Credits + Pics

Buyer's Guide

Lee Links

Ask Lee

Site Info



Famous Oz Fan Suprises Fontana

By Alan Pergament
The Buffalo News
July 7, 1999

Tom Fontana realizes that his provocative HBO prison series "Oz" (which returns in a week with original episodes) isn't for everyone. Recently, he was surprised to learn that one of the world's most famous musicians is a fan.

It seems that Lee Tergesen, who plays perpetually abused inmate Tobias Beecher, was at a recital for the musician responsible for some of the music connected to "Oz."

In the audience was famed violinist Itzhak Perlman, who sought out Tergesen.

"Itzhak Perlman comes up to him and says, 'This is my favorite show on television,' " said Fontana. "Do you believe that?"

Now, there's a promo for HBO. Take it from Itzhak, "Oz" is classical.

Fontana is a big fan of HBO's most critically praised drama, "The Sopranos," about a midlevel mobster who goes into therapy. But as an Italian, Fontana admits having some reservations and talked about it. As does actor Chazz Palminteri, who is directing an episode of "Oz" this season.

"We got in a discussion about it because they had actually offered Chazz the part (of Tony Soprano) a couple of years ago," said Fontana. "We did talk about the fact it's the thing that he and I have fought all of our lives against, that kind of 'These are a bunch of stupid dagos' thing.

"But that would be like getting into this nonsense about (the Fox series) ' The PJs,' " said Fontana, who resisted the idea of complaining that "you can't do that."

"Especially me," said Fontana. "Am I ever going to say to somebody else, 'You can't do that'?"

It would be kind of hard considering what airs on "Oz."

Lorraine Bracco, who plays the therapist on "The Sopranos," is an Italian who was nominated years ago as Best Supporting Actress for playing a mobster's wife in "Goodfellas." She dismisses the complaints about "Sopranos."

"The truth is, it's about organized crime and it comes in all kind of colors, nationalities, whatever. David Chase could have written it about anybody -- Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, Irish. It could have been anything. That's what he chose. It is not a true story like Henry Hill in 'Goodfellas.' They couldn't complain about anything (back) then."


Oz main page