Actor James Gandolfini arrives at the BAFTA Brits to Watch event in Los Angeles
James Gandolfini died in Italy on Wednesday at 51. Reuters

The death of James Gandolfini struck me like a thunderbolt, not only because he was the star of my all-time favorite television program, “The Sopranos,” but because he and I were the same age,

According to media reports, Gandolfini, 51, died of a heart attack in Rome.

Gandolfini, bald and overweight, found fame relatively late in life, and remained a dedicated actor and true artist. As fictitious New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano, Gandolfini presented a radically new and different version of the mafia -- one in which a middle-class family man sought, perhaps in futility, to mix his murderous “career” with his home life.

I admired Gandolfini tremendously because he was press-shy and realized how lucky he was. I am only glad that his life ended in his ancestral homeland.

RIP, Mr. Gandolfini.