Aida Turturro — who will perform in Monica Bauer’s one-act as part of The Neo-Political Cowgirls’ “Andromeda’s Sisters” on Thursday, June 28 at Guild Hall in East Hampton — is best known for her twice Emmy-nominated role as Janice Soprano in “The Sopranos,” the blockbuster HBO show about a Mafia crime family, and, well, a family.
And for full-time Montauk resident Turturro, it’s all about family. According to the actress, family can be found everywhere, whether it’s through her own relations or the communities she’s formed throughout her life.
And becoming part a new community seems to come easy to the friendly and outgoing Turturro. We talked about food, about jewelry, about our pets, more about food — one of those times when the interviewer becomes the interviewee for a while. After spending only a few minutes with her, it already felt like we had known each other for years. And I hope we do.
“I’m a girl who grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, before it was really cool,” she said. “My dad was a very talented artist. We lived in an unrenovated synagogue. I was one of the few white kids in the neighborhood, and I loved it. It was a real neighborhood. We’d play handball; I could let my cats go outside and they would come home. It was just a beautiful community.”
She continued to seek that community everywhere she went. “Later on, I moved to Irving, and I had the same thing there. And Montauk — it’s the same. It’s down to Earth, the people are great; they stick together. When someone has a problem in this community, everyone gathers together to help. I feel like I’m home here.”
She even has family in the area. Fierro’s Pizza in East Hampton — “the best pizza!” — are cousins from her mother’s side. “It was just so great to meet them and get to know them,” she effused. “Family is everywhere.”
FATHER & DAUGHTER
Life growing up wasn’t always easy, as all families have their stuff. Turturro admits to basically being on her own from the age of 15 on, putting herself through college at SUNY New Paltz and taking control of her own destiny and career at an early age.
It was the day after Fathers’ Day when we met — with both of us missing our dads, talk naturally turned in that direction.
The Turturros spent time during the summers going to the beach, “even though dad was an artist, he always found the money to take us to Martha’s Vineyard or somewhere,” but never made it as far as The End. “So, when I came out here for the first time, I got that feeling, like I was with my family again during some of our happiest times together. I wish dad could have seen this place.”
Although her father, Dominick, passed in 2002, Turturro feels he’s still with her, and especially in Montauk. And they shared a happy moment the year before he died, when she took him to the Emmy Awards.
“It was nice to be nominated for the Emmy — my dad wasn’t in my life sometimes, but he came back into my life around then — and I got to take him to the awards show. I didn’t win, but I didn’t care! And he didn’t care either. The best part was being able to spoil him, buy him new clothes, stay in a fancy hotel, and I know that he was so proud of me. He painted me a beautiful birthday card that year that said, ‘You keep inventing yourself.’ I had it framed. We got to share that beautiful moment together.”
A NEW COMMUNITY
And “The Sopranos” was a family too — and the heart, according to Turturro, was the late James Gandolfini.
“We were blessed. Like the way I came out here and fell in love with the people? It was like that. It wasn’t just a hit show, we were blessed with an insane quality of writing. But the truth is, you can have that and still have a miserable group. But we had an amazing, beautiful group, stemming from the love from James. It has to start from the top and James, Edie [Falco], David [Chase, the show’s creator], we all were a family, like a family who supports each other,” she recalled.
“I still see Edie all the time, and the kids. It’s almost in your body, in your cells, you feel it — this is my family, this is not just a job. What a wonderful, giving, generous group.”
Turturro hasn’t performed on stage in a while, but she believes in the ideals behind The Neo-Political Cowgirls’ “Andromeda’s Sisters” — women helping women. “We have to, in this industry. And we need better parts for women, whether they’re written by women or men,” she said.
She’s honored to be part of the June 28 event. “It’s a new thing for me. I haven’t performed at Guild Hall before. I’m not the kind of person who pushes myself on something, so I’m so grateful that Kate Mueth asked me. And it’s a good cause, and it allows me to enjoy being part of yet another community, and to enjoy entertaining people.”
For Turturro, connection is critical, and here, she feels connected. “I may not be a local, but for me, this is home.”
For more information and tickets to “Andromeda’s Sisters,” visit www.npccowgirls.org.