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Drea de Matteo
She currently stars as "Gina Tribbiani" on NBC's comedy series "Joey", which features famous actor Matt Leblanc, from the long time running comedy hit series"Friends". Drea has charmed America as Adriana, Christopher’s loyal and loving fiancée on HBO’s critically acclaimed “The Sopranos,” and is currently in production on Focus Features’ “Assault on Precinct 13,” a remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 thriller. De Matteo is also currently developing the feature film “The Waylon Jennings Tribute” which she will direct and produce. Similar to “The Last Waltz,” the film will focus on a huge concert. De Matteo was most recently seen on the big screen co-starring with Gina Gershon in “Prey for Rock n’ Roll” directed by Alex Steyermark. Her other feature films include Warner Bros.’ “Swordfish” and Abel Ferrara’s “R’Xmas.” As if acting wasn't enough, de Matteo co-owns the ultra hip East Village boutique Filth Mart. During her downtime, de Matteo always returns to HB Studios where her mother has taught playwriting for over 25 years. She and her partner Robin Whitehouse devote a lot of time to the studio and their company, Great Dane Productions, as they find new writers and projects as well as working on their own material. In fact, right after “Joey” wraps production this year, de Matteo will head back to New York to star in a play her mother scripted entitled "The Heart Transplant." De Matteo has a bachelor of fine arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in film production.
Andrea Donna de Matteo was born on January 19th, 1973 in Queens, New York. She grew up in an Italian Catholic household along with two older brothers, Joe and Darren. Her father manufactures furniture and her mother is a playwright, which no doubt was the inspiration Drea needed to follow her dreams. Also living with the family were a grandmother and a godmother (named Monkey). She has always been known as Drea (pronounced "Dray"), and the only time her parents would use her full name was when she misbehaved.
After living in a series of homes decorated like theatrical sets -- rewards of a life in theater -- the family moved out of Queens. When Drea was in second grade, they moved in to Aretha Franklin's former home, a two-story brownstone near the Guggenheim Museum. The large rooms intimidated her and she only felt comfortable in the large marble bathtub. After a phase in which she worshipped the Grateful Dead, having attended nine of their concerts, she became enamored with Menudo, even managing to convince her parents to take her to Puerto Rico so she could see the legendary band.
Already a wild party girl, she took her SATs while under the influence and although she botched her way through the math section, she managed a combined score of 800. She was accepted to NYU's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, where she was hoping to become a film director. While there, she studied Spanish with Brett Ratner, the man who would go on to direct the Rush Hour movies as well as Red Dragon. As aspiring filmmakers are encouraged to do, Drea enrolled in acting classes and she eventually got noticed for her skills as an actress. Following the independent film 'M' Word in 1996, and some theater work, she auditioned for a small part in a new HBO series called The Sopranos. Because her appearance was somewhat WASPish and she didn't fit the bimbo role she was going for, she was given the one-time part of a restaurant hostess. The producers liked her acting intensity and called her back, offering her the part of Christopher's girlfriend and writing the part in permanently. They also enjoyed the fact that Drea had told them she came from a working class neighborhood. Having grown up on the Upper East Side and gone to all-girl Catholic schools, the little white lie secured her career.
While working on the hit show The Sopranos, de Matteo continued appearing in indie movies like Meet Prince Charming (1999), Sleepwalk (2000), The Gentleman from Boston (2000), and 'R Xmas (2001), in which she portrayed a Puerto Rican housewife mixed up in New York City's drug trade. Drea shot this movie under the direction of Abel Ferrara, a hero of hers. Vince Vaughn, whom she considers like a brother to her, got her a small role as a clubgoer in Made (2001) and she also appeared in the blockbuster action thriller Swordfish (2001). By the Sopranos' fifth season, de Matteo managed to have her salary boosted from between approximately $20,000 to $60,000 per episode. In 2004, she made her exit with the murder of her character, Adriana La Cerva. After a role in 2002's Deuces Wild, Drea starred in Prey for Rock & Roll, as the member of an all-girl band alongside Gina Gershon. She may no longer be on The Sopranos, but she is co-starring with Matt LeBlanc in the Friends spin-off, Joey. She also picked up an Emmy in September 2004, as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role on The Sopranos.
She currently lives in New York City, where she also co-owns Filth Mart, a chic East Village clothing store with best friend and ex-boyfriend Michael Sportes.
Drea de Matteo nearly turned back on acting before 'Joey'
Drea de Matteo has revealed she was ready to turn her back on acting before being offered a role in 'Friends' spin-off 'Joey.
The beautiful actress, who plays Joey's sister, Gina Tribbiani, in the US show, claims she was ready to quit acting before the show's bosses offered her the part.
However, Matteo says she still wasn't sure she wanted to appear in the programme, which also stars Matt LeBlanc, because the character was so similar to the one she played in Mafia drama 'The Sopranos'.
She said: "'Joey' was the last thing I ever expected in my f***ing life. It's TV, which I thought I was done with.
It's playing a character with an accent I thought I was done with.
But I kept saying, 'Before I quit acting, I want to do some comedy'.
'Joey' star Drea De Matteo's lesbian romps
'Joey' star Drea De Matteo has confessed to a string of lesbian romps.
The stunning actress, who plays Matt Le Blanc's younger sister, Gina, in the 'Friends' spin-off series, has admitted that she enjoys dating men but also indulges her sexual desires with female friends.
