Michael Gandolfini says acting helped him cope with the loss of his father, late Sopranos actor James Gandolfini.
The 19-year-old actor revealed how his passion for acting helped him process his grief during an interview for Esquire magazine.
Michael, who will follow in his father’s footsteps as he takes the role of Tony Soprano in the prequel Many Saints Of Newark, said: ‘From the first day, I fell in love with it. It actually started my grieving process with my dad.’
His craft: Michael Gandolfini opened up about his father James’ death and what it’s like to follow in his dad’s acting footsteps in a new profile for Esquire
Unexpected: James died unexpectedly in 2013 of a heart attack while on holiday in Rome with his family
James died unexpectedly in 2013 of a heart attack while on holiday in Rome with his family.
Though Michael found solace in acting, his father had discouraged him from making the craft his career.
‘As I got older, he wanted me to play sports. I felt that burden. I wanted to make him proud. And he said, “Don’t be an actor; be a director. They have the power.”‘
But Michael took to theater, trading the football team for drama club and later enrolling at NYU, where he is currently a sophomore.
His first audition lead to his first role – a part of HBO’s The Deuce – something that caused his manager to joke ‘You should quit acting now—you’re one-for-one.’
So Michael seemed fated for his next project, a Sopranos prequel film co-written by original series creator David Chase.
Hot shot: His first audition lead to his first role – a part of HBO’s The Deuce – something that caused his manager to joke “You should quit acting now—you’re one-for-one”
Rookie: Michael had actually never seen The Sopranos before he was called to audition for the prequel, The Many Saints Of Newark
There was one problem however – he’d actually never seen his dad in the iconic role of mobster Tony Soprano.
‘The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos,’ Michael explained.
‘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.”
Studying his father’s role was ‘intense’ for Michael, who said: ‘The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time.
‘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 then I’d also be seeing my father. I think what made it so hard was I had to do it alone. I was just sitting alone in my dark apartment, watching my dad all the time.’
Like father, like son: Studying his father’s role was ‘intense’ for Michael, who said: ‘The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time. Above he’s seen on set in May
Father figure: Once Sopranos scene that ‘crushed’ Michael was when Tony sits by his son AJ’s bed and says, ‘I couldn’t ask for a better son.’ ‘I just knew he was talking to me in that scene,’ Michael confessed. Above James is seen on screen with Robert Iler, who played AJ
More than a few scenes hit home for the young actor, who was just 14 at the time his father passed away.
‘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. 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.’
Michael channels his father’s talents in the upcoming The Many Saints Of Newark.
The film is set in New Jersey during the time of Newark riots in the 60s, an era which was fraught with violence and racial tension.
In addition to Gandolfini, the movie will feature Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti, Sopranos favorite Christopher Moltisanti’s father.
The cast also includes Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Ray Liotta, John Magaro, Leslie Odom Jr., Michela De Rossi, and Joey Diaz.
The Many Saints Of Newark is set for theaters September 25 2020.
Garden state: The Many Saints Of Newark is set for theaters September 25 2020