James Gandolfini's Widow Praises His Son's Role as Young Tony Soprano: 'Took a Lot of Courage'

James Gandolfini's widow Deborah Lin said her late husband "would be very proud" of his son Michael in The Many Saints of Newark

James Gandolfini; Deborah Lin; Michael Gandolfini
Deborah Lin and James Gandolfini (L); Michael Gandolfini. Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic; Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Deborah Lin says her late husband James Gandolfini "would be very proud" to see his son Michael Gandolfini step into the role of a young Tony Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark.

Speaking with Page Six Saturday, Lin praised her 22-year-old stepson for his work in the film, out this fall, which chronicles Tony's humble and dangerous beginnings before the events of The Sopranos.

"It was almost surreal to see Michael in the trailer," she said. "I know it took a lot of courage for him to take this role. It was very emotional."

Added Lin, who tied the knot with James in 2008, six years after his divorce from Michael's mom Marcy Wudarski, "But the whole family is just so proud of [Michael]. His father would be very proud."

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The Many Saints of Newark. Barry Wetcher
Deborah Lin; James Gandolfini; Michael Gandolfini
Deborah Lin, Michael Gandolfini and James Gandolfini in 2011. David Livingston/Getty Images

The upcoming prequel film, which will feature younger versions of the series' beloved characters, is set in Newark, New Jersey in the 1960s, when riots between Italian Americans and African Americans were at an all-time high.

Directed by Alan Taylor, The Many Saints of Newark features an ensemble cast including Ray Liotta, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Michela De Rossi and Vera Farmiga. The Sopranos series creator David Chase co-wrote the screenplay, with Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) directing.

The original series followed the life of New Jersey mob boss Tony (James) as he dealt with personal and professional issues in his home and business. It ran for six seasons before ending in 2007.

Poster for The Many Saints of Newark. Warner Bros.

RELATED VIDEO: Sopranos Alum Jamie-Lynn Sigler Says James Gandolfini's Son Michael "Has a Beautiful Heart"

Michael was 14 years old when James died of a heart attack at age 51 during a family vacation in Rome in 2013.

While he previously admitted to never having "watched a minute of The Sopranos" or James' acclaimed performance in the show before being cast, Michael was committed to continuing his father's legacy. Nevertheless, he told Esquire that putting in the work of rewatching his father in action in the iconic role was "intense."

"I had to watch this guy who created the role to look for mannerisms, voice, all those things I would have to echo," he said in 2019. "But then I'd also be seeing my father. I think what made it so hard was I had to do it alone."

"I was just sitting alone in my dark apartment, watching my dad all the time. I started having crazy dreams," Michael revealed. "I had one where I auditioned for David and I looked down at my hands, and they were my dad's hands."

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

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