She is quoted by Britain's Daily Sport newspaper as saying: "I love men and they're who I go out with.
But every now and then - well I can't say I've never been with a woman."
Meanwhile 'Joey', which launched in Britain this week, is already being lined up for a second series, with former 'Friends' stars Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer set to make guest appearances.
But the 33-year-old Drea, who also played mob boss's lover Adriana in US TV show 'The Sopranos', says she is hoping that the next series of the smash-hit series will be postponed so she can start a family.
The Hollywood babe has revealed that she is desperate to have a baby with actor boyfriend Tim Giblin, but plans to become a single-mother after being inspired by 'Tomb Raider' star Angelina Jolie.
She added: "I want children but I have no intention of marrying.
"I can't imagine ever spending more than seven years with someone. "Look at Angelina Jolie. If she can do it, I can do it."
Drea de Matteo gives a bitingly honest interview about the film and her career
Drea de Matteo's career as an actress has all come as a surprise. She attended NYU's prestigious film school and, for all intents and purposes, expected to become a director. She took a few acting classes and wound up with parts in a few small movies while she tried to get her career as a director off the ground. Then her acting career suddenly took off in a way she never could have predicted. De Matteo landed a small part on a new HBO mobster show that was supposed to only last an episode or two. Of course, the show became the wildly successful The Sopranos.
So de Matteo put the directing on hold and went along for the ride. Her character, Adrianna, soon became a mainstay of the show and, by the third season, her character had developed a separate storyline that was to become one of the most integral portions of the show. Last year, de Matteo's Sopranos run came to a screeching halt when news of Adrianna's FBI cooperation came out to Tony (James Gandolfini) and Christopher (Michael Imperioli). As they say in the mob world, Adrianna was soon "sleeping with the fishes" and de Matteo was out of a job. The extreme success of the show opened many new doors for de Matteo, and she was soon offered parts in the John Carpenter remake Assault on Precinct 13 and, to her biggest surprise, a part on the new sitcom Joey.
Now Joey is a hit and Assault on Precinct 13 is about to hit theaters. IGN FilmForce was at the recent press day for Assault and spoke with the actress. In a refreshing change from most interviews, de Matteo was honest and straightforward about her career and the work she's doing, leading to one of the more intriguing interviews I can remember.
The role of Iris in Assault was, in de Matteo's admission, not the most challenging role she's ever had. "To be completely honest with you, I didn't choose the character because it's not like I needed to play another Italian American girl who was a slut. I chose it because of the cast and because Jean-François had never seen Sopranos, he had picked me based on this movie 'R Xmas I had done. He wanted that character, so the fact that I knew he was going to make a movie, sort of like, Abel (Director of 'R Xmas), after I'd seen his original film, his first film, I knew he was an Abel fan. I had a feeling the movie would be sort of as if Abel had a Hollywood budget. It would be the kind of movie he would have made."
Considering de Matteo's own directing aspirations, she is always eager to work with directors who she can learn from. "Jean-Francois was really trying. It was his first big American film, it was a huge action film, not an enormous budget, and explosions of snow. You watch someone keep their cool during all of that when a million problems are coming your way, and I had to leave to go and do Joey, that was not easy I'm sure for part of the time because I was one of the only ones who had to be there all the time because I was wallpaper in the movie… Watching Sopranos was definitely a little more, more than watching Abel, watching Alex Steyermark, he was a first time director on Prey for Rock and Roll… Watching the first timers, I learned a little more from that. My thing with directing, that was really with the actors. I see what I want visually and then I get up and make sure I've got the right BP for that."
Having gone to film school herself, Matteo is familiar with the original Carpenter film as well as its origins in the Western genre and the films of Howard Hawks. "I saw the original Assault when I was about 25. I sort of remember it. I think the foundation of the movie is the same, but I think in this version we've opened it up to a whole other thing… I haven't really watched the movie yet, I've seen parts of it but it definitely feels like a Western in the way certain shots are set up. I mean, Laurence has always positioned them a certain way. He's always so low, he's always got his own thing when he walks down that corridor, God knows. But there's also this Hitchcockian thing going on, and the music that I heard, I don't know if it's the same music there, you really feel like you're watching an older film to some degree… It [didn't] feel like a real Hollywood film when we were shooting it. It was definitely, like dirtier, and they had to fight for the ending, Jean also had to fight for that ending…"
In the original script, de Matteo's character got to kill another person in what would have been one of the film's goriest moments. It was not to be. "I was telling Jean-Francois if he wanted me to kill somebody, like ripping their trachea out, and they took it out of the script because somebody on the crew said it wouldn't be believable. She could have done it. Another thing a woman can do is poke a guy's eye and then pull out their nose bone and that's what I was telling them… I just imagine it's something you could do. I mean why can't you do it? You get right in there and you grab a bone and you pull it out and you break their face in half."
As previously mentioned, de Matteo hasn't yet watched the film. In fact, she's not sure if she ever will. "I can't watch myself in this movie because I don't look so good. I don't really want to watch. I'm the girl who comes in with the one-liners. I can watch myself on Sopranos because I don't know her, I have no relationship to her and I have a lot of feeling for her."
