‘Many Saints of Newark’ Star Michael Gandolfini Confessed He Never Saw ‘The Sopranos’ Before Auditioning

by Lauren Boisvert

The Many Saints of Newark, the Sopranos prequel film, hits theaters on Friday, and Michael Gandolfini recently confessed that he never saw his father’s famous HBO show before stepping into his shoes.

First of all, you would think James Gandolfini’s son would be a shoo-in to play young Tony Soprano, but the 22-year-old actor still had to audition for the part. Add that to the fact that he hadn’t studied for the test, and it sounds like a recipe for disaster.

All is well, though; in an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Michael revealed that he started watching The Sopranos once the audition process started and that he quickly became obsessed.

“I watched the first season during the audition process and I was just like, ‘I’ll stay with the first season,'” he told Jimmy Fallon, “And then I went on and on and I became a fan of the show like everyone else. I just loved it.”

Michael’s step-mother and James Gandolfini’s widow, Deborah Lin, told Page Six of the opportunity, “I know it took a lot of courage for him [Michael] to take this role. It was very emotional. But the whole family is just so proud of him. His father would be very proud.”

Michael has said that his dad didn’t want him watching The Sopranos, because Michael was so young. The Sopranos aired a few months after Michael was born, in 1999. He was 8 when the show ended in 2007, and 14 when his father died of a heart attack in 2013 at 51. He told Vanity Fair that his father “didn’t want me to see Tony Soprano — the violence, the angry, the mean … It was really hard to watch my dad.”

Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos, also had kind words to say about Michael taking on the role of Tony Soprano. “He’s a smart, great kid. I don’t want to say that he reminds me of Jimmy — he is his own person. But Jimmy would be very proud of him, he would be thrilled.”

Steven Van Zandt Talks About ‘The Sopranos’ Tight Group

Steven Van Zandt, actor and musician, spoke about the bond that he shared with the other stars on The Sopranos.

“It’s the ensemble thing, the ensemble thing is the band thing and that was my thing,” he said in an interview with Ashbury Park Press, “I was determined, I’m going to turn this “Sopranos” cast into a band, somehow, and that’s what kind of happened.”

The interview goes on to emphasize that the show was very “New Jersey,” not just because of filming location, but in terms of culture. Van Zandt said, “Everybody turned the show down because he was insisting on filming in New Jersey. They were like, ‘What are you, nuts? What’s the matter with you? No way that could succeed.'”

He went on to say, “for good or worse, we were certainly New Jersey.”