James Gandolfini‘s son Michael Gandolfini had never seen his late dad’s iconic HBO series The Sopranos until he was cast as a younger version of his father’s character, Tony Soprano, in an upcoming movie prequel.
“The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos,” Michael, 19, told Esquire. “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 young actor, who is stepping into his dad’s role as Tony Soprano in the 2020 prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, added that it was difficult for him to go back and watch the HBO series.
“It was an intense process,” Michael said. “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 [E. Chase] and I looked down at my hands, and they were my dad’s hands.”
Michael was only 14 when his father died at 51-years-old of a heart attack in 2013, during a family vacation in Rome. But that tragic event was what propelled Michael to chase a career in acting, and eventually land the same role his father once played.
“From the first day, I fell in love with it,” Michael said. “It actually started my grieving process with my dad.”
The Many Saints of Newark will feature younger versions of the fan-favorite characters, set in 1960 Newark when the riots between Italian-Americans and African-Americans were at an all-time high.
“It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Michael said in a statement obtained by Variety and Deadline after his casting was announced in January.
“I’m thrilled that I am going to have the opportunity to work with David Chase and the incredible company of talent he has assembled,” Michael added of the series creator.
The Many Saints of Newark will hit theaters on Sept. 25, 2020.