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Oh, poor you!
~ Livia Soprano's most famous and defining line.
If you want my advice, Anthony, don't expect happiness. You won't get it, people let you down … It's all a big nothing. What makes you think you're so special?
~ Livia Soprano emotionally abusing her grandson.

Olivia "Livia" Soprano is one of the main antagonists of the HBO television series The Sopranos and a major character in its 2021 prequel film The Many Saints of Newark.

She was the cagey, pessimistic and narcissistic mother of crime boss Tony Soprano. When she attempted to kill her own son, she became the main antagonist of the show's first two seasons.

In The Sopranos, she was portrayed by the late Nancy Marchand, as Laila Robins and Laurie William in flashbacks. In The Many Saints of Newark, she was portrayed by Vera Farmiga, who also played Norma Bates in The Bates Motel, Joanna in The Commuter, Emma Russell in Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Eleanor Bishop in Hawkeye.

Biography

Background

Growing up in a poverty-stricken family, she had a miserable childhood, and spent her adult life punishing everyone else for her problems. Seeing her chance to escape from her parents' house, she married Johnny Boy Soprano, and together, they had three children, Tony Soprano, Janice Soprano, and Barbara Soprano. However, Livia had no real interest in housework or motherhood.

Whilst Johnny Boy provided well-enough, Livia never thought he was good enough, and always wanted him to earn more. However, when Johnny Boy decided to move the family to Reno, Livia flipped, and claimed that she'd rather smother her own children with a pillow, than take them to Nevada. Oddly enough, despite putting him down every time, she started canonizing him when he later died. She also managed to estrange her daughter-in-law, Carmela, from her parents.

As she aged, she got worse. She became more and more suspicious and abusive of everybody around her. She started thinking that her own children wanted to kill her and take her money, whilst she always claimed to be a defenseless old widow.

The Sopranos

After Tony decides it is best if she is put into a care home, she desires revenge, by having a hit placed on her own son. After Anthony Jr. tells her that her son is seeing a psychiatrist, she then mentions this to Junior Soprano. She then later tells him that Tony sold the family house, and even says that it is possible that Tony sold the house because he would have found it harder to have his meetings there, than in the nursing home. She then tells him that Tony, and the others who he has been having these meetings with, may even be talking about him.

Outside a movie theater, she and Junior have a conversation, where she ends up telling him that her cousin, Cakey, after he was lobotomized, looked exactly like Tony does now, "empty, a shell. Better Cakey had died than go on living like that. That's what his old mother always used to say.".

After the hit fails, Livia and Junior later go to see Tony, where Livia states that she doesn't know who her granddaughter, Meadow, is. Junior confronts Livia about this, and tells her that the loss of memory is "terrific timing", particularly after the hit on Tony fails.

Later, when Livia is in the nursing unit at the home, she is visited by Artie Bucco, who she later tells in what can only be presumed was another attempt to have Tony bumped off, that Tony started the fire that destroyed Artie's restaurant. After Artie abandons the idea of killing Ton- and Tony himself learns, through tapes recorded by the FBI, that it was Livia who pushed Junior to place the hit on him. Tony goes to visit her in the home, where a worker there reveals that she had a stroke after seeing the news on TV.

Originally contemplating suffocating Livia, Tony changes his plans upon hearing this news, and confronts her as she is being wheeled to the hospital. The confrontation leads to Tony threatening his mother that he is going to kill her - and him then having to leave the nursing home.

Later, after Janice leaves, thus, leaving the care of Livia to Tony, Tony gives her stolen airline tickets. She and Tony have yet another confrontation, where she states that she never conspired with Junior. However, she ends up being left in the care of a Russian woman called Svetlana.

Never having once anyone get the better of her, she later died peacefully from a massive stroke while she slept. At her funeral, Carmela later revealed that she didn't want a funeral or remembrance of any kind, because she didn't think anybody would come.

Although it was at first believed that she was merely faking having Alzheimer's, to get out of trouble following the failed hit, it is possible that she was actually starting to develop Alzheimer's.

Tony does later visit her graveside and forgives her for what she did, and the younger version of Livia frequently appeared in flashback scenes, after the character's death. It was originally planned that Livia would testify against Tony for giving her the stolen airline tickets, but the actress who played her (Nancy Marchand) passed away in real-life, so instead, a final scene was written by Tony and a CGI-inserted Livia, before the actual character later died.

