James Gandolfini's sudden death of a heart attack at age 51 on Wednesday, June 19, has left family, friends, and fans stunned and saddened. Tributes to the three-time Emmy-winning Sopranos star have been pouring in, and now his former TV daughter, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, is expressing her grief over his passing.
"This news has left me heartbroken," Sigler, 32, tells Us Weekly in a statement. "I can only imagine the pain his family feels at this time, and my heart goes out to them, especially Deborah, Michael, and Liliana." (The beloved star leaves behind wife Deborah and their 9-month-old daughter Liliana, as well as Michael, his 13-year-old son from a previous marriage. Gandolfini had been in Rome, Italy, when he passed suddenly late Wednesday.)
"I spent 10 years of my life studying and admiring one of the most brilliant actors, yes, but more importantly, one of the greatest men," she continues. "Jim had the ability, unbeknownst to him, to make you feel like everything would be alright if he was around. I treasure my memories with him and feel so honored that I was an up close witness to his greatness."
Sigler (who most recently starred on the sitcom Guys With Kids and is now pregnant with her first child) got her big break as Meadow Soprano, the daughter of Gandolfini's mob boss Tony Soprano, on HBO's hit series The Sopranos. In the hours since the actor's death, she and other costars have spoken out about his incomparable legacy.
"I am shocked and devastated by Jim's passing," Edie Falco, who played wife Carmela Soprano, told Us. "He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words. I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague. My heart goes out to his family as those of us in his pretend one hold on to the memories of our intense and beautiful time together. The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."
Added Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on the show: "Jimmy treated us all like family with a generosity, loyalty and compassion that is rare in this world. Working with him was a pleasure and a privilege. I will be forever grateful having had a friend the likes of Jimmy."