It looks like the stars of The Sopranos aren't about to continue working without the guidance of their own godfather, series creator David Chase.
During interviews to promote the show's long-awaited fourth season (debuting September 15), the mastermind behind HBO's Emmy-winning series acknowledged that next season, the show's fifth, will be his last. Chase added that HBO owns the rights to the series, so it could keep going.
"I wouldn't say it's irrevocable," Chase said. "If they decide to go on, from a business standpoint, they could."
But if the show does go on, don't count on seeing Tony and Carmela Soprano, or even psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi, for that matter. Series stars James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco told reporters that once Chase leaves, they'll probably call it quits, too.
"I started with him. I'd like to finish with him," Gandolfini said, sitting alongside Falco via satellite from New York.
Added Bracco: "Aye, aye. Same for me."
The news isn't entirely unexpected: The cast is a close-knit, loyal bunch (Gandolfini even supported TV son Robert Iler after his brush with the law), and Chase has been plotting his exit for some time now.
Chase initially planned to leave the series at the end of season four, handing the reins over to someone else while he pursued other projects. But he changed his mind after HBO forked over a nice wad of cash (between $15 and $20 million) for a fifth go-around.
As for season four, Chase said the newest episodes will focus on the relationship between patriarch Tony Soprano and his wife Carmela--which he says was a natural evolution after previously dealing with Tony and his mom, Tony and his sister, and Tony and his kids. He also says The Sopranos this season will deal with the September 11 terrorist attacks in some way.
One thing the Soprano family won't be dealing with anytime soon is the Emmys. After scoring 22 nominations last year, the show's late start has left it ineligible for Emmy nods when they're announced Thursday.