(NBC News) Family, friends and fans of James Gandolfini are remembering the actor and his legacy today.
He died unexpectedly Wednesday in Rome at the age of 51 of an apparent heart attack.
News of the actor's passing was as sudden and shocking as the final scene of the show that made him famous.
His memory honored by that real life New Jersey diner.
It's a sense of loss echoed by those who worked with him.
"Talented and friendly and just a guy you wanted to put an arm around and hug him," said former Soprano cast member Frank Vincent.
Viewers also embraced Tony Soprano.
It was the role of a sociopathic mob boss that earned Gandolfini three Emmys.
"What he brought to that role, the depth, the humanity and the kind of soulfulness as well as the ugliness and the anger, it changed television forever really," GQ Magszine writer Brett Martin said.
After "The Sopranos", Gandolfini worked steadily in such films as 'zero dark thirty' and the recent comedy "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone".
But the New Jersey native also struggled with his fame.
"He didn't think such a big deal should be made about him for doing his job," said hitfix.com's Alan Sepinwall.
In fact, Gandolfini spotlighted the job and challenges facing veterans in a pair of HBO documentaries.
"He was so proud that he was able to put these wounded veterans out there in a platform and get people to watch their stories just because he was tony soprano," Sepinwall said.
A role and an actor linked forever.
-- Mark Barger, NBC News, reports