''The Sopranos'' and ''The West Wing'' have been perennial rivals, at least at Emmy time. But some of the ''Sopranos'' stars are emulating their ''West Wing'' counterparts when it comes to money. According to the Hollywood Reporter, several of the supporting actors among the New Jersey crew have banded together to negotiate raises for themselves for next season, just as the Oval Office staffers did successfully last year.
In 2001, ''West Wing''-ers Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, and Bradley Whitford stayed home from the first script read-through of the season and ultimately got their salaries more than doubled, from $30,000 to $70,000 per episode. (With at least 22 episodes per year, that's at least $1.54 million a year.) Now, among the ''Sopranos'' cast, the four actors the Reporter says want a bigger cut are Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow), Robert Iler (AJ), Drea de Matteo (Adriana), and Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts). Which answers one question on fans' minds: Since the production run for the current season is already over, it seems clear that none of their characters is going to get whacked during the eight episodes yet to air.
Each of these actors is said to earn between $20,000 and $30,000 per episode but would like to earn $100,000 per episode next year. (Since HBO produces 13 episodes per season, that's $1.3 million. It's not ''Friends'' money, but then, HBO can't sell commercial time on the series.) What's more, according to the Reporter, lead actor James Gandolfini is waiting until their salaries are set before setting an asking price of his own for next season.
Now, a Tony Soprano might respond to underlings asking for a bigger cut by simply having them whacked. And series creator David Chase and his writers could certainly do that to any or all of these actors' characters, though not before next season. On the other hand, Chase has said he wants to make only one more season of the show, so maybe he and HBO will let the actors cash in while they still can. HBO and the actors' publicists have declined to comment.