Many assume that de Matteo's Adrianna character on The Sopranos was "whacked" last season so that she could move on to do Joey. She says this isn't the case. "No, not at all. I was going to take a break after Sopranos. I kind of fell into acting. I really went to school for directing and that was really where my heart was at and then, when I got Sopranos, it started out as just one line and I figured I'd do a little acting here and there. I never expected it to turn into what it turned into. And then I just put the whole directing thing aside. I was in film school at the time to finish up Sopranos and then I was going to go back to grad school after Sopranos and then Assault happened and everybody come in [saying], 'You should do this, do an action film.' Okay, fine, I'll do an action film because I've never done one before. I want to shoot some guys, it would be kinda fun and then the cast was great…"
When the storyline of Adrianna's character first moved towards the FBI informant scenario, de Matteo didn't yet know whether that spelled fate for her character. She actually still hung around for a few seasons. "It was during Episode 5 [of Season 5], I asked David Chase if it was going to happen because I wanted to direct this movie that I'd be working on, and he pulled me aside, right before I shot the scene where I was in the bed after the car accident, in Episode 5, and he told me right before that scene that I was getting killed off and I was sort of like, 'Okay, now I can direct my movie, but I don't know if I want to anymore…'
"The show was going to be finished this year, so when I finally made peace with the fact that I was dying and we all get upset when we find out that we're dying on the show, it's such a great show, and there's really such not great movies out there and not great TV out there, so you really don't kind of want to give it up… It was terrible, but at the same time I knew that in Season 6 it was going to be over and a lot of people were going and I knew Adrianna would have her moment alone and that it would be recognized because her character was the innocent, she was the heart of the show in a way. She was the only person who never had an agenda.
"The thing with Sopranos is it relates to so many people on different levels. You've got your dudes, your real kind of guys who love it for the violence and it's a mafia show about gun shots, then you get your intellects, literary people who really get it for what's beneath the gunshots, and really understand the story so there's just so many different, it appeals to so many different people on so many different levels…"
In much the same way that Sopranos first came about for Matteo, the offer to play Joey Tribbiani's sister on the Friends spin-off Joey came out of the blue. "Joey popped up and again I said, no. And they were like, 'No, you have to do this, you should do this.' Then I thought, 'TV money, TV money.' And I'd never done comedy and I really didn't think I'd be very good at it, but I'm learning the process of comedy right now. It's possibly the hardest thing I've ever done and it was a challenge so I went ahead and did it.
"I've only been doing it for a few months. I didn't go to that much acting school, so all the acting I've done really, instead of talking about how I got there, I think the process for me is how I learned to act…
Sopranos is a 13-hour movie, the budget's the same, the set's the same, and there's no TV thing. I've only done TV for the past four months in my mind. Sitcom is the closest to theatre, it's like being on stage, you're working moment-to-moment, you're working off an actor, a lot of times in film you're talking to somebody on an apple box. They're sitting under the camera doing this, doing their lines with you, and on Joey, it's all-realistic. You're with the person all the time, and it's funny because sitcoms always seem so unrealistic, but it really is for the actor the most realistic…"
De Matteo's draw to the show was more for the challenge rather than being a particular fan of sitcoms. "I'd never done comedy, I wanted to try it and after I met Matt and worked with him, I had to do it. I had to work with him... I don't enjoy watching myself do the show at all, to be honest with you. I have never been a sitcom watcher, I don't know TV shows at all. I've never really watched Friends, I'm only watching it now to learn a little bit. I cannot watch myself in a sitcom. It drives me wild."
"It's a different kind of craft I'm learning now and that's exciting. It all depends really on what kinds of roles there are. I'm really interested in a project that I'm working on, and I'm really spoiled by The Sopranos, and scripts of The Sopranos, so doing Joey, it's just the opposite. There's no comparing the two… We have the best writers in comedy on that show, but as far as drama goes, I want to get back to the drama, but those kind of roles don't exist for a lot of actors out there. So, [my production company's] going to work on our own project and make our own movies."
Matteo has a production company with her partner and is the co-owner of a boutique in NYC's East Village. One day, she hopes to combine the two. "What I'd like to have is just this one company where we do the clothing, make films, sign musicians… All the people who don't get the opportunity in Hollywood, people whose talent is really good like the musicians who really are good but don't make it onto MTV, to give them all an opportunity."
De Matteo's future as the wise-cracking Tribbiani sister on Joey is uncertain for now. She says that she's still getting adjusted to the changes in her lifestyle and doing comedy versus drama. "I hate to say it, but that would have to depend on the money… The show is still finding its legs and it's still a new show. We're still developing all the characters, except for Joey's character, he's developed, but man, it's just so much fun. I get to laugh every day of my life, which is cool. The nine to five thing is definitely very difficult, which is why I made the jokes about the money."
Drea de Matteo Talks About "Assault on Precinct 13"
Drea de Matteo ("Joey," "The Sopranos") plays Iris, the sexy secretary who is ready to party, in the 2005 version of "Assault on Precinct 13.""Assault on Precinct 13" marks Drea de Matteo's first venture into action movies.
After spending time as Adriana on the HBO mob drama "The Sopranos," de Matteo admits the writing on "The Sopranos" has spoiled her so much that selecting movie projects has become a difficult task. She took on the role of Iris in the "Assault on Precinct 13" remake because it was something different, and because she couldn't pass on the opportunity to work with a cast that includes Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke. The chance to fire a gun instead of having one pointed at her - a la "Sopranos" - was also a selling point.
