Robert De Niro Replaces The Late James Gandolfini In HBO’s Criminal Justice


After the sudden, tragic passing of Sopranos star James Gandolfini earlier this year, many of the projects the actor was involved with were left up in the air. HBO, who had been collaborating with Gandolfini on a seven-hour miniseries entitled Criminal Justice shortly before his death, announced today that the crime drama will eventually see the light of day, with Robert De Niro replacing Gandolfini in the lead role.

Criminal Justice, set in modern-day New York City, follows a determined attorney (De Niro) who chooses to defend a Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) on trial for murder after waking up next to a stab victim that he spent the previous night partying with. Predictably, everything is not what it seems, and De Niro’s character soon finds himself fighting to protect himself as well as his client. Criminal Justice, adapted by The Wire writer Richard Price from Peter Moffat’s well-received 2008 British miniseries of the same name, also stars Bill Camp, Payman Maadi and Poorna Jagannathan.

Production on Criminal Justice will commence next March, with Steven Zaillian set to produce as well as direct the first episode. Gandolfini will still receive a posthumous executive producer credit for the series.

Writing about a late actor’s unrealized projects is always a bittersweet experience, and the surprising circumstances of Gandolfini’s death just add to the sense of melancholy that I feel in discussing Criminal Justice. That said, De Niro is a talented actor and will surely play the part both convincingly and as a reverent tribute to Gandolfini. All the signs point to this miniseries succeeding as a gripping, unpredictable legal drama, and it’s certainly on my watchlist.

What do you think of De Niro taking over this role? Will you be watching Criminal Justice when it makes the jump from production to your TV? Let me know in the comments section.