James Gandolfini's son, Michael, only recently watched his late father in his iconic role as Tony Soprano — and that was only because he had to.
Michael, 20, is set to play a young Tony Soprano in the upcoming "Sopranos" prequel movie, titled "The Many Saints of Newark."
"The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of 'The Sopranos,'" Michael told Esquire in a new interview. "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.'"
While the HBO series was beloved by many, Michael had a hard time watching it.
"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," Michael said. "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. I started having crazy dreams. I had one where I auditioned for David [E. Chase] and I looked down at my hands, and they were my dad's hands."
James passed away in 2013 after suffering a sudden heart attack during a "guys trip" with Michael in Italy. It was his father's death that propelled Michael into acting. Prior to that, acting wasn't necessarily on his radar, mainly because his dad discouraged it.
"He wanted me to play sports. I felt that burden," he said. "I wanted to make him proud. And he said, 'Don't be an actor; be a director. They have the power.'"
Something about acting spoke to him, though, and it also helped him heal.
"From the first day, I fell in love with it," he said. "It actually started my grieving process with my dad."