The actor was in shock when a fellow inmate in New York's Hudson Correctional Facility told him the sad news that Gandolfini had suffered a fatal heart attack in Italy on 19 June (13).
Brancato, Jr., who is serving time for his part in the murder of an off-duty cop in 2005, tells the New York Daily News, "I couldn't believe my ears. I thought it was a mistake."
The 37 year old, who was discovered by Robert De Niro, hails Gandolfini as an inspiring mentor, adding, "I admired him so much as an actor and so much as a person. I've been privileged to work with some of the most renowned people in Hollywood. He was right there with them."
A funeral for the acting legend is to be held in New York on Thursday morning (27Jun13) at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.