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Mays Landing actor featured in The Sopranos prequel
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Mays Landing actor featured in The Sopranos prequel

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Growing up in Glen Ridge, Essex County, John Ruggiero knew his fair share of wiseguys.

He got to play one in the Sopranos prequel “The Many Saints of Newark,” which premiered in theaters and HBO Max on Friday.

“I’m from North Jersey so the movie is about the environment that I grew up in,” said Ruggiero, who has lived in Mays Landing for the last 15 years. “And I loved ‘The Sopranos’ so I was happy to be a part of it.”

Ruggiero, 59, appears in one scene of the film as Johnny Bookie.

“The scene I’m in is pretty pivotal to the movie,” Ruggiero, said. “It takes place at Satriale’s, the pork store, and if you’ve seen ‘The Sopranos,’ you know exactly the place I’m talking about. My role is a bookie wiseguy who is part of Dickie Moltisanti’s crew.”

The character Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola, is a soldier in the Soprano crew. Although his character was scarcely mentioned in the series, the film will dive deeper into him and his story.

Ruggiero first tried his hand at acting in the early 1980s after he moved from Glen Ridge to Atlantic City to work in the casinos and on the Boardwalk.

His high school friend Tom Mapother, better known today as Tom Cruise, told him about a movie he was shooting at Resorts Hotel and Casino.

“I went over and got a part as an extra in the movie ‘The Color of Money,’” Ruggiero said. “So that was my first taste of acting, and I loved it.”

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Cruise and Ruggiero graduated from Glen Ridge High School in 1980.

After his first small role, Ruggiero put his acting career on hold to focus on his family and his career as a mortgage banker. That was until he got a call last year.

“I shelved the acting, but over the years I would update my profiles on IMDB and websites like that,” Ruggiero said. “So when they started working on ‘Many Saints,’ someone saw my profile, reached out and asked if I would be interested in auditioning.”

“The Many Saints of Newark” follows a young Anthony Soprano, played by Michael Gandolfini, whose father James Gandolfini played the iconic role in the series. The film is set in Newark during 1967, a time when riots and racial tensions swept the city.

“Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti, who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities,” according to Warner Bros Pictures. “And whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know: Tony Soprano.”

For Ruggiero, the premise of the film resonated deeply to his own experiences. And paired with his thick New Jersey accent, charismatic personality, and strong ties to the state, the part came naturally for him.

“I remember those riots. I was only a little kid at the time, but I remember when it was taking place,” Ruggiero said. “When I was in the movie it was almost like flashbacks to be honest, which made it very comfortable for me.”

Since filming “The Sopranos” prequel, Ruggiero has appeared in several more films.

“I had a role in a film called ‘The Reunion,’ which is out on the film festival circuit as we speak,” Ruggiero said. “I shot a film out in Rhode Island called ‘The Family’s Feud,’ that has a lot of the guys from ‘The Sopranos’ in it. And just two weeks ago, I shot a pilot over at Showboat.”

Despite his experience, Ruggiero doesn’t like to call himself an actor.

“I’m just a mortgage guy,” Ruggiero said.

Contact Molly Shelly:


Twitter @mollycshelly


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John Ruggiero is an actor who has lived in Mays Landing for 15 years. He has a small role in the upcoming Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of …

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