This week, Sopranos fans scrambled to brush up on their early-2000s mob drama knowledge for the premiere of The Many Saints of Newark. The prequel movie features many prominent characters from The Sopranos, though between the long wait and the re-casting, you could be forgiven for failing to notice a few.
The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel to The Sopranos, set decades earlier when Tony Soprano graduated from high school. It takes place during a time when the allegiances of different crews within the organized crime world were completely different, though its events directly impact the plot of the original series. The Sopranos aired from 1999 to 2007 and took place in a fictional version of those years. Of course, the most eye-catching casting choice is Michael Gandolfini as Tony, the character his late father played in the original series.
Tony is the main returning character for this prequel, and one of the most interesting casting choices of all. Members of his crew will be appearing here as well, including Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri and Silvio Dante. Tony's younger sister Janice makes an appearance too.
However, Dr. Melfi would likely tell us that the most important figure to watch in this prequel is Livia Soprano, played now by Vera Farmiga. Tony's issues with his mother are at the heart of The Sopranos and there's no doubt that they influence this story as well.
Tony Soprano was played by beloved actor James Gandolfini in the original series and is played in the prequel by Gandolfini's son, Michael. Michael was born in 1999 at the beginning of The Sopranos, during Gandolfini's brief marriage to Marcy Wudarski. They divorced in 2002.
Gandolfini passed away unexpectedly in 2013 at the age of 51. According to a report by The Los Angeles Times, it was then-14-year-old Michael who discovered Gandolfini unconscious in their hotel bathroom in Rome, Italy while on vacation. An autopsy determined that Gandolfini had suffered a heart attack. To this day, fans mourn his short life.prevnext
Nancy Marchand played Tony's overbearing mother, Livia Soprano in the original series, where she was framed as the greatest obstacle to Tony's happiness and self-actualization, and at times simply as a villain. The show traces Tony's journey through therapy, where Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) determines that many of Tony's quirks and pathologies stem from a worshipful resentment of his mother, whom she believes is a sociopath.
While Tony is not in therapy yet, that framing will undoubtedly still be essential to understand in The Many Saints of Newark, where Livia will be played by Vera Farmiga. Already, the trailer shows her clicking her tongue at the implication that her son is a born leader with a high IQ.prevnext
Corrado "Junior" Soprano is Tony's paternal uncle and, at times, his rival for control of the family business in the main series. In the prequel, he will likely have less power to wield, though perhaps more influence over Tony personally.
Corey Stoll is playing Junior in this prequel, filling big shoes left by Godfather star Dominic Chianese. The trailer gives us little idea of what we can expect from Stoll or Junior in this movie.prevnext
Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtieri
Paulie is a part of Tony's inner circle in The Sopranos, and apparently in The Many Saints of Newark as well. Played by veteran actor Tony Sirico in the original series, he was a talkative, insecure part of the organization with grand ambitions. Presumably, he will fill a similar role in the prequel where he is played by Billy Magnussen.prevnext
E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt played Silvio "Sil" Dante in The Sopranos — a sly operator who often remains neutral in internal conflicts and serves as Tony's official consigliere. John Magaro plays Sil in the prequel, perhaps offering more insight on how the character came to be so important and so discrete.prevnext
Tony's sister Janice is a major source of conflict in the main series, where she returns from a free-wheeling hippy lifestyle to embrace the conservative mafia family more whole-heartedly than anyone. She was played by Aida Turturro in the original series, and she will be played by young Mattea Conforti here. With a Broadway background and some notable prestige TV credits already under her belt, Conforti has all the innate drama needed to bring Janice back to life.prevnext
Finally, Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti is not technically a returning character in The Many Saints of Newark, since he was already dead at the time of The Sopranos. However, Tony's relationship with "Uncle Dickie" (Alessandro Nivola) here will undoubtedly mirror Tony's relationship with Dickie's son, Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) in the main series.
The trailer already shows us hints of Dickie luring Tony into the criminal lifestyle and maneuvering him with gifts, justifications and responsibilities. Tony pulled some of the same moves on Christopher in the main series, often using invoking memories of Dickie in order to do so. In some ways, this may be the relationship that gets fleshed out the most in this movie.prevnext
Other Major Stars
Finally, there are several big stars in The Many Saints of Newark whose roles have not been disclosed, even after they were seen in the trailer. That includes Jon Bernthal, Leslie Odom Jr., Ray Liotta, Joey Diaz and Nick Vallelonga.0comments
Many fans theorize that Liotta is playing Tony's father, Johnny Soprano, played in flashbacks on the main series by Joseph Siravo. However, Liotta appears to be in prison in the trailer, and it's not clear if Tony's father ever served a prolonged sentence behind bars.
Whatever the case, The Many Saints of Newark has many new faces to get acquainted with as well as returning characters. The movie premiered on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. The Sopranos is streaming on HBO Max now.prev