James Gandolfini’s Son Michael Reacts to Watching ‘The Sopranos’ for First Time

the sopranos michael 2
Getty Images; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The Sopranos celebrated a milestone this year as the HBO classic turned 20, but despite all of the years since its debut, there was one particular person who had yet to watch — star James Gandolfini‘s son, Michael.

Viewers may recognize the young actor from HBO’s more recent fare, The Deuce, as Joey Dwyer. But Michael Gandolfini‘s biggest headlines include his casting as a young version of his father’s character Tony Soprano in the prequel film The Many Saints of Newark.

At just 20, Gandolfini’s career is on a steady rise, but when he got the call for The Many Saints of Newark audition, he hadn’t seen The Sopranos before. In an interview with Esquire, Gandolfini recounts what it was like watching his late father in the role that made him a household name.

“The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos. 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.’ The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time.” Michael said of working on the film.

“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,”he continued.

Michael’s father passed away in 2013 during a trip to Italy, where he suffered from a heart attack. “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.”

Michael Gandolfini with Chris Bauer in The Deuce (Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

“I started having crazy dreams,” Gandolfini added. “I had one where I auditioned for David and I looked down at my hands, and they were my dad’s hands.”

Apart from the prep for his iteration of the future New Jersey mob boss, Michael also shared which scenes from the show impacted him the most. “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 actor said.

“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,'” Michael revealed. “I just knew he was talking to me in that scene.”

Sopranos fans will have to wait a while to see Gandolfini on screen as Tony in The Many Saints of Newark, which is expected to arrive in 2020. Stay tuned for more news about the film as it becomes available. Until then, you can binge the series on HBO’s various platforms and On Demand.

The Sopranos, Streaming now, HBO Go, HBO Now and On Demand