'Sopranos' Star James Gandolfini Dies, 51

Actor James Gandolfini, who won three Emmy Awards for his role as Tony Soprano in HBO's hit series The Sopranos, died Wednesday.

Gandolfini, 51, who portrayed the iconic mob boss in HBO's breakthrough drama series from 1999 to 2007, died of an apparent heart attack while on holiday in Rome, according to CNN.com

"We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family.  He was special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect," said HBO in a statement. "He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility.  Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time.  He will be deeply missed by all of us."

HBO producers Mark Armstron and Nancy Sanders said in a statement: "It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy.  Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply.  He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving."

Sopranos creator David Chase offered these words: “He was a genius.  Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that.  He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time.  A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.  I remember telling him many times, 'You don't get it.  You're like Mozart.’  There would be silence at the other end of the phone.   For Deborah and Michael and Liliana this is crushing.  And it's bad for the rest of the world.  He wasn't easy sometimes.  But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain.”

Although best known for his portrayal of the mob boss in The Sopranos, which ran from 1999-2007, and remains HBO's most-watched series,  Gandolfini appeared in films The Taking of Pelham 123, The Mexican,Zero Dark Thirty and most notably True Romance.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.