When The Many Saints Of Newark hits cinemas later this month, it’ll be the first time creator David Chase has returned to the world of The Sopranos since the landmark HBO series cut to black in 2007. The legendary show remains one of the most acclaimed TV dramas of all time – lauded for its deep characterisation, explorations of contemporary American life, playfulness with mobster tropes, and the iconic cast that brought the characters to life. But before Newark – which is set decades prior to the main series, against the backdrop of the 1967 Newark riots – came together, Chase had another idea for something Sopranos-adjacent, which would have brought the whole cast back.
Speaking to Empire in the upcoming new issue, Chase detailed a different kind of crime show that never came together. “One thing I wanted to do was a crooked police-station show set in Hoboken, New Jersey. Jim James Gandolfini] was going to be this crooked lieutenant,” he said. “The guys who played Paulie, Chris – all of them were going to be different characters, but the same types of people in the show on the other side of the law.” Chase didn’t detail exactly why the cop show never materialised – but in 2013, Gandolfini tragically passed away at the age of 51. The role of the young Tony Soprano in The Many Saints Of Newark is being [played by his son Michael Gandolfini.
Instead, a journey into the history of the Sopranos and Moltisantis presented itself. But the seeds for The Many Saints Of Newark actually came from Tom Fontana, creator of HBO’s gritty prison drama Oz, way back on the second season of The Sopranos. “I remember he said, ‘You know, it’d be interesting to see Junior and Johnny in their younger days in Newark’,” recalls Chase. “I responded positively to that, because my mother was born in Newark. She met my father in Newark. There was a personal connection and I loved those characters.”
Read Empire’s full feature on The Many Saints Of Newark in the Celebration Of Edgar Wright issue, on newsstands from Thursday 2 September – or available to pre-order online here. The Many Saints Of Newark comes to UK cinemas from 22 September.