Leslie Odom Jr. didn’t know he was auditioning for a role in The Sopranos prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark. After several delays, the prequel to HBO’s beloved crime series is finally coming to theaters and HBO Max on October 1. From The Sopranos creator David Chase and director Alan Taylor, Many Saints of Newark is set decades before the original series against the backdrop of the 1967 riots in Newark, New Jersey.
The prequel film returns many characters from its parent series portrayed by younger actors, most notably the iconic mob boss Tony Soprano who was portrayed brilliantly by the late James Gandolfini. Now, his 22-year-old son Michael has taken on the role for Many Saints of Newark. The film also stars Vera Farmiga as Tony’s mother Livia, Jon Bernthal as Tony’s father known as Johnny Boy, Cory Stoll as Uncle June, Billy Magnusson as Paulie Gualtieri, and John Magaro as Tony’s eventual consigliere, Silvio Dante. Alessandro Nivola, Ray Liotta, and Leslie Odom Jr. play pivotal characters never seen before in the rich Sopranos universe.
The Academy Award-nominated Leslie Odom Jr. recently sat down with Rolling Stone to discuss his role in Many Saints of Newark, Harold McBrayer. According to Odom, he had no idea this was the role he was auditioning for. In fact, he had no idea he was even reading for a role in the Sopranos prequel movie. See what Odom had to say about the film’s top-secret audition process below:
I’d heard that the film was happening. I wasn’t up for it in the original rounds of auditions. But there came a point where they needed someone quickly, and I got the call. I don’t even know that I knew I was auditioning for the Sopranos [movie]. They keep things very tight to the vest. They’re like the MCU. They don’t send you a script, don’t send you character names, scenarios are changed. You have to make some choices as an actor. You take what you see, and you start inventing. I got a call that they liked the tape that I made, but they had some notes for me. I taped again, then they wanted me to tape again with more notes. And I said, “Guys, I don’t mind taping again, but you’ve got to send me a script. I don’t know what I’m doing.” Then I got on the phone with [director] Alan [Taylor], and he helped clear up all of my questions.
In Many Saints of Newark, Odom’s character, Harold McBrayer, is a “small-time but ambitious numbers runner” who works for the film’s main character, the charismatic wiseguy Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola) who tries to lure a young Tony into the criminal underworld. While Harold starts off working for Dickie, he quickly begins building his own criminal empire, putting him in direct conflict with the powerful DiMeo crime family.
Odom’s character marks the first time a Black gangster will play a major role in The Sopranos‘ universe. The HBO series included very few Black characters and they were often viewed through the perspective of Tony and his crew, who had less than favorable views of people of color, to say the least. Harold McBrayer is the first time this universe will see a Black character presented in a position of power, directly opposed to the Italian mafia. Fans can rest easy knowing Many Saints of Newark has tapped an actor as talented as Odom to take on this important role.
Source: Rolling Stone