David Chase (born August 22, 1945) is an American screenwriter, director, and television producer. Chase has worked in television for more than 30 years; he has produced and written for shows as The Rockford Files, I'll Fly Away, and Northern Exposure. He has created two original series: the first, Almost Grown, aired for 10 episodes in 1988 and 1989; Chase is best known for his second original series, the influential and critically acclaimed HBO drama The Sopranos, which aired for six seasons between 1999 and 2007. A prominent figure in American television, Chase has won seven Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.
An only child, David DeCesare was born to Henry and Norma DeCesare (both of Neapolitan origin) in Mount Vernon, New York. Some sources list his birth name as David Del Cesare. An Italian-American, Chase grew up in a small garden apartment in Clifton, New Jersey and in North Caldwell. Chase has stated that he had many issues with his parents—who he feels were overbearing—as a youth. He grew up watching matinée crime films and was well-known as a creative storyteller during his childhood. Chase claims his father was an angry man who belittled him constantly as a child and his mother was a "passive-aggressive drama queen" and "a nervous woman who dominated any situation she was in by being so needy and always on the verge of hysteria. You walked on eggshells." One of his characters on the HBO original series The Sopranos, Livia Soprano is based on his mother. Chase struggled with severe depression as a teenager, something he still deals with today. He graduated from West Essex High School in 1963 and attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where his depression worsened. "I slept 18 hours a day," Chase later stated. He described his problems as "what's come to be known as normal, nagging, clinical depression. It was awful." He also worked as a drummer during this period, and held aspirations of being a professional musician. After two years, he transferred to New York University (NYU), where he announced his decision to pursue a career in film, a decision that was not well-received by his parents. He went on to attend Stanford University's School of Film.
After graduating from NYU in 1968 Chase moved to California and married his high school sweetheart Denise Kelly.
Before creating and developing The Sopranos, Chase started in Hollywood as a story editor for Kolchak: The Night Stalker and then produced episodes of Northern Exposure and The Rockford Files, among other series. He also worked as a writer while on The Rockford Files—a show which he worked on in various capacities for more than four years. He won several Emmys, including one for a television movie story of runaway he scripted in 1980. After The Rockford Files run ended the same year, Chase worked in numerous television jobs until he wound up in charge of Northern Exposure in 1993. Chase worked in relative anonymity before The Sopranos debuted. Inspired as a youth by the film The Public Enemy, Chase created the critically and commercially successful show by drawing heavily on his own personal life; the character of Livia Soprano is modelled after his own mother. In a recent interview Chase stated that he experienced frustration for a long period with being unable to break out of the TV genre and into film over this time. In 2005, Chase received a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his entire body of work.
His first original created series was Almost Grown in 1988, with Eve Gordon and Timothy Daly. Although the one-hour series was well-received by critics, only 10 episodes aired from November 1988 to February 1989.