In this interview, Drea de Matteo addresses being cast in sexy Italian-American girl roles, costumes, gun training, and transitioning from the drama of "The Sopranos" to the sitcom, "Joey."
Did you get to choose your outfit in this movie? A lot of people in the audience were commenting on those stockings and the stilettos. The stockings and those stilettos. Well, originally I thought we were going to be more dressed like Adriana [from “The Sopranos” since I was playing yet another Italian-American, which seems to be the story of my life at this point. But [director] Jean-Francois had never seen “Sopranos.” He hired me based on this movie “’R Xmas,” so I kind of made her a little more like that character. And they wanted me to be more dressed up because I was ready to party for New Year’s. And so Jean-Francois sort of was involved in the picking out of my outfit. We decided not to have her in pink, in secretary-style.
How did you manage to work in the snow in stilettos?
It was a nightmare. It was a nightmare. I had strep throat, 104 fever, scratched cornea, black eye, and wearing those stilettos in the freezing cold, and it was not fun.
Were the injuries from stunts in the film?
No. I had gone and done the pilot for “Joey” and as the producer was saying good-bye to me, she scratched my cornea. And I got a 104 fever on the plane. Then I walked into a table that was sitting on top of another table with me eye – on this eye [indicating her left]. This was the scratched cornea [indicating her right eye], this was the black eye [indicating her left]. So, it was eventful.
Did you feel like packing it up and just going home to bed?
I always feel like packing it up and going home to bed. I’m not one of those actors that wants to sit here and talk about their craft [for] 24 hours, because I’m just not interested anymore.
This is your first real action role, isn’t it?
Yeah, that’s why I did it. It was such a great cast and I’d never done an action film. I’d never shot a gun before, I’ve always just had them shot at me (laughing). So I figured it would be fun to do. The script was definitely not the normal, formulaic, slick Hollywood film, which I don’t normally enjoy myself. So I did it.
Did you do any training with the guns?
We only had one day of training. The three of us – the three girls – went and did it. It’s funny because all of us were so true to our characters when we even did it. Maria [Bello] was very like [fumbling around], “Ohhh.” And I was all kind of gung-ho but still a little, little trepidacious. And then Aisha [Hinds] was just, “Give me the gun!” She was the best with it.
You said that action movies aren’t your type of movie. What type of films do you enjoy personally?
I like small films, small character-driven films. I haven’t seen any movies this year. I have a sick dog so I work all the time and then I go home to be with my dog. But the only movie I did get to see was “Garden State,” and that kind of movie is what I like. Something that’s still a drama but still doesn’t take itself too seriously. I like a lot of French and German [films]. I like a lot of the old German filmmakers and stuff like that. Italian films…
Your costume in this and then your costume in “Sopranos” - does anything that you’ve done so far reflect your personal taste?
I mean, I can whip out a few sexy outfits every now and then but I’m not a very… I don’t think I’m sexy. I don’t feel sexy. I don’t act like I’m sexy in my real life. I don’t even find the characters that I play that sexy. So it was difficult for me to play ‘sexy’ in this role, because I’m actually playing it instead of just existing there and being sexy. But I mean, yeah, I wear low-cut tops every now and then. I never wear a mini-skirt in real life. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a mini-skirt in my entire life. It’s just not for any reason, it’s just that I don’t like to cross my legs. I’m more of a guy and you know…
Is that why you know how to kill people six different ways or something like that? Have you always been some sort of a tomboy perhaps?
(Laughing) Oh, I’m very much a tomboy. I had two older brothers, you know.
Did you come up with the throat maneuver you use in the movie?
No. What was very upsetting about that was there were a few people on the set who had no authority, but kept commenting that there was no way I’d be able to kill that guy by sticking my fingers in his throat. And I totally, completely disagreed with them, especially with those nails. I knew I could have done it in real life because there’s nothing you can do if someone sticks their nails into your throat and starts ripping out your trachea. You know what I mean? The other way is you poke someone in the eye really, really hard and you [making a hooking motion] pull out their nose bone. I mean, I can do that. Anybody can do that.
Was the only concern that physically you couldn’t do it?
There were about four people on the set that were like, “There’s no way she’d be able to do it.” So they changed it. Yeah.
What it was it like working with this cast?
Oh man, it was great. Everybody has their own thing. Everybody brought their own thing. Like John [Leguizamo] would make us laugh. Laurence [Fishburne] was just this calm, cool king, you know? He’s a king to me. There’s something about him. In this business, I don’t know if anyone really recognizes just how special he is. His energy is so, so special.
Ethan [Hawke] was like my brother. We just kind of had fun together all the time, joking around, horsing around. He and my boyfriend were always just playing guitar and hanging out and singing in the camper. Who else? Maria [Bello] is like the acting chick. She’s like, “What did you find in that scene?” and “What was this like?” I’m the one that’s like, “What did I find? It was freezing, I don’t know.” So she was actor girl and just everybody was so great. Brian Dennehy with his old war stories and all the old theatre stories. It was great. It was so much fun.
Were there any problems working with a director who is from a different background and didn’t speak English very well? Was there a language barrier at all?
