Before he passed away in June, James Gandolfini had been working on an HBO miniseries, based on a British show created by Peter Moffat, entitled "Criminal Justice." It would mark his return to the network with which his career has been so closely linked.
The "Sopranos" actor appeared toward the end of a pilot for the project that HBO originally passed on, than reconsidered and eventually ordered as a seven-episode miniseries executive produced by Gandolfini and Steven Zaillian, among others. The future of "Criminal Justice" was uncertain after Gandolfini's death -- at TCA, HBO's president of programming Mike Lombardo said "I can’t imagine airing the pilot with James in it," adding that "conversations would be about reshooting the portion in the pilot with Jim and recasting the role."
Now Deadline reports that Robert De Niro will be stepping into the role Gandolfini left behind, with production slated to begin in March. "Criminal Justice" will still be the planned seven-episode miniseries written by Richard Price, with Zailian set to direct the first installment. Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Maadi and Poorna Jagannathan were already cast.
The role the De Niro will be taking over is that of Jack Stone, a New York jailhouse attorney who frequently trolls for clients in police stations. He takes on the case of a Pakistani man (Ahmed) charged with murdering an Upper West Side girl.
Aside from appearing as himself on "Extras" and "30 Rock," this looks to be De Niro's first major TV role.