Following in your dad’s footsteps has never been so literal. Michael Gandolfini, the son of actor James Gandolfini, who died in 2013, is set to play a young Tony Soprano in the upcoming film The Many Saints of Newark. The prequel, written by David Chase, will follow Soprano before the events of, well, The Sopranos. But before he could even audition to play the role his late father made iconic, Michael Gandolfini told Esquire there was one thing he had to do: watch the series. “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,’” Gandolfini told Esquire. Of course, it wasn’t all fun and baked ziti like it is when we rewatch The Sopranos. “I was just sitting alone in my dark apartment, watching my dad all the time,” Gandolfini explained. “I started having crazy dreams. I had one where I auditioned for David and I looked down at my hands and they were my dad’s hands.” Ultimately, watching his father onscreen was an intense but cathartic experience. “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,’” he recalled. “I just knew he was talking to me in that scene.”
*This post has been corrected to state that David Chase is the writer of the prequel film, not the director.