‘The Sopranos’ star Drea de Matteo: “I wish I’d maximised on playing Adriana”

Oh! It's New Jersey's most glamorous mob associate – and she's here to tell Alex Flood how the HBO gangster show changed her life forever

It’s 11pm on a Monday night and NME is listening in as Drea de Matteo parents her kids, Sopranos-style. “Don’t you slam that door!” comes the command down the phone line.

The door slams.

“Ohhhh! Don’t you be a motherfucking asshole!”

Advertisement

For fans of Adriana La Cerva, the long-time girlfriend of mobster protege Christopher Moltisanti, the effect isn’t dissimilar to that of the couple’s many blazing rows from the crime epic. “I love my kids so much,” adds De Matteo, now unaccompanied on our conference call. “But all I do is curse at them all day and they just roll their eyes. I’m like: ‘You guys can’t curse, but I’m Adriana, I can.'”

Paradise City
In ‘Paradise City’, a new rock and roll drama set in Los Angeles. CREDIT: Press

First appearing on The Sopranos during the pilot episode in 1999, De Matteo wasn’t made a recurring character until later in season one. She didn’t even play Adriana at first – but 22 years after the fact and the potty-mouthed, savvy businesswoman has become a cult figure, fashion icon and lockdown telly favourite.

As she returns to the small screen in Los Angeles-set rock and roll drama Paradise City, we caught up with New Jersey’s most glamorous mafioso for a mid-pandemic chat. She told us all about partying with Courtney Love, her fave Guns N’ Roses song and those lingering post-Sopranos regrets.

Sopranos
As Adriana La Cerva in ‘The Sopranos’. CREDIT: Alamy

Hi Drea, you don’t work that much these days – what made you say yes to Paradise City?

“Hey! Well, money is usually the impetus for me on anything, but when I saw that this guy – [creator] Ash Avildsen – was attempting to film, write, direct and produce a TV show by himself I was curious. I wanted to know how he thought that someone could fucking do this? I thought: ‘Who the fuck does this guy think he is?'”

And what did you make of creator Ash Avildsen?

Advertisement

“Working with him was so much fucking fun. When I would walk out onto the set, he would play these awesome AC/DC songs – you felt like you were in a theme song.”

Is the show’s title a Guns N’ Roses reference?

“I’m sure it is. I love that damn song. I’ll never forget the video of Axl Rose in all white – you know, the live bit. It’s the perfect name for this series, even though the band [in the show] is not a GNR band – they’re definitely a little more alternative.”

Paradise City also features the final on-screen performance from Cameron Boyce…

“[Hearing about his death] was a shock. I didn’t even know that he had been ill or anything. [The 20-year-old actor died in his sleep as the result of ‘an ongoing medical condition’ last year]. I didn’t work with him that much [on the show], but I remember when we were shooting I was showing him off to my kids because they knew exactly who he was [from his Disney work]. As a mum, it’s not news you ever wanna hear.”

With the new show and everyone rewatching The Sopranos during lockdown, your social media mentions must be going crazy right now?

“The thing with The Sopranos is, it just never dies. In the pandemic, there was definitely a surge – I read an article that said that the show was up 176 per cent viewership! So we started a rewatch podcast called Made Women – later called Gangster Goddess: Broad-Cast. It’s an intense amount of work, a lot of research. I could teach a college seminar on The Sopranos now!”

Do people shout Adriana quotes at you in the street?

“All the time. They always want me to say ‘Christopha’ [in strong New York accent], which was always hard for me to say when I was young. I felt like my accent sounded so forced and I hated saying it. So I went to David Chase and I said: ‘I can’t say Christopher like that all the time, can I call him Chrissy?’ If you notice throughout the series I pepper it with Chrissy and Christopher.”

Have the fans changed much over the years?

“During the pandemic, my friends convinced me to sign up to this Cameo thing where you do [online] greetings [for fans]. The crazy thing is, most of the people who wanted the greetings were all 22-year-old girls. It’s all these kids watching the show for the first time and that’s super exciting to me. I love that.”

Have you still got any of Adriana’s outfits from the show?

“OK, so I kept the outfit I died in: the pink fur coat and the jeans. Of course I had to keep that tiger-print spandex onesie, I had to keep that one. I also have my golden diamond ring and I have some of the jewellery.”

Did you have to sneak them off the set?

“No! They gave them to me upon my departure – and a Sopranos pinball machine. I lost the key to it though – but [Paradise City creator] Ash Avildsen has one too. It’s the only thing I talk to him about. It’s not Paradise City, it’s: ‘Can you bring me the motherfucking key to The Sopranos pinball machine so I can open mine and fix it!'”

Sopranos
Adriana wearing the iconic tiger-print onesie in ‘The Sopranos’. CREDIT: Alamy

What was it like when you left The Sopranos in 2005 – how did you cope?

“I felt down – it was very scary. I played a New Yorker with a very heavy accent and that’s the kiss of death for someone who wants to do other things. I jumped right into [Friends spinoff] Joey – which I didn’t think was a smart move but everybody pushed me into it – where I’m playing Adriana but as a cartoon. The reason people loved Adriana was because she wasn’t a caricature, she was real.”

Do you regret joining Joey?

“Looking back, I think: ