Budding acting stars who have bravely followed in their parents’ footsteps

Michael Gandolfini looks very much like his late dad James as he plays a younger younger version of Tony Soprano . 

The 18-year-old must be getting more than a few double-takes as he films in New York for The Sopranos spin-off prequel, The Many Saints of Newark. 

And his new role is a fitting tribute to dad James Gandolfini, who died aged 51 in 2013 after making the character his own over six hit series running from 1999. Michael said: “It is a profound honour to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano.”

He will certainly feel they are big shoes to fill – though at least he already looks the part.

However, he is not the first to attempt to follow in a famous parent’s footsteps. 

We look at some of the other brave actors who brought their relative values to our screens…


Hollywood star Will Smith, 50, can boast not one, but a pair of pretty successful children. 

Jaden, 20, is an actor and rapper, while Willow, 18, can add dancer to those talents, too. But to be fair, they’ve had a pretty good leg up. Both have been cast alongside their dad on the big screen.

Will worked with his son Jaden for the first time when he was seven in the biopic The Pursuit of Happyness, inset, and years later they reunited for After Earth when his lad was 14.

He has also worked with his daughter Willow, when she played his offspring Marley in I Am Legend as a six-year-old.

But as far as Will’s concerned, his son’s acting achievements are down to his character, and not special advantage.

He said: “He’s such a fantastic, disciplined young man. He has the combination – he’s really sensitive, so he can capture emotion, but as far as another take, let’s do it again… he has the mentality.”

Bill Owen’s death from pancreatic cancer in 1999, at 85, devastated Last of the Summer Wine fans. 

Never again would a woolly hat and wellies grace our screens so splendidly – and certainly, we cried, a pair of trousers held up with string could never look so good. 

But how wrong were we. Compo lived on. Enter Bill’s lookalike son Tom Owen, who joined the nostalgic show as Compo’s long-lost son, Tom Simmonite. 

OK, it wasn’t a very imaginative casting and nor was a testing audition required. He was cast after being spotted in a newspaper photo taken at his father’s funeral, standing next to castmate Peter Sallis. 

But for fans, the grumpy mouth and furrowed brow were just the ticket. Tom was working as a drama teacher at the time and his response to playing the role was reassuringly Compo-like. He said: “It was a very peculiar experience, losing a father then being cast as his fictional son. I just blanked out my feelings. It was a great job and good money.”

While dad walked the Dales for 26 years, Tom managed 11.

Coronation Street stalwart William Roache has played frustrated intellectual Ken Barlow on the cobbles since the very first episode in 1960 – so who’s to deny him a spot of nepotism?  

Many women have succumbed to Ken’s charms over the years. But it’s unlikely that any of his numerous fictional children and grandchildren would say that he’s the best role model.

His real-life sons, however, might have a rather different opinion. If nothing else, their dad has certainly opened doors for them. 

Linus William Roache, 55, and William James Roache, 33, have both followed in their dad’s footsteps, and joined him on the Corrie cobbles. First, Linus – Bill’s oldest son from his first marriage – starred in the show in the early 1970s as Ken’s son, Peter Barlow.

He returned in a different guise in 2010 as Lawrence Cunningham, Ken’s long-lost son, who Ken found out about via a letter from his ex-girlfriend Susan, who he’d dated in the 1960s.

William’s younger son, William James – from his second marriage – was cast as James Cunningham, Ken’s grandson.

James went on to play grandad Ken as a young man in the BBC drama The Road To Coronation Street.

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