In The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, we learn about the parents and grandparents of the main characters in David Chase’s hit TV series. One of the newbies to the world is Giuseppina Bruno, who played Michela De Rossi.
An Italian woman who moves to the US with Ray Liotta’s Aldo ‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti, Giuseppina’s own experience somewhat mirrors De Rossi’s. Selected from dozens of Italian actors who tried out for the part, she found out she’d been moved forward while attending a show in Rome. Next thing De Rossi knows, she’s on a plane to New York City, on her first trip out of Europe ever.
Prior to this, she worked predominantly in Italy, playing a recurring part in comedy show The Rats and such. Now that she’s made her Hollywood debut, we chatted to her about the audition process on the drama movie, working with Liotta for their scenes together, and what it means to her to be a native Italian in The Sopranos. Oh, and why she needed a little convincing to take the plunge when offered the character.
TDF: I understand your audition for Saints of Newark was your first trip to the US. How did that come about?
Michela De Rossi: I self-taped on the internet, we have this platform in which you can tape yourself for foreign projects, and then they called me back for an in-person, in Rome, with the casting director. There were like 40 of us from Italy, and then I completely forgot, it was Warner Brothers, so I just forgot it.
And then two months later, I was watching a show in a theatre in Rome, it was 11pm, and I received a call from my agent. He was laughing like never before, saying ‘You can’t imagine, tomorrow morning you have a flight to New York City for a chemistry test’. I said ‘No way, I’m not going there, no, not alone, my first time out of Europe, my first time in America’. So I did the chemistry test with Allesandro [Nivola], and Alan Taylor, and David chase, and here we are.
Is that something that attracted you to the part, that she’s also someone who moved to the US from Italy?
Yes, because she’s a native, so it’s been so beautiful to inspire the others. Sometimes they came like ‘How do you do this? How do you do this gesture? How do you take this? How do you say when you want to do this or that?’ So I was kind of a coach on set. At the same time, I tried to be different as a native, because it’s two different cultures, Italian and American-Italian, so yes.
You have a very intense scene with Ray Liotta, how did you work together?
We worked so hard on that scene, because he speaks Neapolitan in that scene, and I taught him, I tried, with this friend of mine who’s also Neapolitan. The first part was to make both of us feel Neapolitan in the right way, and then the other thing is I just followed him, because the first time I met him, I trusted him.
Bada bing, bada boom: The best TV series on Netflix
Of course, because I was a fan of his, but I felt since the first moment that I could follow his acting. It was a challenge to be in that position as a woman, for sure.
The Sopranos is such a monumental show – what was the reaction to you getting this role?
My reaction was crazy, my parents were like ‘No, just be relaxed, you must go, don’t cry, don’t worry, we’re going to put you on that flight even if you don’t want to!’ They were so excited, they are so excited, after two years. I’m proud to be here, as an Italian.
The Many Saints of Newark is in theatres in the UK September 22, and in the US October 1.