People: Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Edie Falco, Paula Deen and Robert Downey Jr.

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About to become a parent herself later this summer, Jamie-Lynn Sigler is keeping James Gandolfini's wife and children in her thoughts as she mourns the Wednesday death of her TV father.

"This news has left me heartbroken," the actress tells People in a statement. "I can only imagine the pain his family feels at this time, and my heart goes out to them, especially Deborah, Michael and Liliana."

"I spent 10 years of my life studying and admiring one of the most brilliant actors, yes, but more importantly, one of the greatest men," Sigler, who played daughter Meadow Soprano on the hit HBO show, continues.

"Jim had the ability, unbeknownst to him, to make you feel like everything would be alright if he was around."

The two were a central part of one of the series' strongest episodes, in which Gandolfini's Tony and Sigler's Meadow take a road trip to visit New England universities, culminating in Tony admitting his Mafia ties to his daughter before strangling an FBI informant with a wire.

"I treasure my memories with him and feel so honored that I was an up-close witness to his greatness," the actress adds.

Sigler, now 32, is engaged to Cutter Dykstra and expecting their son in August.

Tony and Carmela Soprano had one of the most turbulent relationships in the history of television, but a day after Gandolfini's shocking death in Italy, TV wife Edie Falco offers an emotional tribute to the man who was her intimate collaborator for a decade.

"I am shocked and devastated by Jim's passing," Falco says in a statement. "He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words. I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague."

"The Sopranos" racked up Emmy awards for its fictional portrayal of the dysfunctional New Jersey crime family, with Gandolfini and Falco at its emotional core.

In real life, Gandolfini leaves behind his wife, Deborah, son Michael - who reportedly found the actor still alive in his Rome hotel room Wednesday - and infant daughter Liliana, 9 months.

On Thursday, Falco acknowledged both his real-life family and the one he forged on the groundbreaking HBO show.

"My heart goes out to his family," she said, "as those of us in his pretend one hold onto the memories of our intense and beautiful time together. The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."

Paula Deen is again defending herself after an admission went public this week about her past use of the N-word, People reports.

The celebrity chef has come under fire after a newly filed deposition revealed that she used the widely condemned racial slur years earlier.

On Wednesday, her lawyer released a statement that said the Food Network star "does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable." A day later, Paula Deen Enterprises released a new statement echoing that position.

"During a deposition where she swore to tell the truth, Ms. Deen recounted having used a racial epithet in the past, speaking largely about a time in American history which was quite different than today," reads the statement given to People. "She was born 60 years ago, when America's South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today."

The statement goes on: "To be clear Ms. Deen does not find acceptable the use of this term under any circumstance by anyone nor condone any form of racism or discrimination."

Deen made her shocking admission in a May 17 deposition connected to a lawsuit filed by Lisa Jackson, a former manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, which is owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. Jackson claims she was in a hostile work environment filled with innuendo and racial slurs.

According to the deposition transcript filed in U.S. District Court Monday, Deen admitted to using the racial slur after an attorney for Jackson asked if she ever used the N-word.

"Yes, of course," Deen replied, and added: "It's been a very long time."

Meanwhile, The Food Network, which airs both "Paula's Best Dishes" and "Paula's Home Cooking," stopped short of defending its longtime star in a statement to People about the controversy.

"Food Network does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion," a rep for the network says in a statement to People. "We will continue to monitor the situation."

Robert Downey Jr. has signed up for two more "Avengers" films, The Associated Press reports.

Marvel announced Thursday that the actor will reprise his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark for "The Avengers 2" and "The Avengers 3." Downey Jr. has played the character in a trilogy of "Iron Man" movies, as well as the first superhero ensemble "Avengers" film, which made $2.7 billion worldwide.

Joss Whedon is to return as director of the next "Avengers" film. He is writing the screenplay now. Production is to begin in March, with a theatrical release in May 2015.

The 48-year-old actor had previously suggested "Iron Man 3" might be his last spin in a stand-alone "Iron Man" film. Marvel's announcement made no mention of an "Iron Man 4" release.

Frank Langella will be taking on one of Shakespeare's greatest roles - King Lear - and letting audiences in two countries see it, the AP reports.

Producers said Thursday Langella will debut his Lear at Britain's Chichester Festival Theatre this autumn and then take it to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York early next year.

"King Lear" will be directed by Chichester's associate director Angus Jackson. It will run at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester from Oct. 31-Nov. 30 and then in Brooklyn from Jan. 7-Feb. 9.

Langella was most recently seen in Terrance Rattigan's "Man and Boy" on Broadway. He has won three Tony Awards, most notably as Richard Nixon in "Frost/Nixon," a role he later recreated for the 2008 film version, earning an Oscar nomination.

Pittsburgh CLO is developing "a small, new musical comedy" titled "Judge Jackie Justice, The Trials of Love," by Carnegie Mellon University alumni Christopher Dimond (book and lyrics) and Michael Kooman (music). Works by the award-winning writing team, whose honors include the first Lorenz Hart Award, include the musical "Dani Girl" and "Orphie and the Book of Heroes," which will premiere at the Kennedy Center in 2014. The CLO and executive producer Van Kaplan is holding auditions for a private staged reading of "Judge Jackie Justice," in which a fictional television judge "resolves issues of life and love for both the litigants of her court and herself." ... Point Park University's Conservatory Theatre Company will open the 2013-14 season with Patrick Cassidy directing "Oklahoma!" Oct. 18-27. The Broadway actor is the son of Smithton native Shirley Jones, who starred in the movie version of the musical.

"Masterpiece" is prescribing a new drama set in a London hospital in the early 1960s, the AP reports.

The series, "Breathless," will put medical practice at the brink of the tumultuous '60s. Set in a busy gynecology unit, it inhabits a world where abortion is illegal and the new contraceptive pill is available only to married women.

Premiering on "Masterpiece" in 2014, "Breathless" was announced Thursday by co-producers PBS/WGBH and ITV Studios.

The series will star Jack Davenport, most recently seen on the NBC series "Smash." Other cast members include Zoe Boyle and Iain Glen from "Downton Abbey."

"Masterpiece" executive producer Rebecca Eaton called "Breathless" a "sharp, visually rich" portrait of characters "on the cusp of change."

"Breathless" is co-created and written by Paul Unwin ("Shameless," "Agatha Christie's Miss Marple" and "Poirot").



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