‘Sopranos’ Prequel Out Friday: NJ Viewers Will See Many Familiar Scenes
"You woke up this morning. Got yourself a gun. Mama always said you'd be the chosen one..."
"Sopranos" fans will immediately recognize those lyrics as the beginning of the song by British band, Alabama 3, which kicked off each episode of the HBO mob drama that ran for six seasons from 1999 to 2007.
For years, fans have been waiting for writer David Chase to continue the story of lead character, Tony Soprano. Well, now the wait is over, except it's not a continuation of the series.
It's a prequel to "The Sopranos," which was a watershed moment in TV history, paving the way for shows out today like "Breaking Bad," said Stephen Gorelick, executive director of New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission.
In terms of what "The Sopranos" did for New Jersey, Gorelick said it made the state the hit place to shoot movies and television shows. He called it the state's "calling card" which ushered in other productions such as, "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," and "Oz."
The prequel, "The Many Saints of Newark", which debuts in movie theaters and on HBO Max this Friday, October 1, uses the city's 1967 riots (or "rebellion," as many locals now call it) as a backdrop for tensions between the Italian American and Black communities.
Gorelick said the story follows Tony Soprano in his teenage years, when his uncle and family are involved in a violent gang war.
New Line Cinema and HBO's "The Many Saints of Newark," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is directed by Alan Taylor and written by Chase and Lawrence Konner.
Just as "The Sopranos" was filmed in homes, shops, diners and other local establishments throughout New Jersey, Chase returned to the Garden State to film "The Many Saints of Newark" on locations in Essex and Passaic counties.
Gorelick said fans will recognize many of the iconic places from the series including:
Holsten's Brookdale Confectionary in Bloomfield, which was featured in the final episode of the series;
Satriale's Pork Store, originally located in Kearny but recreated in Paterson because the old one was torn down;
Branford Place and Halsey Street;
The old Adams Theater;
Hobby's Delicatessen in Newark;
And the Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights.
Besides some original locations, there are some new filming spots as well.
Gorelick said the cast is superb, starting with the lead character. The young version of Tony is played by Michael Gandolfini, son of late "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, who suffered a heart attack while on a trip to Italy in June 2013. He was 51 years old.
"Seeing Michael Gandolfini in there, it's just absolutely haunting to me," Gorelick said. But a natural choice, of course.
Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Ray Liotta, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Michela DeRossi, John Magaro and Vera Farmiga round out the cast.
New Jersey has "The Many Saints of Newark" not only because of the cooperation from the production companies but also because of the incredible incentive program that the state established in 2018, Gorelick said.
"We're creating jobs and we're creating revenue for businesses and that's what we're all about," he said.
Other movies in New Jersey
Gorelick also touted the many future movie shootings in New Jersey including one called "Jewels," starring Ben Kingsley. He said Russell Crowe is coming back to The Garden State where he won an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind." Crowe is doing a movie called "The Greatest Beer Run Ever" with Zac Efron and Bill Murray. South Orange native, Zach Braff is also returning to do a feature film.
There's a lot of productions in the pipeline, Gorelick said. The New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission is having the busiest fall and the busiest year ever, he added, having recovered from the pandemic year of 2020 when production was shut down in the state, across the nation and all over the world.
Gorelick offered one final piece of advice before heading out to the movies Friday to see "The Many Saints of Newark." He said it helps to have seen "The Sopranos" series first before the prequel because the prequel explains the family conflicts that occurred throughout the series.
That's six seasons to watch before Friday. Start binge-watching!