If you’ve spent the past 11 years in a serious state of Sopranos withdrawal, here is some bittersweet news: series mastermind David Chase is reviving his beloved New Jersey mob for a feature film. Rather than grappling with the problem of how to replace the drama’s inimitable star James Gandolfini, who died in 2013, the movie will be a prequel—combining some familiar characters in younger form with entirely new creations.
So, what will a spin-off of The Sopranos look like without its beating heart and namesake, Tony Soprano?
According to Deadline, the film will be titled The Many Saints of Newark, and will return audiences to New Jersey mob territory—during the Newark riots in the 1960s, “when the African-Americans and the Italians of Newark were at each other’s throats, and amongst the gangsters of each group, those conflicts became especially lethal.”
As early as 2012, Chase had been mulling the idea of a prequel as the only way he would possibly extend the universe established in The Sopranos. “Even if I did [some sort of reboot], it wouldn’t be The Sopranos that was on the air—obviously at least one person is gone that we would need,” Chase told the Associated Press. “There are a couple of eras that would be interesting for me to talk about, about Newark, N.J. One would be (the) late 60s, early 70s, about all the racial animosity, or the beginning, the really true beginning of the flood of drugs.”
Some considered The Sopranos to be the greatest TV show of all time—not to mention the most influential. Television critic James Poniewozik has praised the Peabody-winning series for “show[ing] just how complex and involving TV storytelling could be, inspiring an explosion of ambitious dramas on cable and off”; fellow critic Maureen Ryan once wrote, “No one-hour drama series has had a bigger impact on how stories are told on the small screen, or more influence on what kind of fare we’ve been offered by an ever-growing array of television networks.” The series earned 21 Emmys during its six-season run.
Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Julie MillerJulie Miller is a Senior Hollywood writer for Vanity Fair’s website.