Sopranos actor Tony Sirico has died at the age of 79, his family said.

Sirico played the role of Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri in the popular HBO show, appearing in all six seasons.

He died on Friday morning, according to a Facebook post by his brother Robert.

The post said: “It is with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and a whole lot of fond memories, that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico wishes to inform you of his death on the morning of 8 July, 2022.

“The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and requests that the public respect its privacy in this time of bereavement.”

Sirico’s Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli described him as a “dear friend, colleague and partner in crime”.

The actor wrote on Instagram: “It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great Tony Sirico has passed away today.

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“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone I’ve ever known.”

Sirico was born in 1942 and grew up in Brooklyn.

In a 2001 interview with Rolling Stone, he said he was drawn to the gangsters he’d see in his neighbourhood.

He said: “They’re all dressed, slicked back, they got cars, they got girls, very enticing.

“I got close to making a huge mistake. I almost got too close to becoming one of those guys I portray.”

As an actor, Sirico found himself playing the very men he admired as a youth.

“And do I mind being stereotyped? “Absolutely not,” he told Rolling Stone in the same interview.

“I’ve paid my rent, I take care of me and Ma.”

Sirico’s manager Bob McGowan told the PA news agency he “was nothing like his character in the Sopranos”.

“He was a very loyal client of 25 years and he’s an ex-army vet and always gave to charities.

“He’s a big contributor to the Wounded Warriors and would always go to children’s hospitals.”