‘Many Saints of Newark’: Who Is the Main Character in the ‘Sopranos’ Prequel?

Shooting for The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel to HBO’s The Sopranos, began in April. As one would expect with such a beloved series, expectations for the project have been high. However, the early returns suggest the film is in good hands.

For starters, Sopranos creator David Chase wrote the script and is producing the movie. He brought in Alan Taylor, an accomplished filmmaker who worked on the Sopranos, to direct. Chase’s casting decisions also look promising.

The Many Saints cast includes (among others) Ray Liotta, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, and Hamilton star Leslie Odom, Jr. James Gandolfini’s son Michael also has an important role. But the first big star Chase brought onto the picture will likely be the one carrying the film.

Going by the first month of shooting (and the title of the project itself), Alessandro Nivola’s character of Dickie Moltisanti — the father of Christopher — appears to be the main character in the story.

Nivola’s Dickie Moltisanti never appeared in ‘The Sopranos.’

Actor Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti on set Day 1 of The Sopranos Prequel, “The Many Saints of Newark” on April 3, 2019 in New York City. | Bobby Bank/GC Images

When Nivola got the part of Dickie Moltisanti, he became the first big name attached to the film. It also revealed a clue about the prequel’s direction. After all, Moltisanti directly translates to “many saints” in English.

In HBO’s The Sopranos, we only knew Dickie through the descriptions of Tony Soprano, who told his son Christopher (Michael Imperioli) about him in conversations. Through those talks, we learned he fought in Vietnam, was “a stand-up guy” in the local mob, and served his share of prison time.

However, we never learned much about him in Sopranos flashbacks. That was very different from Tony’s father “Johnny Boy” and Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), whom we saw several times as younger men in the ’60s.

Obviously, the colorful life story of Dickie Moltisanti is the stuff great mob films are made on. With Nivola featuring prominently in the photos from the Many Saints shoots, it’s a safe bet his life story will be key to the film.

The Newark race riots will also be key.

Leslie Odom Jr. and David Chase are seen on the set of “The Many Saints of Newark” on April 18, 2019 in New York City. | Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

From the earliest reports on Many Saints, we learned the late-’60s Newark riots factor heavily in the prequel as well. We only got a secondhand look (via TV) of these events in the HBO series.

The riots began after a black Newark resident died in police custody. Afterward, members of the black community clashed with police. Italian gangsters joined in the fighting, which turned into race riots. The National Guard eventually came to Newark and did its own share of damage.

Fan of The Sopranos may recall that Tony was very young during the late ’60s. Thus, word that his son Michael would play him as a young man could be confusing. The likely answer is, the story will carry on into the mid-’70s at least.

That’s the only way to make sense of fully grown (late-teen, at minimum) Michael Gandolfini on the set of Many Saints. But all signs point to Nivola being the main man. After all, casting didn’t begin in earnest until after he signed on.

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