Michael Gandolfini watched the HBO series to prepare for playing young Tony Soprano in prequel movie 'The Many Saints of Newark'

By James Hibberd
August 13, 2019 at 10:34 AM EDT
Bobby Bank/GC Images; Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Michael Gandolfini had never watched The Sopranos before.

The son of Emmy winner James Gandolfini had not watched the iconic HBO hit series until he was broached by the show’s creator David Chase about potentially stepping into the role of young Tony Soprano for the upcoming prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark.

Speaking to Esquire, the 20-year-old was playing his first role in another HBO drama, The Deuce, when he got the call from Chase about the project. The young actor was 14 when his father died of a heart attack in Italy.

“The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos…” he said. “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.”

Gandolfini notes that two scenes, in particular, stood out: A moment where Meadow comes home late at night and Soprano says to her, “You know I love you, right?”

“That hit hard,” he says.

The other scene is when Soprano was talking to his son A.J. after a fight with him, and then says, “I couldn’t ask for a better son.”

“I just knew he was talking to me in that scene.”

Read the full interview over at EsquireThe Many Saints of Newark is coming in 2020.

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