Are born and bred New Yorkers tougher than the average person? This is debatable, but there is no question most real New Yorkers have an instilled sense of work ethic deep inside themselves. Raised in the borough of Queens, Drea de Matteo is a prime example of such an ideology as she continues to leave her mark on cinema.
Famously remembered for her award-winning role as Adriana La Cerva on the HBO mega hit The Sopranos, in the years to follow she has continued to shine bright with roles both in television as well as film. Presently taking on various roles in feature films, the talented, genuine Drea de Matteo recently sat down to talk about her career, working on The Sopranos, one of her latest films, Collide, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting professionally for quite some time now. Working in a balance of film and television, how would you describe your career to this point?
Drea de Matteo – I don’t know. (Laughs) I think the only important thing I’ve really done is make two incredible babies. That being said, I guess I’ve been very lucky to go from one really great TV show to another really great TV show. I started out wanting to work in film, now I’ve ended up working in film, and now all I want to do is go back to TV! (Laughs)
I love TV. I like how you get to develop your characters over a few years and have a home base. Working in indie films is kind of the only thing I can do right now; because I’m not allowed to work in my own industry at the moment since this whole COVID thing happened.
So, how would I explain my career… lucky. I think I’ve been really lucky up until now. Now I’m working a little bit more in film, which is unexpected for me, it’s kind of exciting.
Cryptic Rock – Well you have worked on many interesting projects. One of your biggest roles was your role as Adriana on The Sopranos. What was that experience like for you?
Dre de Matteo – Oh my god, I had one line! I was a film student, I didn’t know I would start acting, and I thought I was going to make movies. I got that part, and like I said, it was one line. Then it went to reoccurring, then to series regular, then the biggest death on television!
It might be luck, but I had to get through the door, I got through the door, and somehow, I managed to keep myself there. Maybe thank God I was born in Queens, so I got to play a role like that because I knew how to do the accent really well.
Being on The Sopranos was probably the most important part of my career and life. David Chase is like my godfather; he gave me life… he changed my life for sure.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, it sounds like it was a fantastic, enriching experience. From there your career snowballed into a lot of other really interesting projects. You mentioned coming from Queens, New York. There is a certain mentality of a New Yorker which includes the idea of working hard. You come across as a working-class actress. Would you identify yourself as such?
Drea de Matteo – Yes, I think I would qualify as somewhat of a working-class actress. (Laughs) I also think that when I was young, I was so afraid of being stereotyped from just being Italian. Even though some of the great actors are Italian, we get stigmatized that we’re dumb or we sound a certain way; there is all sorts of that stuff. Playing that subculture, every ‘species’ of us has our own subcultures. I just feel like any subculture is more interesting to watch than watching some clean, boring traditional family with a white picket fence; that is going to bore me. I don’t need to watch a family of Italian doctors going about their day and packing a nice chicken cutlet sandwich for their kids… I want to watch The Sopranos.
When I was young, I was afraid I would be stereotyped after having done that… especially when you win an award for that. I feel like when you win an award for having that heavy accent and playing that kind of role, sometimes you don’t bounce back from that. Mira Sorvino and Marisa Tomei won Oscars when they talk a certain way in a movie, but it takes a while to bounce back from that. It takes a while especially if you’re on television, because people are so used to having you in their homes being a certain way; so, when they see you in any other light, they don’t want to see that, they just want to see Adriana.
I remember when I took a part on Joey after The Sopranos, I was so precious about it. I felt like – I can’t do this again, I can’t play this accent again, and I have to break out and do something different. I was young, stupid, and didn’t realize that – Man, I could have just made a living my whole life by playing that kind of character. I was unhappy that I was doing Joey at the time and playing the whole character over again. Now, at 50, all I want to do is play that character for the rest of my life. So, working class Italian girl, that’s me! Anybody needs that… I’m right here! I want to ‘talk like this’ forever! (With heavy New York Italian accent)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) It is still great that you were able to spread your wings and take on a diverse mix of roles. You have shown your talents are not one-dimensional. Let us talk about one of your latest roles for the film Collide. How did this come about for you?
