Jon Bernthal Says Michael Gandolfini Is 'Honoring His Father' in 'Sopranos' Prequel Film (Exclusive)

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Jon Bernthal is no stranger to playing tough guys, but he's stepping into some legendary shoes in one of his upcoming projects, the Sopranos prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark.

In the upcoming movie, which is set in 1960s New Jersey, during the Newark riots, Bernthal stars alongside Michael Gandolfini, who is playing a young Tony Soprano -- the role originated by his late father, James Gandolfini, on the acclaimed HBO series. And Bernthal had nothing but praise for the young performer when he spoke with ET's Ash Crossan at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo on Monday.

"Yeah we just wrapped, it was great," Bernthal said of working on the film, which is set for a September 2020 release. "I love Mike, I love him... I'm really honored to sort of be a part of [his] journey. He's a beautiful young man who this obviously means an unbelievable amount to, and I think he's sort of approaching it with the highest level of integrity in honoring the show, in honoring his father."

"I think he's a beautiful artist that's enormously talented and I think folks are going to-- he did this the right way. He really, really worked hard and I think people are really going to dig what he did," he added. "He's going to be a friend of mine for life. I really loved getting to know him."

Bernthal was at E3 to give fans a first look at his latest video game role, returning as Major Cole D. Walker in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint, which is due out this fall. He originated the part in 2017's Ghost Recon Wildlands, and told ET that he continues to be "blown away" by the motion capture process that goes into creating his lifelike character in the video game world. 

"It's crazy what these guys can do. I've been blown away really by this whole process and the people that make these games," he raved. "They care about it enormously and they care about the people that play, and there's a super high level of passion. That's what I really dig about it."

Breakpoint finds Bernthal's character going rogue, which brings to mind some comparisons with his recent portrayal of soldier-turned-vigilante Frank Castle in the Marvel-Netflix series The Punisher.

"He's a character that does not operate by the same moral code as the other ghosts and he's willing to [use] any means necessary to accomplish his mission," the actor said of Major Walker. "I would say he's definitely an antagonist, but someone who believes in his cause vitally, and with real passion. It's gotta be that way. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, 'I'm a bad guy,' you know what I mean? Yeah, he believes he's doing the right thing."

However, Bernthal said he finds that the motion capture process used to make photorealistic video games like the Ghost Recon series presents a totally unique challenge to the actors involved.

"One of the things about the process that I loved, and was a really unique challenge, was [that] every scene that you shoot, you got to get it done in one perfect take, because there's cameras all over the room, and every angle is being covered at once. So it's very rehearsal driven," he explained. "You've got to get it right -- if there's one sort of line mess-up, or choreography mess-up, the whole take doesn't work."

"So there's an enormous amount of pressure on each take, and I like that. I think it brings out the best in everybody... It's like theater -- there's no place to hide. There's cameras everywhere and I dig that. Part of me wishes that more film and television were shot that way."

Check out more from ET's coverage from E3 hereTom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint is out Oct. 4.


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