If you asked any frequent TV show watcher in the early 2000s, they’ll tell you that “The Sopranos” was a show people scarcely missed. Now almost 14 years later, the story of Tony Soprano and his family continues — just not forward. Instead, “The Many Saints of Newark,” is looking back.
Following a young Tony Soprano and his family, devoted “Sopranos” fans will be happy to hear that after a shocking series finale, there is more in store. While a continuation was something fans had hoped for — following the death of the show’s main character, Tony Soprano — there didn’t seem to be a way to carry on.
Instead of moving forward without their title character, creators instead chose to take a few steps back and explore the lives of their beloved characters — and a few new ones — while they were younger.
Set in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, “The Many Saints of Newark” focuses on Dickie Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola, Harold McBrayer, played by Leslie Odom Jr. and a young Tony Soprano, played by Michael Gandolfini (who happens to be the son of the actor who played the original Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini).
Dickie Moltisanti is a seemingly warmhearted character who takes Tony under his wing after his father, Johnny Boy, played by Jon Berntha, is sent to prison. However, any fervid “Sopranos” lover knows that there is always more than meets the eye with Italians that “run their own businesses.”
Moltisanti and McBrayer end up in a “battle of the businesses” per-se, and the extended Soprano family is caught right in the middle, like any good mob bosses family usually is. The audience gets to see first hand how Tony Soprano became who he was in his title TV show.
VALLEY was able to attend a student journalist roundtable with Warner Bros. and heard from cast members about their experiences working on the movie.
Since many of the characters in the film had already been portrayed on the original TV show, there comes the obvious weight of how to portray their characters in a new light and bring their own ideas to it. Alessandro Nivola, who plays Moltisanti was able to put his own spin on the new, but known character.
“That was really liberating to not feel that I had to honor something that had been said about him or ways that he had been described in the show,” Nivola says. “I had total freedom to invent the character from my imagination and from my research.”
For Michael Gandolfini bringing to life a younger Tony Soprano was a completely different story. He not only was inheriting such a titular role, but a character that had been crafted and shaped by his real life father.
“One thing I sort of focused on was having these bite sized chunks,” Gandolfini says when asked about the emotional impact of portraying his father. “If I thought about playing Tony Soprano, or an iconic character, or even my dad, I think I would’ve become overwhelmed. It mostly became what was in front of me on that day.”
While most of the film consisted of storylines furthered by characters fans knew or knew of, there were also characters that made their Soprano family movie debut within this film. Leslie Odom Jr. ‘s character of Harold McBrayer being one of them.
“I knew it was an amazing opportunity to add on to the mythology, to expand this world, to be a part of that in any way,” Odom Jr. says. “I just wanted to hopefully offer a character that was as psychologically rich and interesting as they’ve [fans] grown accustomed to.”
What is most interesting about the plot of this film is that most of the main characters seem to embody both the “hero” and the “villain.” Both Moltisanti and McBrayer, along with some of the other characters, have a clear reason for carrying out the crimes that they do. They go to work, make money (maybe shoot some people) and make it home in time for dinner with their families.
While many people may have missed the prime time of “The Sopranos,” it’s definitely worth the binge, before or after seeing this film. This movie was not only made for the hardcore fans, who have been anticipating more from the Soprano family, but also as a stepping off point for people who are on the fence about investing themselves in the seven season show.
“The Many Saints of Newark” will be released in theaters on October 1 and will be streaming exclusively on HBO Max for 31 days.