By Patrick Gomez
April 04, 2018 at 01:24 PM EDT
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Actor Stanley Tucci was shocked and saddened to learn that his friend and former Murder One writer-producer Steven Bochco died Sunday at the age of 74 after battling cancer.

“He was such a lovely guy and he really loved what he did so much — and he really loved actors,” Tucci tells EW of Bochco, who was the creative force behind groundbreaking series like NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and Doogie Howser, M.D. “He was so supportive of me and influenced me in ways I don’t think he ever knew; he changed my career.”

Tucci and his then-wife had just bought their first house when Bochco cast the actor on the critically acclaimed crime drama Murder One, which premiered in 1995.

“I called Mortgage One since I was so broke at the time,” says Tucci. “When I got cast, I had also just gotten the money for Big Night, the first movie I co-directed. The studio was adamant that I only do the pilot and not the movie but I’d worked for so many years to get the movie made. I went to Steven and said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ He told me, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll work it out.’ And he said, ‘Easy squeezy.’ No matter what happens you have a friend in me.”

Stanley Tucci (left) and Steven Bochco.
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images; Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock

“He was so supportive of me and really championed me making the film and accommodating me in every way. Not to mention, he gave me such an incredible role,” continues Tucci, who starred on Murder One as Richard Cross, a character EW TV critic Kristen Baldwin has described as a silky-smooth philandering philanthropist who becomes the cops’ primary murder suspect after surveillance cameras show him leaving the victim’s building on the night of her death.

“At the time, the show got incredible reviews but about seven people watched it. But it got me my first Emmy nomination, which, to me, came out of nowhere. I had no idea that would happen. It was so exciting and Steven was a big part of that,” says Tucci.

Tucci was honored to call Bochco a friend (“The thing about Steven was, if you were honest and straightforward with him, he was the same with you. If you were a dick, he wasn’t going to be your friend, and rightly so,” he says), but most fondly recalls the writer-producer giving him a wine recommendation.

“He turned me on to one of the best white wines in the world, Jermann vineyard, which is still one of my favorite wines,” says Tucci. “I still always get it, and I think of him every time. It’s a really good wine; it’s not unnecessarily expensive and it’s absolutely delicious — to me, that’s a lot like Steven.”

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