Michela De Rossi Makes a Noteworthy U.S. Debut in The Many Saints of Newark

The start of Bruno’s story is not unlike that of the young actress who portrays her. Michela De Rossi, too, hails from Italy (Rome, to be precise) and traveled to the U.S. for the very first time with her sights set on a bright future. In this case, it was her Hollywood debut. Her casting as Bruno, a highly sought-after role, is almost serendipitous when you consider the near parallel beginnings coupled with her parents’ love of The Sopranos and the fact that her brother had a puppet of her now co-star Alessandro Nivola. And much like her on-screen counterpart, she made a big impression from the get-go, landing the part almost immediately after her chemistry read with Nivola. “It’s a funny story,” she recalls over Zoom. “I did the chemistry test, and I remember Alan [Taylor] said, ‘Okay, have a safe flight back. We will let you know.’ And then, I was in the elevator, jumped in the car, and 10 minutes later, my phone rang, and it was Alan saying, ‘We want you to be her!’” 

Following an immediate fitting for the character at her hotel, De Rossi jumped on a plane back to Rome and spent the next month binging all six seasons (86 episodes!) of The Sopranos in preparation for the film. The fact that the drama is considered one of the greatest television series of all time is not lost on the 28-year-old. “It’s like a great long movie,” she says, admitting she is already rewatching it. “Of course, it’s the actors, the script, the music, the characters, but I love to say it’s like Hamlet for television.” The Many Saints of Newark takes place 30-plus years before the infamous series when Tony Soprano—played by James Gandolfini’s son Michael Gandolfini—is just a teen. It’s partly an origin story for Soprano, but it’s more of a backstory for his “uncle” Dickie Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola, and Moltisanti’s rise and fall with the DiMeo crime family amid the Newark race riots of 1967. The movie has all the makings of a classic American gangster flick (shoot-outs, unexpected Mob hits, family tension) and a stellar ensemble cast that also includes Vera Farmiga, Ray Liotta, and Leslie Odom Jr. “I remember the table reading and realizing it was me in front of those actors,” De Rossi says. “I was a fan. I had Ray Liotta next to me playing my husband, and I grew up watching Goodfellas.”

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