Michael Gandolfini On Playing A Young Tony Soprano: 'Everyone Trusted Me'

"The Many Saints of Newark," creator David Chase's movie prequel to "The Sopranos" TV series, is ringing in the month of October in theaters and on HBO Max. The film's young star, Michael Gandolfini, is the son of the late James Gandolfini, and he takes over the iconic role of Tony Soprano that his father originated.

Playing such a famous character — and having your parent's shadow hang over you — comes with a lot of pressure. Michael was only 8 years old when "The Sopranos" aired its finale in 2007, but now he's 2 and getting his big break as a co-lead after appearing in smaller roles in "Ocean's 8" and "Cherry." Gandolfini spoke to Entertainment Weekly about his experience as an actor in "The Many Saints of Newark," and it sounds like it was a positive one. He told EW:

"The whole process was one of the most incredible things I've ever gotten to do in my life. First, becoming a fan of the show for the first time. I was a kid; I didn't know what it was. I didn't know what it was about. Falling in love with the show was an incredible experience for me, and being very proud of my dad and proud of everyone that I've known for a long time.

"And then going through a very rigorous and complicated audition process, where, at first, I was conflicted on whether or not we should do it, or what is everyone going to say, and then slowly falling in love with David's writing and then being scared that I wasn't going to get it. I have to get it. I hope I get it. At the end of the day, I got to work with these people here, which has been one of the greatest gifts. This is the first time I've ever gotten emotional. Everyone trusted me."

A Crime Family Reunion

In a lot of ways, "The Many Saints of Newark" marks a reunion not just for fans with the characters and world of "The Sopranos," but for the people responsible for bringing it to life. 

The film is directed by Alan Taylor, who won an Emmy for "The Sopranos" and helmed nine episodes of it during its original HBO run, before crossing over into big-screen tentpoles like "Thor: The Dark World" and "Terminator: Genisys." It was co-written by Lawrence Konner, who also received an Emmy nomination for his work on the series. Actor Michael Imperioli returns to narrate "The Many Saints of Newark" from the great beyond as his character, the deuteragonist and Dimeo crime family member, Christopher Moltisanti.

Between "The Many Saints of Newark" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "Licorice Pizza," it's turning out to be a big year for sons stepping into their father's shoes onscreen. "Licorice Pizza" stars Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who collaborated with Anderson on five films before his untimely death in 2014.

Gandolfini and Hoffman are both irreplaceable titans, but having an actor's child carry on their legacy is a whole lot better, in my humble opinion, than following the "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" precedent and digitally resurrecting them. "The Sopranos" and "The Many Saints of Newark" obviously owe a huge debt to Martin Scorsese, and while I'm a big Scorsese fan, I was one of the few who was not a fan of "The Irishman," his latest foray into the gangster film genre. The digital de-aging of Robert De Niro and others killed it for me, and I thought they should have just gone "The Godfather Part II" route and brought in another thesp like Leonardo DiCaprio to play the younger version of De Niro's character.

Michael Gandolfini is surely a vast improvement over some hypothetical digital James Gandolfini. "The Many Saints of Newark" is in theaters and on HBO Max now.