Michael Gandolfini talks about emotional role as Tony Soprano in 'The Many Saints of Newark'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- "The Many Saints of Newark" hits theaters and streaming services this Friday. It's a "Sopranos" origin story, the cinematic prequel to the popular television series.

The cast visited us here in Philadelphia, including one star with an emotional connection to "The Sopranos."

Just like his father James, Michael Gandolfini plays Tony Soprano.

It's truly a breakout role for the young actor, but also very poignant. It's almost a haunting moment for both him, fans of his late father and the franchise.

"My first initial reaction was 'no,' out of fear and a sort of hesitation," says 22-year-old Gandolfini of taking on the role of a teenage Tony Soprano.

"It was really special in so many different ways," he says. "I got to become a fan of the show, which I had never seen."

Gandolfini was only 14 years old when his father died suddenly of a heart attack.

"I look like my dad, of course, but learning his mannerisms, learning how he uses his eyes, and tilts his head down and looks up, it was really special," he says. "I got to cultivate and grow to sort of embody Tony more."

This film is told through the lens of Dickie Moltisanti, Christopher's father, and the relationships that shaped the crime family.

"This was the breakthrough role of 25-year movie career," says actor Alessandro Nivola of his leading role.

Nivola says the moment came with both pride and pressure.

"David Chase built it around a character that didn't exist in the series," Nivola says. "It's a self-contained story that lives autonomously on its own."

The film also brought an unexpected bonding moment for the young Gandolfini and his late dad.

"As his son, I had never really thought about it until I watched it for the first time," Gandolfini says. "It felt like we got to do this together, which is really special."

"The Many Saints of Newark" also stars West Oak Lane's Leslie Odom Jr.

You can watch my full interview with the cast right now on our family of streaming apps like Apple TV, Roku, and in the video player below.

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