Not for me. I mean, I’m sure for some people, maybe. But for me, I know that he cast me based on “’R Xmas,” which was Abel [Ferrara’s] movie and he’s a huge Abel Ferrara fan. And then when I went and watched his film, I realized just how much of a fan he must have really been of Abel’s because it was a very similar feel. Almost identical to Abel’s kind of filmmaking. So he and I had an unspoken understanding, I think.
He hired actors that he knew were just going to do what he wanted them to do. He had a lot on his plate. This was his first big American film, action film, fake snow, this, that, explosions. He had a lot of pressure on his back, so as much as we could do to just do the job that we needed to do for him, I think the better it was. And I think there was an understanding there.
How familiar were you with the original film?
I’d seen it. I don’t remember it that clearly. But I think the differences… I mean, I think that mainly the foundation of the film was the same and then we opened it up and made it a much bigger picture.
Would you have done it if it was just a remake of the original?
Well, it depends on how it was handled. I definitely think the way the script was written separates it from a lot of the average action films. So, I don’t know. Well, yes, if it was the same cast. I picked it because of the cast, not because of the script. I picked it because of the cast and the filmmaker, and the reasons he hired me.
So Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke were already attached when you were hired?
Everyone was, I think.
When you read the script, what did you think of your character?
I mean to be completely honest with you, I didn’t feel I needed to play another Italian-American girl. I didn’t think I needed to play another slut, another tough chick. Not another tough chick because Adriana was not tough, she was the victim. So it was more based on the action of it. The fact that I hadn’t done an action film and the fact that the cast was so great.
Are you still concerned about being typecast?
I’m always typecast. No one in Hollywood has a clue as to whether or not I really speak with that accent or not. They think I show up hair and make-up ready that way so… They don’t know that it takes four hours. But yeah, it’s always been a concern of mine but at this point in my career, I’m not a kid anymore. A friend of mine said, “Drea, it’s better to be typecast than not cast.”
You know, I don’t really have that many more years left for me as far as acting goes. I’m not one of those girls who is going to go and lift my face, shoot it up with Botox, have my boobs done, just to maintain, just to keep my face on the big screen or the little screen. I’m going to step away and get behind the camera. I didn't study acting.
I really went to school for directing. So that’s probably where I’ll end up.
Can you use the opportunity to fight for women who feel they have to get Botox and facelifts just to stay on the screen?
It’s tempting to do all that stuff, I just happen to be very afraid of it all. I don’t want to mess with something that was okay. You just don’t mess with what God gave you (laughing). I understand that there are a lot of ‘B’ actors who base themselves on their looks and stuff. But when you get A-list actors who are so incredibly wonderful and talented, I don’t understand why they feel the need to erase all of the life from their face because that’s what makes them so wonderful. If they have the talent to go on, then I feel like it’s your talent people are looking at, it’s not your face.
But you do have the talent so you shouldn’t be made to feel like you have to go behind the camera because you’re time is running out.
Yeah, but Hollywood doesn’t really care for people who aren’t beautiful at certain times, unfortunately. Unless you’re playing a character actor, which I am a character actor. But for some reason I still get thrown into the ‘pretty girl’ role and I’m not really the pretty girl because I don’t photograph. I look better in person. I don’t photograph that well.
You really believe you don’t photograph well?
I definitely don’t. I definitely look better in person. Everyone always comes up to me, all my fans, and they’re always, “God, you look completely different in person.” You know? So…
Do you have directing projects lined up?
I do. I do. My mom’s a teacher and she teaches playwriting, and I take students from her class and take their scripts and develop them. It’s really exciting for me because I really, really enjoy taking something that’s great and making it incredible.
I took one of her students and now she’s my partner. She just writes everything. I got her signed with my agency and she’s possibly going to be the best writer in Hollywood, I’d have to say. Real stories, not crap, you know? Real little stories that mean something. So we’re working on one project right now. I was going to direct it over the hiatus of “Joey” but it’s not a “Soprano” hiatus of a year and a half, so I don’t think I’m going to have the time this hiatus.
Can you say anything about the plot?
It’s such a crazy story that I wouldn’t even know how to explain it. Most directors passed on it because it’s so crazy, so now we’re directing it. It’s pretty good, that’s all I have to say. I come from “Sopranos” and to me that’s the best kind of writing there is. I would never do anything less than that. I would be in other movies that are less than that just for a paycheck, but I would never create or direct a film that wasn’t going to be as good as the writing on “The Sopranos.” I’m kind of a snob that way. I’ve been spoiled by my mother and by “The Sopranos.”
What is it about this girl’s writing that sets her apart? What makes this particular story special?
It was the first play I’d ever done. We turned it into a screenplay. I sat on her while she turned it into a screenplay. “I’m not letting you move until you turn it into a screenplay.” It’s sort of set in the way that “Smoke” was set. It’s a pharmacy where a bunch of very broken people hang out. It’s about two twins and one of the twins – it opens where one of the twins had just died, and they both have muscular dystrophy. And it’s progressing in the one who’s alive. It just kind of…all these different characters are there. One of the guys is autistic.
It sounds insanely dramatic, but it’s not. It happens to be really, really funny but at the same time very tragic, and then hopeful also at the end. It’s really kind of a romance between my character and the boy with muscular dystrophy. And she’s a drug addict.
You’re going to direct and act in it?
