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September 08, 2021

David Chase sheds light on Leslie Odom Jr.'s role in 'The Many Saints of Newark'

The Philly native stars as a murderer who escaped from prison in the prequel to 'The Sopranos'

The premiere of "The Many Saints of Newark" is just weeks away, and "Sopranos" fans can't wait any longer for the show's highly-anticipated prequel film.

David Chase, one of the film's writers and producers, revealed some nuggets about the crime-drama movie during a Tuesday appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." 

Chase kept them limited due to his nature to keep things close to the vest, but he did provide more insight into the role that Leslie Odom Jr. plays. 

The Philly native plays a character named Harold McBrayer, who worked as a numbers runner for the film's main character, Dickie Moltisanti, and has since ventured off to start his own criminal operation, Chase said. He also revealed that McBrayer escaped from jail for murder.

A clip showed McBrayer interacting with Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola, and a young Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini's 22-year-old son Michael. The late Gandolfini played Tony Soprano in all six seasons of "The Sopranos" from 1999-2007 before dying of a heart attack in 2013.

Earlier this year, Odom Jr. revealed in an interview with New Musical Express, a British entertainment website, that his character worked for the DiMeo crime family. However, a specific name and role for his character remained unknown.

The 40-year-old actor told Rolling Stone that he didn't know which character he had auditioned for because of how secret Chase and his team kept everything. Odom admitted that he didn't even know it was a tryout for a "Sopranos" prequel.

"[The filmmakers] keep things very tight to the vest," Odom told Rolling Stone. "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."

"The Many Saints of Newark" centers around Moltisanti, the father of "Sopranos" star Christopher Moltisanti and the mentor to Tony Soprano. The close-knit relationship between a young Tony and Dickie appears similar in some ways to the father-son-like dynamic between Tony and Christopher in "The Sopranos." 

"Many Saints" translates to "Molti Santi" in Italian, so that tells you all you need to know about how central Dickie is to the upcoming film's storyline.

"The Many Saints of Newark" is set during the 1967 Newark race riots and illustrates the racial tensions that arose in the city at the time. 

The unrest, which spanned five days, was sparked by a rumor that a Black cab driver had been beaten to death by white Newark police officers. 

It turned out that the cab driver had not died, but the Newark protests aligned with other demonstrations brought on by exploding racial tensions across the U.S. at the time. A total of 26 people were killed.

Fellow "Sopranos" writer Lawrence Konner is also a writer and producer on "The Many Saints of Newark." The film was directed by Alan Taylor, who directed nine episodes of "The Sopranos." The movie was filmed in Newark and other spots across New Jersey.

"The Many Saints of Newark" originally was scheduled to debut last September before being postponed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film debuts Oct. 1 in theaters and on HBO Max.

Chase urged "Sopranos" fans to see the film in theaters in order to get the full viewing experience.

"I have to be honest with you, it makes a big difference," Chase told Kimmel. "It's a whole different experience in a theater than it is on TV. What I'm afraid of is people will say, 'Well I saw 'The Sopranos' on TV, it looked okay, so we'll watch it [at home].'"

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