Michael Gandolfini admits he had never seen one minute of The Sopranos before being asked to audition for The Many Saints of Newark. Gandolfini is playing the iconic Tony Soprano in the upcoming prequel, the role that his late father, James Gandolfini, made famous. To say there was some pressure surrounding the casting would be a major understatement for the young actor, who had to go back and watch the massively popular HBO series from the start in order to get the mannerisms of his father’s acting down.
One would’ve thought Michael Gandolfini would have been well-versed in the world of The Sopranos. However, Gandolfini was only a child when the show was being made. The 2013 death of James Gandolfini probably adds an extra reason as to why the younger Gandolfini didn’t want to go and watch the show. In a recent interview, Gandolfini talked about what the hardest part about making The Many Saints of Newark was. He explains.
“The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos. I was just a kid when he was making it. I would go to the set and ask him what it was about, and he’d say, ‘Oh, it’s about this guy who’s in the mob and kind of goes to therapy.’ The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time.”
James Gandolfini never wanted his son to become an actor, according to Michael Gandolfini. Instead, he pushed him into sports and told him if he ever got into the entertainment business he should go into directing. After his father passed away, Michael was bit by the acting bug and used it as a way to cope with his father’s death. Taking on the role in The Many Saints of Newark was not an easy decision. Gandolfini has this to say.
“It was an intense process. Because, as an actor, I had to watch this guy who created the role, to look for mannerisms, voice, all those things I would have to echo. But then I’d also be seeing my father. I think what made it so hard was I had to do it alone. I was just sitting alone in my dark apartment, watching my dad all the time. I started having crazy dreams. I had one where I auditioned for David and I looked down at my hands, and they were my dad’s hands.”
Making The Many Saints of Newark might not have been an easy thing to do for Michael Gandolfini, but it sounds like it was a good experience for the young actor. When asked if he had any favorite Tony Soprano moments from binge watching the series for the first time, he mentioned there were a few that reminded him of his dad. Gandolfini had this to say about those specific Tony Soprano moments.
“There’s a scene where Meadow comes home late at night, and he’s sitting with a drink, and he’s like, ‘You know I love you, right?’ That hit hard. The other one that crushed me was when he yells at A. J., and he gets a pizza to apologize, and he sits by his son’s bed and says, ‘I couldn’t ask for a better son.’ I just knew he was talking to me in that scene.”
David Chase put in the call to Michael Gandolfini to star in The Many Saints of Newark for obvious reasons. Not only does he look a lot like James Gandolfini, it’s also a fitting tribute to the late actor by a close friend and his son. From the early buzz surrounding the set, the young Gandolfini knocked it out of the park. The Many Saints of Newark hits theaters on September 25th, 2020. The interview with Michael Gandolfini was originally conducted by Esquire.