Yeah. We’re going to direct it together because I’m in it so much. She’s never directed so we’re going to do it together. It’s going to be fun. (Laughing) And then I won’t have to act anymore. I can just act in my own projects and I won’t be talking like this [lays on the heavy Queens accent] in any of them, unless they’re really great like “The Sopranos.”
What is your background?
I’m Italian. Italian-American. I was born in Queens, which I hammed up to the nth degree when I started “Sopranos” because I really wanted it to be truthful. I didn’t want anybody to think I was faking an accent because the accent’s so huge, you know? I grew up on the Upper East Side.
How big a difference is it working on a sitcom from working on a drama like “The Sopranos?”
It’s night and day. It’s a whole different thing. I did it sort of because it was a huge challenge for me. The only thing that I could bring to the party was that I’d done a lot of theatre, and it’s very much like doing theatre. I think that when people watch sitcoms they say and think that this is the mediocre actors who are doing this. This is not the real acting. Jesus Christ, it might be more real than anything there is. It’s the most difficult thing there is to do.
People who are doing sitcoms deserve the most respect. I understand why they get a million dollars an episode, because they work you to the bone. And having to make people laugh is probably 10 times harder than ever having to make anybody cry. It’s definitely very intense and you’re onstage. It’s theatre. You’re a comedian and you’re there to entertain people for seven hours in that audience. So it’s very hard and I have a lot of respect for people who have been doing it for a long time.
Do you enjoy doing comedy?
I’m learning how to do comedy right now. It’s all a learning process for me. I enjoy learning but more than anything, I have so much fun with Matt LeBlanc that whether I love it or not really makes no difference to me because I just really have that much fun with him and playing with him. Being onstage with him is great. We all have a lot of fun together.
Drea de Matteo is very much alive
For having been brutally killed in a Sopranos shocker last season, Drea de Matteo is doing pretty well. The thick-accented, big-haired Adriana is soon to be resurrected as Gina Tribbiani, the thick-accented, big-haired sister of Matt LeBlanc. While much has been made of her birth in the New York City borough of Queens—an origin that meshes nicely with the type of gum-snapping women she plays—she left the neighborhood during elementary school for Manhattan's Upper East Side. In person, de Matteo's voice is husky, like her characters', but her accent is hardly Fran Drescher, and her coif is hair spray free. "Everyone still thinks I'm just a trashy fucking Queens kind of chick, hanging out on street corners drinking beers," she says.
Drea de Matteo on Golden Globes' list
'The Sopranos' and 'Nip/Tuck' are among the TV series to receive multiple nominations for the 2005 Golden Globe Awards. Both shows are nominated for Best Television Series (Drama) and are joined by '24', 'Deadwood' and 'Lost'.
'The Sopranos' star Edie Falco is nominated for Best Actress in a Television Series (Drama), with Jennifer Garner ('Alias'), Mariska Hargitay ('Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'), Christine Lahti ('Jack & Bobby') and Joely Richardson ('Nip/Tuck') also making the shortlist.
Drea De Matteo ('The Sopranos'), Anjelica Huston ('Iron Jawed Angels'), Nicollette Sheridan ('Desperate Housewives'), Charlize Theron and Emily Watson (both 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers') are the nominees for Best Supporting Actress in the TV categories.
De Matteo's co-star in 'The Sopranos', Michael Imperioli, is nominated for Best Supporting Actor and is joined by Sean Hayes ('Will & Grace'), Jeremy Piven ('Entourage'), Oliver Platt ('Huff') and William Shatner ('Boston Legal').
Why is Drea de Matteo famous?
A self-described wild girl, what kind of guy would turn her down? She's got the curves, she's got the moves, and she's climbing the Hollywood ladder the way she wants to. Her hard partying and vulgar vocabulary only make her more desirable. Although she can boast having appeared in a string of independent films throughout her short career, it's her role as Adriana La Cerva, the much better half of Christopher on The Sopranos, that made her an actress to watch out for.
We have nothing against beauty queens and centerfolds; in fact, we applaud them. However, it is the opinion of this panel that taking a walk on the wild side can be very beneficial. Not only is Drea de Matteo babelicious, but when someone spent their teenage years riding in stolen cars and smoking angel dust (okay, accidentally), they'll pretty much do anything.
If she were just another untalented hack, she certainly wouldn't be getting her own feature on AskMen.com. A gifted actress, she has turned Adriana on The Sopranos into a three-dimensional character with hopes and dreams when she could have easily fallen back on the mobster-ditz stereotype. She is also making a name for herself in little-known but thought-provoking movies such as Sleepwalk (2000) and 'R Xmas (2001).
Although she has yet to break into the Hollywood A-list, we respect the way she inches along in supporting roles in independent films. And don't get us started on her family values. Raised in part by a Nicaraguan nanny, Drea is now the one taking care of her. In addition to her AC/DC, crucifix and star tattoos, she also has her parents' names permanently engraved on her right arm. Total class, with an edge. Anybody up for taming the beast? Drea likes to party the old-fashioned way with beer and chips and doesn't fare well with umbrella drinks and caviar. She's a New York girl through and through, and her constant swearing (a minute doesn't go by without her uttering the F-word), for which she makes no apologies, turns us on big-time.