Drea de Matteo – I have not seen it yet, believe it or not; I barely watch anything that I’m ever in. With all this kind of post pandemic mania, with all the mandates and I was just looking for jobs that were a little more easy-going and it wasn’t going to be this COVID psychosis place. Collide is one of the jobs that landed in my lap and I was super grateful. We were able to shoot here in L.A. all at one location. A matter of fact, everything I’ve been working on since COVID has taken place in one location.
The scripts have been written to take place in one location to accommodate a schedule, the finances, and everything for the directors; especially with all the COVID protocols. Of all the scripts I read, I play a villain in every one of them. I’m not used to playing the villain. This is the new me in 2022. (Laughs) I usually play the victim; Adriana on The Sopranos was a victim; Wendy on Sons of Anarchy was a victim. Even though people think these characters are not victims, and they are assholes, they are actually victims first. These characters I am playing most recently are not victims at all. Although, in Collide, I guess I am a victim of turning 50, having a midlife crisis, but I’m also indirectly antagonizing my husband in the film played by Jim Gaffigan; which is not nice. So, I guess I am the bad guy in this one as well.
The script for Collide was so amazing written. The writer/director, Mukunda Michael Dewil, took a concept that takes place in one restaurant. The way he and wife co-wrote this script is so amazing. It’s such a high concept film for an indie film in one location. Also, seeing Jim Gaffigan, who is a comedian, play such a serious, sad part I think was really interesting; no one has really seen him do stuff like that.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, it is a very interesting film. After watching this film, you can see how rooted it is in the current climate. Perhaps the creators had a different intent, but it feels like it is a metaphor for how we treat one another. We all have crosses to bear, we’ve all done things wrong, and we are all going to do things wrong. The dialogue throughout the film makes you feel like – maybe we should be a little empathy toward one another. There is a scene where Jim Gaffigan’s character is in a car and talking with a radio show host on the phone about humility and how we as people are lacking it. That really rings loudly. What are your thoughts?
Drea de Matteo – Yes. You do not want me to get started on the culture of today and being a mom of two kids who have to go to school in this Cancel Culture. I feel like we are being taught to hate ourselves. I feel like we are being taught to believe we are the reason everything is falling apart; we have ruined the earth, we’ve ruined mankind, and we’ve ruined everything. Instead of instilling hope in each other and friendliness, people are divided from morning until night. It’s always been going on, but especially since this pandemic. I definitely see a swift change in a lot of what feels to me very manipulative, non-stop divisive hatred.
People mistreating each other… I definitely think it trickles down from the top and spreads its way through society. We’re living in that right now. I think this is touched on a lot in Collide. One of the themes that struck me in the movie is the feeling of safety. Everybody is looking for their version of how to feel safe in the world; whether it is through an apology, financial safety, or physical or emotional safety. In this film everybody is broken and trying to find a place to feel like home or where they feel safe. Whether it be looking for more money, a different lover, or a different business. I feel like Mukunda’s message throughout the film was pretty pointed. It’s definitely a cool film.
Cryptic Rock – It is absolutely a poignant film, especially right now. You are also someone who is a big fan of music. Tell us a little about your musical tastes.
Drea de Matteo – I was probably a frustrated rock star when I was young. Not now, now I’m just a washed-up old lady… I’m just a groupie man! (Laughs) I’ve gone from musician to musician. Now that I’m my age, 50, I think, why am I still dating musicians at this point? Do I still love music the way I used to? I do, my daughter is a musician now, but I just can’t escape it, it follows me. Now, I don’t look for it anymore. I used to look for it, I used to like bad boys, etc.
I love music, I’m a big Classic Rock junkie, old Jazz, anything from the ’60s, and anything before the ’90s is probably my speed; even the ’80s.. I get down with some ’80s stuff. I do absolutely love music, but I’m just not as devoted to it the way I used to be. I know it’s always been associated with me for sure. I’m a groupie, I’m an old groupie. (Laughs) If things don’t work out with my present boyfriend, I will never date another musician again! (Laughs) Now I have my daughter, and I have to deal with that. Musicians are a specific breed of human beings. (Laughs)