Watch CBSN Live

<i>Sopranos</i> Matriarch Passes Away

Nancy Marchand, who played the scheming matriarch of a Mafia family on The Sopranos and the patrician publisher Mrs. Pynchon on television's Lou Grant, has died at 71, an HBO spokeswoman said Monday.

The Emmy-winning actress died of lung cancer Sunday night at her home, HBO's Tobe Becker said. Monday would have been Marchand's 72nd birthday.

Marchand, who once told The New York Times that she was comfortable on stage but uneasy meeting people one-on-one, showed no fear as Livia Soprano or Mrs. Pynchon. Both women were in control -- Livia of a sprawling mobster family, Mrs. Pynchon of the newspaper edited by the surly Grant, played by Ed Asner.

"As a person, I'm kind of afraid of people," she told the Times. "I feel a lot more comfortable walking down Broadway ... than if I'm at a cocktail party."

Nevertheless, she added: "I love people."

As played by Marchand, Livia was sullen, self-pitying and Machiavellian. She seemed intend upon destroying her son Tony (played by James Gandolfini), conspiring with her brother-in-law, Tony's underhanded rival for the family business.

As Mrs. Pynchon, Marchand was a regal presenece -- strong enough to step on Lou Grant's toes, if it came to that -- but still involved in the daily operation of her mythical Los Angeles Tribune.

Marchand had continued to work on The Sopranos even after her diagnosis with lung cancer. Her husband of 47 years, Paul Sparer, died in November, also of cancer.

On film, Marchand appeared in Dear God with Greg Kinnear, the 1995 remake of Sabrina, Regarding Henry and the first of the Naked Gun comedies, among many others.

Marchand also appeared on numerous television shows including Homicide: Life on the Street, Coach, Night Court and Cheers.

Her Broadway and off-Broadway credits are lengthy, including a Tony-nominated performance in White Liars and Black Comedy and Obie-winning roles in The Cocktail Hour and The Balcony.

View CBS News In