In the new film The Many Saints Of Newark, Michael Gandolfini plays a young Tony Soprano. In many ways, it was the role he was born to play, particularly because his father—the late James Gandolfini—originated the role in HBO’s hit series The Sopranos.
The younger Gandolfini, like much of the cast, hadn’t watched The Sopranos prior to being cast in The Many Saints Of Newark, and—as he tells us in the video interview below—actually sitting down to watch his dad on-screen was a difficult experience.
“The first watch was super hard,” Gandolfini says, continuing, “Just seeing him so much and thinking about all that. I got a system where I could watch it with a group of friends and have an emotional dump, and then I would go home and watch it and dissect it in a way where I was looking for specific things.”
Gandolfini says he eventually grew to love and enjoy the show, saying, “After the first layer came off, I became a fan like anyone else. I was so excited to watch it and I dove into it.” He says he watched it alongside co-star Jon Bernthal a few times, and that “it just becomes a bonding thing, watching it and enjoying it, and sharing clips... It’s addictive in some way. Everyone starts talking like it and making those jokes.”
His co-star Vera Farmiga had her own approach to watching the show, and spent time watching Nancy Marchand’s legendary take on Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano. Farmiga said, “Marchand’s Livia was was struggling with the end of her life. We rewind the clock and Livia has a whole different set of woes.”
Farmiga says those struggles mainly revolve around maternity, saying Livia is “not a natural mom,” and “ill at ease with maternity,” something fans of the original show would agree with. “She has trouble connecting in the deepest emotional ways with her child,” says Farmiga, “And yet she’s there to keep him on the straight and narrow.”
The Many Saints Of Newark hits theaters and HBO Max this Friday, October 1. If you need to get back up to speed on The Sopranos before watching the movie, check out Matt Schimkowicz’s article on the five episodes you need to watch to get a little backstory on the family. If you’re more interested in our take on the new movie, you can read A.A. Dowd’s review right here.