The Sopranos' capo, creator David Chase, originally maintained that his Mafia saga would last only three seasons. That eventually became five, and now he swears that the series will finally sleep with the fishes after a shortened, 10-episode sixth season (which will start shooting next year), scheduled to air in 2006. -- JW
What convinced you to do a sixth season? We have a lot of characters, and during the course of writing season 5, it became evident that a lot of story lines were going to get cut short or thrown out. Even to tell the story of Tony completely, we needed more time. Plus, if we waited a while, the children would almost be adults, and the impact of living in the Soprano house would be more evident, since you would see how they turned out.
Going back to last season, had you always known that Tony and Carmela would eventually split up? No, that occurred over time. I began to feel a sense of frustration, and questioned Carmela's character. She's complaining all the time about his infidelity, and is moralistic about how he earns his money: Either do something about it or keep quiet. Also, we had this great actress in Edie Falco, who was reduced to this harping, complaining woman. I felt there must be something more there, so we took action.
Did you get any angry reactions from fans regarding the split? The only time we've ever gotten a ''how could you do that?'' reaction was when we killed Pussy Bonpensiero. Which made me think that had to happen.
Is that why you had Tony whack Ralph? When I see what's coming in a movie or TV show, I'm bored. When a sheriff in a vampire movie says, ''Vampires? Come on,'' you know he's gone. So we try to do things people can't anticipate. That's true for the world we're depicting. This violence comes out suddenly and in the most surprising place. That's why it felt realistic to me that when the horse Pie-O-My died, Ralphie dies. Who'da thought that would be his last day on earth?
Let us plead one last time: Can we hold out any hope at all to see a seventh season? No. I know I've said that before, but I can't swear on a stack of Bibles because I don't have one here. Should people take this with a grain of salt? They shouldn't. This really is the end. All loose ends will not be tied up at the end of season 6, but hopefully there will be the dramatic feeling of the end of a cycle.