Here’s what the 19-year-old actor had to say…
On his father James Gandolfini not wanting Michael to become an actor: “As I got older, he wanted me to play sports. I felt that burden. I wanted to make him proud. And he said, ‘Don’t be an actor; be a director. They have the power.’”
On getting the call to audition for the Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark: “The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos. I was just a kid when he was making it. I would go to the set and ask him what it was about, and he’d say, ‘Oh, it’s about this guy who’s in the mob and kind of goes to therapy.’ The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time. It was an intense process. Because, as an actor, I had to watch this guy who created the role, to look for mannerisms, voice, all those things I would have to echo. 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.”
On the two moments from The Sopranos that resonate with him: “There’s a scene where Meadow comes home late at night, and he’s sitting with a drink, and he’s like, ‘You know I love you, right?’ That hit hard. The other one that crushed me was when he yells at A.J., and he gets a pizza to apologize, and he sits by his son’s bed and says, ‘I couldn’t ask for a better son.’ I just knew he was talking to me in that scene.”
On taking acting classes in order to help him heal: “From the first day, I fell in love with it. It actually started my grieving process with my dad.”
For more from Michael, head to Esquire.com.