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Sopranos Prequel Casts Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga

The Sopranos prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark has found a couple of big time co-conspirators.

The red-hot Jon Bernthal (Marvel's The Punisher) and Vera Farmiga (of the Conjuring series) have been cast in undisclosed roles, according to Variety. The announcement may signal that production on the film is ramping up. 

Until now, Allesandro Nivola (You Were Never Really Here) was the only actor confirmed to have joined the feature, which begins shooting in April. He'll be playing the character of Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti, the father of Christopher Moltisanti, a recurring character in The Sopranos. Although "Dickie" was never seen in the original series, the character was referred to often and loomed large over the lives of several of its characters. Nivola, who will lead the prequel film, confirmed that he'd be portraying the mysterious figure at a Sopranos 20th anniversary event just days ago.

Series creator David Chase had previously explained that The Many Saints of Newark would focus on the rise of the Soprano crime family during the 1960's, and would take place at least partially against the real-life backdrop of the race riots which rocked the city for five days during the summer of 1967. Chase also confirmed that the character of Tony Soprano — portrayed to utter perfection by the late James Gandolfini in the series — would appear as a child in the film.

Fans of the seminal HBO series, which ran for six seasons between 1999 and 2007, had been fervently hoping for some kind of revival ever since its famously (and maddeningly) ambiguous conclusion, but their hopes appeared to have been dashed when Gandolfini passed away in 2013. Chase found new inspiration in the Newark of his childhood, with its dapper, well-to-do gangsters whose public image belied the brutality they were capable of when facing threats to their shady enterprises. 

Said fans are sure to greet today's casting news with a rousing "heck yeah," if not a prolonged standing ovation. Bernthal, in particular, has proven himself to be an immense talent possessed of an almost frightening range. After paying his dues with bit parts in film and television for over a decade, he made his first serious splash in the role of the fiercely protective (and then, borderline psychotic) Shane Walsh on the hit AMC series The Walking Dead. As is often the case with that series, however, ol' Shane didn't last long. He met his end during the events of season 2, killed by Rick Grimes after his increasingly unstable nature led him to murder one of their own group. 

In 2016, Bernthal was handed the role he was born to play, appearing as Frank Castle/Punisher in season 2 of the Netflix series Marvel's Daredevil. His turn was so overwhelmingly well-received that the character was almost immediately singled out to head his own series, and season 1 of Marvel's The Punisher debuted on the streamer the very next year. Although he'll return to the role for a second season — which drops on January 18 on Netflix — it's expected to be his last turn in the skull-and-crossbones vest for the foreseeable future. The Punisher is one of only two Marvel/Netflix series (along with Jessica Jones, the third season of which will arrive sometime this year) to not yet be officially canceled, but the industry consensus is that both of those series will be getting the axe any old time now, as the forthcoming streaming service Disney+ has its own set of Marvel limited series on tap.

As for Farmiga, the veteran actress has carved out a niche in recent years in the world of horror, appearing in the 2009 feature Orphan and as Norman Bates' mother in the acclaimed A&E television series Bates Motel before taking up the role of Lorraine Warren in 2013's The Conjuring and its 2016 sequel. She reprised the role in last year's spin-off The Nun, and will do so again in the as-yet untitled third entry in the Annabelle series, which is currently in post-production. She'll also appear this year in Rupert Wyatt's (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) sci-fi thriller Captive State, and in the summer monster mash Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

With casting apparently in full swing for The Many Saints of Newark, it's likely just a matter of time before more news comes trickling in. We'll keep an eye out for further announcements.