The Many Saints of Newark is sure to deepen much of the thematic significance throughout The Sopranos, and one of the most central relationships from the show was that between Tony Soprano and Christopher Moltisanti. Given Many Saints’ focus on Tony’s upbringing under Christopher’s father, Dickie, that significance will only grow deeper. In fact, the prequel found the perfect way to emphasize those parallels the return of Michael Imperioli, who narrates the film. Here’s why Imperioli’s casting here is so perfect.
The Sopranos creator David Chase confirmed Imperioli’s return and the part he plays in Many Saints. Imperioli portrayed Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos, an up-and-comer in the crime organization groomed by Tony to possibly serve as his successor one day. Throughout the series, frequent plotlines revolved around Christopher’s struggle to acclimate to the mob lifestyle, his constant interrogation of his loyalty to the “family,” and his progressively worsening addiction to drugs and alcohol that threatened his standing. Yet with Many Saints primarily set in the 1960s and 1970s, prior to Christopher’s birth, it seemed impossible for Imperioli to return.
Serving as the movie’s narrator, however, is even better. Presiding over the events of Many Saints from an omniscient standpoint means that Christopher’s presence can suffuse the film and lend greater significance to the many parallels between his relationship with Tony and Tony’s relationship with his father. Dickie Moltisanti was a legendary figure by the time of the original series, with most characters speaking of him fondly as his reputation bolstered his son’s standing in the organization. Dickie’s own struggles with addiction foreshadow Christopher’s same arc, and the mysterious nature of Dickie’s death is sure to be a central point of the film.
The question of nature versus nurture proves a recurrent one throughout The Sopranos. As Tony struggles with his own psychological issues, he undergoes a gamut of medication and therapy with Dr. Melfi to explore the reasons he became the man that he is and why he struggles with the panic attacks that provided the impetus for the series’ setup. The same question proves key as Christopher follows in Dickie’s footsteps, with a constant back-and-forth between the genetic nature of their addiction and the demanding nature of their criminal careers.
Imperioli serving as narrator puts such themes at the forefront of the audience’s mind. It will be hard to watch the consequences of Dickie’s actions unfold without those same actions resonating with Sopranos fans’ knowledge of their domino effect down the road. Imperioli’s presence deepens that resonance, making Christopher a sort of ghost haunting the events of Many Saints without his character actually being present. Given his death prior to the finale and his relatively minor role at the start of the series, Christopher’s involvement in a prequel, spin-off or sequel was always bound to be minor.
Yet Imperioli has been one of the main champions of the series among the Sopranos fandom, co-hosting the Talking Sopranos podcast with his co-star Steven Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccala in the series. Their involvement and advocacy for the series helped keep support for The Sopranos well and alive throughout the years. Thus, bringing Imperioli on board as the narrator was the perfect move.
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