'The Many Saints Of Newark' Actor Michael Gandolfini Watched 'The Sopranos' For The First Time To Take On His Father's Iconic Role

The Sopranos prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark is bringing back Tony Soprano – as a much younger man. The late, great James Gandolfini played the now-iconic role of the unstable mob boss, and when it came time to find a younger Tony, Sopranos creator David Chase made a surprising – but logical – choice: Gandolfini's son Michael. Now, Michael Gandolfini has revealed he had never watched The Sopranos before and had to do so in order to take over his late father's part.

Michael Gandolfini is opening up about stepping into the role his late father made famous. Gandolfini plays the young Tony Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark, the upcoming Sopranos prequel movie set in the 1960s. Speaking with Esquire, Gandolfini revealed that he had never actually watched The Sopranos before David Chase asked him to audition for the film. "The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos," Gandolfini said. "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.'"

As you might imagine, watching multiple seasons of a show starring a deceased parent might be a bit emotionally taxing. As Gandolfini confirmed:

"The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time...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."

James Gandolfini's work as Tony Soprano remains one of the most well-regarded pieces of acting in the history of television. That may sound like hyperbole, but it's absolutely true. I'm incredibly curious to see what Michael Gandolfini does with the part.

In addition to Gandolfini, The Many Saints of Newark stars Alessandro Nivola, Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Ray Liotta, John Magaro Leslie Odom Jr., and Joey Diaz. Much of the movie is shrouded in secret, but we know it's set during the Newark riots of the 1960s, and will feature younger versions of several characters from The SopranosSopranos director Alan Taylor is at the helm, with a script from Sopranos creator David Chase and Lawrence Konner.

The Many Saints of Newark opens September 25, 2020.