Knicks owner Jim Dolan at the games?

I have, I consider him a friend of mine. I like Jim, and I tell you, I think people, he wants to win. You have people that think he doesn't want to win. He wants to win as much or more than anybody. Over the years, there's just been some bad breaks. It's not all about the money. He really wants the Knicks and the Rangers to win. I mean, Jim is a good guy. I know he gets a bad rap in this city, but he does a lot of good things, a lot of charity stuff. I've attended a bunch of them. He's got the Garden of Dreams, Garden of Laughs, you know, that's a big foundation, helped a lot of kids out. That flies under the radar. I'm a Jim Dolan fan.

What is unique about your Uncle Steve's sauce?

The sauce, listen, I'm not a jar sauce guy. My mother passed away a few years ago. A buddy of mine, Joe, from Brooklyn, he said 'let's do something,' so we got my mother's recipe, we made it healthier, we made it organic, gluten-free, non-GML, Kosher, and we're doing great. We're in over 3,000 stores. We're in business about two years. We're in Whole Foods and Shop Rite and Stop and Shop, a bunch of stores in Brooklyn and all over the city. We're on the west coast, we made it to California. We're in 40 states.

Listen, I don't eat jar sauce. That's sacrilegious to a lot of Italians. I'm telling you,if you have some, and I just had some now, you wouldn't know it came out of a jar. There's no way you would know it came out of a jar. It's that good, it's that good. We moved our headquarters to Brooklyn, you know it was in Staten Island, now we moved it to Brooklyn. We're doing well, we just got in to 350 stores in California. We're going to be on QVC soon, and we're opening new stores everyday. It's going well, having a lot of fun.

You use a different type of tomato for your sauce

We use a san marzano, it's made in Long Island, the sauce. It's all organic, so it's a little different. My wife eats organic, and she hasn't made sauce in over a year. The sauce is that good. It's not a gimmick, we didn't put my picture on for Sopranos fans, blah, blah, blah, it's a real sauce. We're in for the long haul, and if you taste the sauce, you love it.

How did your fame from The Sopranos open the door to projects involving your love of food?

I've always been involved in food. I did two cooking shows, one for the Cooking Channel, I did another one called Steve Schirripa's Hungry. I'm not a chef, I obviously love to eat. 

I was given the opportunity, I've written books, I've hosted other shows, I did a movie based on Brooklyn called Mickey Deuce, and we did that for Nickelodeon. The Sopranos obviously gave me the opportunity and opened the door to do all these things because, before that, I was just, I did acting as a hobby. It was not my main thing. When I first got on the Sopranos in 1999, I had a full time job in Las Vegas, you know, so it gave me so many opportunities and opportunities to do things that I normally wouldn't be able to do.

For me, some of the stuff I do, and I go 'I'll never do that again!" I was in a wrestling match, TNA wrestling. I was in the middle of a storyline and I went down to Florida and I said, "I'm never going to do this, this'll be the last time!" You know, so there's things like that, you go, 'yeah, I'll do it,' good stuff.

I stay away from the reality shows. I've been offered nearly every single one of them. That's not my bag, I don't really like that. The idea of making a fool of yourself and your family on TV doesn't appeal to me.

The one that comes to mind is Celebrity Apprentice, were you offered that?
Oh yes, I was definitely offered The Apprentice numerous times, Dancing With the Stars, nonsense, the ice skating one, celebrity bowling. Wife Swap, you know, my wife is going to live with another guy and vice versa, that nonsense, not interested.

I do have "Pyramid" coming up. Michael Strahan's a friend of mine, and I did the game show, I enjoyed it very much. I got that coming up on ABC, and it's become a big hit for them. It's on prime time Sunday nights.

So you prefer traditional game shows to reality?

Yeah, yeah, I'm not a reality guy. I've been offered my own reality show, not for me.

But people would love to see what a day is like for you.

Yeah, but it's really not for me. None of it's reality, you know that, I know that. It's all scripted, otherwise, I got pitched a show a while back, you know, it was a show I was going to do a bunch of different jobs and the guy says to me ' you'll go out there, and da da da, so I say 'what's going to happen?' and he says 'you're running a restaurant and the kitchen catches fire.' I said 'well, how's the kitchen going to catch fire?' So, obviously, they're going to make things up and go crazy, that's made-up stuff, that's not for me, yelling at people, that's not for me.

Sounds like Gordon Ramsay.

Yeah, that's what it was, and even those shows, Gordon Ramsay, Bar Rescue, I know they're very popular. You know and I know what's going to happen. They're going to come in and the restaurant's in trouble, they yell, they argue, at some point, the owner of the restaurant cries and then everything's great at the I right?

The Sopranos gets referenced a lot when talking about the success of dramas on cable, it was really a pioneer in that regard, like a movie every week.

Well, of course, absolutely, we've always said, it was like an 86-hour movie. Where Blue Bloods stands alone, each week stands alone, The Sopranos was kind of a serial. Listen, I think it's the first, one of the first times there was an anti-hero, guy was a murderer, guy was a thief, yet you rooted for Tony Soprano, you wanted to see him do well for some reason, you felt bad for him, you had feelings. I think that's the first time you kind of saw that.

Kind of like Walter White on Breaking Bad?

Exactly. I think The Sopranos paved the way for that kind of stuff. The first time a leading man wasn't a spectacular-looking leading man. Here was an overweight, balding guy, and yet, every week you cared about him. You saw him murder people, but he had problems like everybody else.

Can you believe it's been three years since James Gandolfini passed away?

Terrible, terrible.  He's one of my closest friends, terrible, terrible, hard for me to believe, it really is.

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