The death of James Gandolfini left the future of several of his projects in doubt—chief among them his long-in-the-works return to an HBO drama, as the star of the limited series Criminal Justice (based on the BBC show of the same name). But the network seems to have found a solution in a surprising place: Deadline reports that Robert De Niro will now take over the role Gandolfini was to play in the seven-episode series, that of a shyster New York attorney who takes on the case of a Pakistani man accused of murdering an Upper West Side girl. Gandolfini’s character, though central to the plot, only appeared at the end of the pilot, making the reshoot slightly easier—though certainly not any less difficult in terms of finding someone who could replace Gandolfini.
According to the report, De Niro was the only actor the network and director Steve Zaillian even considered, believing he was the only one who could “honor Gandolfini’s memory with his performance.” Fortunately De Niro agreed with them, signing on to what will be his first-ever regular TV role—and the first time that Gandolfini probably would have been happy to be seen as interchangeable with De Niro on HBO, way more so than that one episode of The Sopranos where Tony got all mad at his therapist’s suggestion that it was just like Analyze This. That was a funny moment, right? This is still sort of sad.