Is Vinny the dog headed back soon to Family Guy? Not right away, but the actor who gave voice to him is. Tony Sirico—who played the Griffins’ replacement pooch for Brian in three episodes last season—is guest-starring in another episode this season, EW has learned exclusively. This time, the former star of The Sopranos will play a heightened version of himself in several live-action moments that are sprinkled into an installment of the animated Fox comedy that will air in late fall or early winter. “He is irritated about what’s being said a couple different times throughout one episode,” explains Family Guy executive producer Steve Callaghan. “Anytime someone says something about Italians, we cut to Tony Sirico in his kitchen to get his reaction.”
Sirico’s work as Vinny was the reason that the producers tapped him for this role. “He was the perfect choice,” says Callaghan. “Not only did we love working with him and he was so funny as Vinny, but now he has a history with the show. He feels like one of our go-to people…. Now he’s part of the Family Guy family.”
Fans were outraged when Brian was killed last season, but the ones who were more skeptical were proven right when it was revealed to be a reversible-through-the-miracle-of-time-travel! stunt. Despite any backlash, though, the Family Guy producers felt that Sirico thrived in the wise-guy canine role. “He was so funny and really knew his way around that character,” says Callaghan. “I was just talking with Tony recently about how interesting it was that when Brian went away and Vinny came to replace him, there was a lot of commentary on the Internet to the effect of ‘Bring Brian back,’ and ‘We don’t like Vinny.’ People were down on that character. But then interestingly, just a couple weeks later, when Brian came back and Vinny went away, there were a lot of comments on the Internet to the effect of, ‘Oh, I kind of grew to like Vinny.’ ‘Oh, I wish they’d bring him back.’ It lends credibility to the idea that people always want what they can’t have.”
And what people may have is another chance to see Vinny down the road.”We’re often discussing ways that we might be able to bring him back and incorporate him into, if not a storyline, at least a gag here or there,” says Callaghan.
In addition to Sirico, famous folks lending their pipes to Family Guy this season include Julie Bowen, Liam Neeson, Allison Janney, and Connie Britton.