Nivola spoke to Variety at the 20th anniversary of “The Sopranos” in New York on Wednesday, where the cast and creator David Chase held a panel.
Nivola said his character, Dickie Moltisani, will be “the central character,” and that the title references the name Moltisani, which means “many saints” in Italian. His character is the father of Christopher Moltisani (Michael Imperioli), who in the series is the protege of Tony Soprano, the Jersey mob boss portrayed by James Gandolfini. In the show, Dickie is only mentioned by the characters and never seen, having died when Christopher was young. Nivola also revealed the setting and major relationships that will be depicted in the forthcoming film.
“It’s set in 1967 with the backdrop of the race riots that were happening in Newark at that time, and the racial tension between the Italians and the blacks at that moment is a big part of the backdrop of the story,” Nivola said.
The actor also said Chase, who is writing the upcoming film, told him that Dickie and Tony’s relationship “is an important one in the film.”
“Dickie, as he’s mentioned throughout the ‘Sopranos’ series, was an important figure in Tony’s life,” Nivola said. “He was a real mentor figure, because Tony’s dad was is in prison a lot and Dickie didn’t have any children until later in his life until his early 40s, and so he treated Tony like a surrogate son.”
Nivola said getting this role, which Variety announced in November, made him see that “there’s something in the stars.” The Italian-American only found out after getting the job that “The Sopranos” used his grandfather’s sculptures as the background in an episode from Season 2 that was shot in Naples, Italy.
Throughout its run from 1999 to 2007, “The Sopranos” earned 21 Emmy Awards and has been called by critics one of the best television series of all-time for its acting, writing, and directing. Variety previously reported that “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor would helm the prequel, from a script that Chase wrote with Lawrence Konner, and that Chase is producing the picture. No release date has been set at this time.