Tony's psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi, diagnosed Livia as having borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. Livia also shows signs of antisocial personality disorder. However, Livia did show some compassion for her grandchildren, such as giving Meadow money for when she was attending University. Janice, during a conversation with Carmela, calls into question whether or not her mother loves them. She goes on to say that her therapist explained to her that Livia did indeed love them, but did not know how to express it.

Personality

Who says everything has a purpose? The world's a jungle....In the end, you die in your own arms.
~ Livia to AJ.

Livia, in short, was a pretty atrocious mother. She often put down her children's achievements, talked down to them, and generally made their lives into a miserable hell. She once said that she viewed kids as 'animals' and that someone had to teach them right from wrong. Her actions caused her children to individually sever contact with her, even Tony, who tried his best to be a 'good son' and provide for her.

Cagey, manipulative, and self-absorbed, Livia Soprano seemingly derives little pleasure from life other than making the people around her miserable, particularly her children. She was also unappreciative of Tony's attempts to take care of her, fearing that he was just trying to get rid of her, while ironically enough accusing her children of being ungrateful, saying that she 'gave her life on a silver platter' to them, while doing very little for them in that regard.

She was also racist, calling psychology a scam by the Jews, made a few too many remarks about her Haitian nurse, causing her to quit, as well as not liking a woman who lived down the hall from her in her nursing home because she was Irish and 'snooty' as she put it.

Despite her general misanthropy, she did seem to enjoy spending time with A.J. and often regaled him with her nihilistic philosophies on life, telling him that life is all a 'big nothing.' She also liked to play games with him and talk with him about life.

Despite only being in the show for 3 seasons, Livia's impact on Tony is explored throughout the series, with Tony struggling to come to terms with his often tumultuous relationship with her. While Melfi attempts to convince Tony to move on from her affect on him, Tony was never fully able to.

Quotes

Animals... no different from dogs.
~ Livia Soprano talking about babies.
Oh, Mr. Sensitive now. Well, if it bothers you, maybe you better talk to a psychiatrist.
~ Livia Soprano

Trivia

  • In addition to being the main antagonist of the first and second seasons, Livia was also supposed to be the main antagonist of the third season. A season three storyline was planned where Livia would be called to testify against her son in court, giving evidence on stolen airline tickets she had received from him, but Marchand died on June 18, 2000, before it could be filmed. Existing footage and computer-generated imagery was used to create a final scene between Tony and Livia in the season three episode "Proshai, Livushka".

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DiMeo Crime Family
Bosses
Ercole DiMeo | Feech La Manna | Raymond Curto
Altieri Crew
Jimmy Altieri | Carlo Gervasi | Jason Gervasi | Jason Parisi | Walden Belfiore
Aprile Crew
Richie Aprile | Jackie Aprile Sr. | Carlo Renzi | Dino Zerilli | Eugene Pontecorvo | Jackie Aprile Jr. | Ralph Cifaretto | Vito Spatafore
Barese Crew
Larry Barese | Albert Barese | Nicholas Spagnelli | Rusty Irish
Junior Crew
Junior Soprano | Beppy Scerbo | Bobby Baccalieri Jr. | Chucky Signore | Donnie Paduana | Mikey Palmice | Phillip Parisi
Soprano Crew
Tony Soprano | Johnny Boy Soprano | Buddha Bonpensiero | Benny Fazio | Brendan Filone | Cary DiBartolo | Christopher Moltisanti | Dickie Moltisanti | Furio Giunta | Hesh Rabkin | Hollywood Dick Moltisanti | Little Paulie Germani | Matthew Bevilaqua | Paulie Gualtieri | Peter LaRosa | Patsy Parisi | Salvatore Bonpensiero | Sean Gismonte | Silvio Dante

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Carmine Lupertazzi | Johnny Sacrimoni | Phil Leotardo | Albie Cianfalone | Billy Leotardo | Burt Gervasi | Butch DeConcini | Coco Cogliano | David Pasquale | Doc Santoro | Fat Dom | Gerry Torciano | Jason Masucci | Jimmy Petrille | Joseph Peparelli | Petey B. | Raymond D'Abaldo | Rusty Millio

Other
Credenzo Curtis | Cyril | Don Hauser | Emil Kolar | Frank Lucas | Gloria Trillo | Harold McBrayer | Jesus Rossi | John Clayborn and Rasheen Ray | Livia Soprano | Mustang Sally | Matush Giamona | Salvatore Moltisanti | Stanley Johnson | Tony Blundetto | Valery

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