Still, de Matteo's a good-hearted woman who oozes talent. She's actually completely different from her character on The Sopranos, as she's a self-proclaimed shy girl -- with this kind of acting talent, she's unquestionably going places. Anyone who doesn't think Drea de Matteo is a serious hottie should make sure they're really male, or human for that matter. Although she prefers the casual look in real life -- which, when combined with her wild streak, can produce sparks -- as "Adriana," she's often seen wearing provocative makeup, tight Ts and short skirts. When she wants to be sultry, she sizzles. Hell, we're considering buying pacemakers in bulk!
Let's not kid ourselves; Drea de Matteo doesn't have the kind of resume that makes the more distinguished members of the Screen Actors Guild drool. The American Film Institute (AFI) won't throw a lifetime achievement banquet in her honor anytime soon. But that doesn't mean it's not in her future.
Although de Matteo originally wanted to direct films, she wound up getting noticed for her acting skills. Her big break came early in her onscreen career, when she landed the plum role of Adriana La Cerva on HBO's The Sopranos. After five years on the mobster hit, Drea de Matteo's character was unfortunately whacked. But the hit show has opened many doors for her. Since she joined the cast in 1999, she has appeared in a number of magazine spreads, the blockbuster Swordfish (2001), and independent films like Sleepwalk (2000) and 'R Xmas (2001), which was directed by Abel Ferrara. She also starred in a girl-band drama called Prey for Rock & Roll in 2003.
Drea de Matteo may have said goodbye to New Jersey, but now that she co-stars with Matt LeBlanc in the L.A.-based Joey, she is sure to become a household name. Her acting skills were recognized at the 2004 Emmy Awards, when she won the trophy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, for her Sopranos role.
Angels had a good day when they molded Drea, that's for sure. At 5'6", the boys on the panel agree that she's the perfect height for all nocturnal activities. She's got the type of body that puts curves on display like fine jewels. And then there's her face. Framed by a thick mane of brown hair, she looks like a Catholic schoolgirl with naughty thoughts brewing behind wickedly clever brown eyes. A major babe, it's as if her round cheeks dare us to come on over... Although she admits to hating fashion, she does own a trendy Manhattan boutique in addition to having her own line of jeans, so she can't be a stranger to style. Growing up, she experimented with every single style, from punk to goth, and she now seems to be somewhat of a rock chick.
Not your usual diva, she despises having her hair done and wearing makeup, especially the way Adriana wears it. She feels comfortable in denim and a cool T-shirt (especially thrift style), and tying her hair in a ponytail suits her just fine. Suits us fine too!
Drea de Matteo, Now and Forever
Cats," Drea de Matteo says. "Cats. That's when I knew I wanted to act."
And so a thank-you note to Andrew Lloyd Webber is in order, for making possible Adriana, the Mafia bride who was never meant to last beyond her first episode on The Sopranos. "I was 8 or maybe 10, sitting in the third row with my parents, and Rum Tum Tugger took me on stage and made me dance with him and sing," she says, then begins to sing, "'The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious cat... ' I was petrified but I didn't want to get back down. I liked it there."
"That was the moment?" I ask.
"That was the moment," she says.
"But isn't Rum Tum Tugger scary up close?"
"Nuts," she says. "But not as crazy as Mr. Mistoffelees."
"The magical Mr. Mistoffelees?"
"Yeah," she says.
The admission is strange, considering Drea de Matteo's reputation as a wild child, a rock chick. The first round of media stories about her were so taken with her past that the results were little more than strings of sensational life details. A feature in a British style magazine dutifully recorded the angel dust she smoked when she was 12, her father's limousine shuttling her to Chippendales when she was 14, the stolen car, the AC/DC tattoo, the plans for the pet mausoleum, and the preserved dog testicles she keeps on a shelf beside her bed. The coverage burned, and so Drea, now 29, unguardedly explains that she's learning to be guarded.
"People prep you for these interviews and say that you don't need to be yourself," she pleads. "'Just don't be yourself.' And I don't know how to be any other way. I know how to act. I don't know how to do this shit."
Which is one of the reasons why Drea de Matteo is easy company. Her features, which appear angular and defiant in photographs and on television, are softer in person. She isn't on the star trip, which is a good thing, because clubs and restaurants are still slow to recognize that she's Adriana from "The Sopranos." The only reason she suggests that we relocate from her East Village apartment to Pastis, the meatpacking district bistro with the fashion party temperament (empty tables inside, empty tables outside, but nothing available; it's 4 p.m.), is to pursue a particular steak sandwich, which she orders with extra cheese.
When in conversation with Drea, it's natural to discuss Angelina Jolie, who resuscitated the Uncalculating Bad Girl. "I like her," Drea says. "She says what she wants to say, people write it, and then she gets a lot of heat for it. She's just being who she is; she's honest. There's such a curse about that."
Then she turns on me. "You better not do that to me, man."
She pauses. "I was young and nuts, but not that nuts. I was a real careful kid, a really scared careful kid. I never took anything over the top; I won't even go on a roller coaster. I'm not that wild."
Later, after the conversation turns to beer, Drea talks about how she tries not to drink too much. "It's OK to misbehave," I remind her. Delighted, she doesn't miss a beat. "Yeah, I love it," she says. "But I'm a real careful misbehaver."
Andrea Donna de Matteo was born in Queens, Italian and Catholic. She grew up with two older brothers, a grandmother, a father who manufactured furniture, a playwright mother, and a godmother called Monkey, who raised her from birth. They lived in a series of familial combinations, in a series of theatrical homes, all decorated like sets with the spoils of the family business.
