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That Guy on The Sopranos

By Betty Gabrielli


Patrick Tully submitted this photo of himself when he was accepted to Oberlin College. A more recent image is in the library scene of the video clip of Episode 32, "University." Click on the QuickTime or Real icon to view the clip. Warning: Rough language (in other scenes on the clip).

APRIL 10, 2001--"Hey. You're that guy on The Sopranos!"

Not a day goes by that Patrick Tully '97 doesn't hear a similar greeting as he walks down any street in Los Angeles. In fact, wherever he goes people recognize him--after only three stints on what is the most talked-about series on television, cable or no.

Tully plays Noah Tannenbaum, the Jewish-African American boyfriend of Meadow. For those of you who may not know, Meadow is the daughter of Tony Soprano, the cunning, troubled don of a New Jersey mob. Tony is not at all happy that Meadow is dating someone who is not "our people."

Tully as Noah appeared in the season's opener and in the fifth and sixth episodes. Whether he will appear in future episodes is anyone's guess. HBO and David Chase Productions are keeping a tight lid on what happens next.

Tully credits his experience at Oberlin with giving him his start as an actor, but the life of a thespian, he said in a recent telephone interview, was the last thing on his mind when he first came to campus. "I was the musician in the family."

Tully's father, Tom Tully, now retired, was the actor in the family--CHIPS, Dragnet, Perry Mason--although the son did get his first exposure to the world of film as an extra in the 1990 Scent of a Woman during a visit to the set with his father.

With music as his first love, Tully came to Oberlin from Bethlehem High School in Albany, New York, and Interlocken Arts Academy fully prepared to study piano.

"But I'd always loved movies, and I like the idea of using your body as an instrument, which is why I also love live theater. So when I came to Oberlin, I found a really great theater community that was so supportive, plus the amazing facilities, the wide variety of works performed, and the faculty doing lights and costumes. So I decided to give it a try."

Tully proceeded to appear in productions as Menelaus in Women of Troy, the narrator-solider in War Music, Polixines in The Winter's Tale, an ensemble member in To Be Young, Gifted and Black, and Horatio in Hamlet.

"The summer after I graduated, my father came to see me as Ferdinand in the Black River summer production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and he was blown away when he saw how theater was done here. He said it's more like off-Broadway. Students here can direct, experiment, do any aspect of theater. I got really spoiled."

Despite his immersion in theater at Oberlin, Tully didn't abandon other interests. He set a record for the 300-meter dash as All Conference athlete and continued his interest in music, studying piano with Peter Takacs as well as orchestral conducting, and graduated with a major in theater and music performance.

Between graduation and The Sopranos, Tully trained at the William Esper and Actors Movement studios in New York City and appeared in productions with the Big Apple's Wooster Group, Ensemble Studio Theater, La MaMa, and the New York Theater Workshop, and at the Hampton, New York, Shakespeare Festival.

Last spring Tully's studies at the conservatory paid off in a big and unexpected way--snagging him a role in The Piano, a new play dealing with the Spanish-Cuban war by Ana Deveare Smith. He auditioned for the actress-playwright--best known for her one-woman productions Twilight Los Angeles and Fires in the Mirror--at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

When Smith learned that Tully was a classically trained pianist, she wrote a pivotal role in the play for him, that of a Cuban piano teacher. The play ran June through August. During its production, Tully got the call from his agent to audition for The Sopranos.

It took shuttling between Cambridge and New York three times during the run of the play to read for the part, but he finally got word that the role was his. He started filming at the end of August, and his part was finished in early November although he had to come back for more voice recording in January.

Building on the success of his involvement in such a prestigious show, Tully moved to Los Angeles, where he is doing readings for Long Wharf Theater and is involved in producing an independent film. He also is auditioning for roles in film and television. Several look promising, but he is keeping mum about them until something jells. Until then, his fans can keep tuning into The Sopranos.





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