Michael Gandolfini, the son of James Gandolfini, had never seen an episode of The Sopranos until he auditioned to play a younger version of his late father’s iconic character in creator David Chase’s prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark. “The hardest part of this whole process,” referring to his dad’s untimely death in 2013, “was watching the show for the first time,” he told Esquire, adding, “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 all he saw was his father, who tried to convince him to take up anything else — especially sports — rather than become an actor.
The whole profile is worth a read (and a look; it’s stunning how much Michael resembles James), but the highlight, for me, is when the younger Gandolfini names the two moments from The Sopranos that most resonated with him during his initial viewing. “There’s a scene where Meadow comes home late at night, and he’s sitting with a drink, and he’s like, ‘You know I love you, right?’ That hit hard,” he said. “The other one that crushed me was when he yells at A.J., and he gets a pizza to apologize, and he sits by his son’s bed and says, ‘I couldn’t ask for a better son.’ I just knew he was talking to me in that scene.”
The Many Saints of Newark — which is set in the 1960s in New Jersey (shocking!) during the Newark riots — comes out September 25, 2020, but before then, you can catch Michael Gandolfini in the new season of The Deuce.