When Drea was in second grade, they moved out of Queens and into Aretha Franklin's two-floor brownstone apartment next door to the Guggenheim. "She moved out, we moved in," Drea says. "But back then I didn't like it because it was scary and I was short and the ceilings were high and it was lonely. But it was Aretha Franklin's apartment. She had just put this crazy marble tub in there. And I used to swim laps in it."
Now Drea shares an apartment with her boyfriend, Filthmart boutique owner Michael Sportes; Monkey, whom she now cares for; and five crucial, life-affirming pets -- among them two Great Danes. (The misbehavior of her 7-month-old bulldog has become a repeated matter of public record: He crapped on a Rolling Stone writer and now humps my leg. "No humping, no humping," Drea reprimands.) "It's just a lot of stuff. It's a mess," she says, inaccurately, about the very neat, spectacularly decorated sprawl of books, platform boots, Bowie records, and American flags.
"You should do a Cribs," I suggest, reminded of MTV. "You're Cribs-friendly." But she's too self-effacing for that.
"I don't think my apartment is good enough for a Cribs," she says. "People would think I was so poor and not on a TV show. Even though I'm not rich. But I am on a TV show."
"You're on a special TV show," I say.
"I know, but we don't make truckloads of money like the other guys," she responds. "I want a brownstone. It's my goal in life. For my dogs."
She also wants good real estate for Adriana and Christopher on the show -- she says it's time they moved out of their tiny apartment. "I want us to move on up already. He's made," she says. "And I want to have a baby on the show. That's what I really want. I really want to have a baby on the show."
AN AMERICAN BEAUTY
When you pry hard enough -- or only a little bit -- Drea will tell you that she had a miserable, nervous, and uninteresting childhood, and then leave it up to you to figure out that between bizarre episodes of loneliness (that resulted in her impersonating Regan from The Exorcist, peeing on the floor of her apartment), she was very good at being a teenager.
She's a rocker now, but she's made all of the pop cultural stops. She was "a huge Deadhead, man," which translates to nine Grateful Dead shows. She went through a serious Menudo moment, when she persuaded her parents to fly her to Puerto Rico because that's where Menudo were (she quickly learned it doesn't quite work that way, but ended up making out with a member of Los Chicos, the sous Menudo, instead). She also remembers roller-skating to Lionel Richie's "Hello" with Eddie, the most popular skater at Laces, in New Hyde Park. Then there were the Capezio and back-pocket raccoon tail phases, the Skinny Puppy bubble-goth phase, and the relationship, encouraged by her mother, with a place called Little Bits, which would plant the seed for future acclaim. "Cher bought all her daughter's clothes there, all this rhinestoned stuff. That's why I was into the rhinestones," Drea says. "Everything rhinestoned-out, always: army fatigues with rhinestones all over, cowboy outfits with rhinestones, tuxedos, tie-dyed skintight little shirts with little tie-dyed hearts."
Little Bits would lead to Drea's involvement in Filthmart, the East Village focal point for the slashed-and-studded rock-tee moment. "I'm impressed with myself. I won't tell you that I'm a great actress, but I'll tell you one thing: I'm a good Bedazzler," she says. And she is -- she was even responsible for the "Rock Royalty" T-shirts that Stella McCartney and Liv Tyler wore to the last year's Met Costume Institute gala. After Patricia Field (the 8th Street costumer for Sex and the City), Filthmart is the newest jewel in HBO's unwitting network of downtown retail outlets. But she's tired of it -- the fad that got away, the "so-three-years-ago" shirts, "because classic rock should never be a trend, man." Now she makes jeans.
At the end of the day, Drea is an actor, negotiating the intricacies of her television and film roles with intensity. "I get nuts, I make myself crazy, I torture myself," she says about preparing for challenging scenes. "A lot of music, a lot of music that reminds me of all my dead friends. I kill off everyone in my family, everyone's dead, everyone's getting in an ambulance right before I walk into a scene like that. All my dogs are dead. I also keep a lot of those pamphlets from animal societies with the calves in cages. Sometimes I even go to that."
She's the girl who waited her entire career to work with Abel Ferrara, and now she has, starring as a Puerto Rican drug lord in his new, as-yet-untitled project about the heroin trade. Somehow she's also Jenny McCarthy's wacky neighbor in the independent feature Perfect You, Hugh Jackman's alcoholic ex-wife in Swordfish, a "fashion girl" with Jennifer Esposito in Jon Favreau's Made, and "Dorff's girlfriend" in Deuces Wild, a 1950s gang pic with Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Norman Reedus, Balthazar Getty, Max Perlich, James Franco, Fairuza Balk, Debbie Harry, and, oh, Johnny Knoxville. It's a whole issue of Movieline.
"The scary thing is, people really don't think that I'm acting. People don't really have that much of an imagination. People really think that I'm Adriana and I'm just showing up," she says.
"But with these photo shoots, I swear that I'm going to be mellow because people really want to make me out to be this wild chick. And they want it to be like a cover of Maxim magazine kind of thing. And it's really not who I am. I really don't think I'm sexy. All of that is so bizarre to me." "But you've heard that from beautiful people before," I say, "'I don't understand why I'm so special and why everyone wants to take my picture... '" "It's the whole sexpot thing," she says. "It's a little over-the-top for me." If not for us.