The Sopranos characters may already be made men, but the show's actors wouldn't mind making a little more.
Several cast members of the HBO's hit Mafia drama are looking to renegotiate their contracts, arguing that the splitting of the series' final 20 episodes constitutes two seasons, though they're only being paid for one.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a handful of supporting players are seeking new deals from the cable net after learning that several of the show's leading names managed to score new pacts for the extended two-part season.
In other words: They're looking for an offer they can't refuse.
Among the actors seeking to increase their bank accounts in an upgraded deal are Michael Imperioli, who plays Tony Soprano's hotheaded nephew Christopher; Tony Sirico, who plays enforcer Paulie Walnuts; Steven Van Zandt, the family's consigliere, Silvio Dante; and Steven R. Schirripa, who plays Tony's brother-in-law, Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri.
The major supporting players, according to the Journal, draw salaries in the "high six figures" for the first 12 episodes of the final season. (More marginal characters reportedly make anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000 per episode, depending on their profile.)
The Journal reports that Edie Falco, who plays Tony's wife, Carmela, and Lorraine Bracco, who plays his shrink, Dr. Melfi, are both close to having their checks uppped for the final eight episodes, while series godfather--apparently in more ways than one--James Gandolfini has successfully renegotiated himself a $1 million payday for each of the remaining episodes.
It's that final eight-episode run that caused the grousing to begin with.
While the actors all had contracts in place before the start of the season, which originally was supposed to be just the dozen episodes, the network inked a deal last summer with creator David Chase to extend the season.
The actors claim that a season, per Hollywood tradition, is one year's work, and whether that year constitutes the production of 22 episodes or, say, eight, is irrelevant.
The problem, as the actors see it, is that the final 20 episodes of the show will be shot and aired over a two-year period. They argue that they should therefore be compensated for two seasons of work, according to the Journal.
HBO begs to differ. The cable net claims that despite the timeline of when the show is shot, the first 12 and final eight episodes are all part of the same season order, and say only one payday, not two, should be had.
Part of the problem, of course, is that The Sopranos has never operated under a standard calendar, taking long and frequent breaks in between seasons. Its sixth season kicked off this Sunday after a nearly two-year absence from the airwaves.
The time it takes to shoot each episode may also come into play in the deals, as each show takes roughly 20 days to complete. By comparison, a network drama takes about a week.
Production is set to wrap on the first 12 episodes of the series' final run as early as next week. Shooting on the remaining eight episodes isn't scheduled to begin until this June, with the episodes not slated to air until January 2007.
In any case, the salary jockeying--while a possible spoiler for who survives through the first 12 episodes--isn't expected to wind up in a major character walking off the show.
"We're confident that everyone will be signed for the last eight episodes," a spokesman for HBO says in the Journal.
Meanwhile, the show must go on.
While highly anticipated, the last Sunday's sixth-season premiere averaged just 9.5 million viewers, a 21 percent drop from the fifth-season premiere two years ago. Partly to blame is the new competition. The Sopranos now shares its time slot with ratings juggernaut Desperate Housewives.