By Derek Lawrence
November 06, 2019 at 12:00 PM EST

Jon Bernthal cites The Sopranos as a big reason why he decided to become an actor, and he’s “grateful” to now be able to help honor the late James Gandolfini with The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel film to the iconic HBO series.

“A huge thrill,” Bernthal tells EW of the experience. “One of the best parts about working on that project was that it afforded me the opportunity to go back and revisit the series. That series was everything for me. It was in its heyday when I was just deciding to become an actor and studying acting. It’s my favorite show of all time.”

Hailing from creator David Chase and Sopranos director Alan Taylor, Many Saints is set amid the riots of 1960s Newark, N.J., which broke out as a result of tensions flaring between the city’s black and Italian residents. Alessandro Nivola’s Dickie Moltisanti serves as the central figure, and his ties to the show run deep — he’s the father of Christopher (Michael Imperioli), cousin of Carmela (Edie Falco), and mentor of Tony, who will be played in the film by Gandolfini’s own son, Michael.

George Pimentel/Getty Images; Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

“I was enormously grateful to be able to do it alongside Mikey Gandolfini, and the personal journey that he’s on and what it meant for him and his father,” shares Bernthal, who will next be seen in Ford v Ferrari. “I think he’s such a beautiful kid and a beautiful actor. His father is one of our greatest artists of all time, and to be a part of this thing to honor him was really beautiful. It’s iconic and I can’t say how grateful I am to be a part of it. I mean, it’s The Sopranos.”

Previously speaking to EW, Nivola added of the project: “What David did was to tell an origin story of Tony Soprano through a character that was dead before the series and that is such a surprising way of going about it. And the late-’60s mob movie is the stuff of dreams. Everyone was at the top of their game. The only infuriating thing is how long we have to wait.”

The Many Saints of Newark, which also stars Vera Farmiga and Corey Stoll, opens Sept. 25, 2020.

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