THE ACTRESS Aida Turturro studies me intently. We are looking at each other from our laptops—she in Connecticut filming a movie in which she plays a 1960s nun involved with a group that provides black-market abortions, me in my New York bedroom wearing one-half of an outfit. “You’re like a new-breed dog with very white teeth,” she declares with glee. “Look at you. I should have straightened my teeth, but I liked them. I was never a coffee drinker, but then I went to Italy and got addicted to the espresso, so I got a Nespresso machine and started making it at home. Now I whiten my teeth, but they’re still not white because the coffee, the coffee, the coffee!”
She takes a breath, apologizes for her hair (“My hair has to be back because I wear a habit. It’s all good, babe”), and squints at me again, kindly. “You little baby! When’s your birthday?” I tell her it’s in August, and she gasps. “You’re a Leo!” she says. “Those Leos … When they’re powerful, they’re powerful. I think you’re one of the powerful ones, right?”
Lately, Turturro has had a lot of practice giving oddly specific compliments to strangers. In the early days of covid-19, Turturro— who is best known for playing Tony’s chaos agent sister, Janice, on The Sopranos but has had a career of supporting TV and movie roles—joined Cameo, the online service on which you can pay anywhere from $5 to thousands of dollars for a personalized video message from more than 40,000 celebrities, ranging from Caitlyn Jenner ($2,500) to former NFL coach Mike Ditka ($600) to Chewbacca Mom ($50).
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