Michael Gandolfini on the Pressure of Taking on His Late Dad's Role in 'The Many Saints of Newark' (Exclusive)

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Michael Gandolfini is carrying on his late father's legacy in The Many Saints of Newark. Gandolfini opened up to ET at the film's premiere at the opening night of the Tribeca Fall Preview, about the pressure he's faced in taking on James Gandolfini's role in the film.

"I want to make my dad proud, but I want to make the fans proud," Gandolfini told ET. "I think Tony Soprano is one of the greatest characters ever alive, and David really trusted me and the whole cast trusted me to take on this role with William, who plays a younger Tony, and I'm just so grateful and honored that I got to do that."

The film is set in the 1960s, right at the height of the Newark riots in 1967.

While Gandolfini is channeling a younger version of his father's most iconic character, the mob boss of the DiMeo crime family, he's had firsthand experience in the world of The Sopranos, visiting the set of the HBO series as a young child.

"I mean, The Sopranos to me was my dad in a robe eating some food during lunch, and me maybe sleeping in The Sopranos bed every now and then, but really it was just like if my dad was a contractor, it was something that I would just kind of go and it was my dad's job, you know, so I didn't know it was unusual," Gandolfini said of his time on the beloved series' set.

As far as what he thinks his dad would have thought of the performance, Gandolfini believes his late father would be proud.

"I have no idea, but I think that I worked really hard. I did the very best I could. I tried to be a good fellow actor for my colleagues and crew, and I think he would have been proud of me for that," the 22-year-old actor shared.

And he hopes the show's OG cast will be proud of the project too.

"Oh I have no idea, who knows," he said. "I'm proud of it and I know that we all are, so I hope they are too."

It was announced in January 2019 that Gandolfini had earned the part of young Tony in the movie. His father, James, who won three Emmys for his portrayal of the crime godfather, died of a heart attack at age 51 in 2013.

"It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano," Michael said in a statement obtained by ET at the time, following news of his casting. "I'm thrilled that I am going to have the opportunity to work with [Sopranos creator] David Chase and the incredible company of talent he has assembled for The Many Saints of Newark."

The Many Saints of Newark is in theaters and on HBO Max on Oct. 1.

Tune in to tonight's episode of Entertainment Tonight for more of ET's interview with Gandolfini.

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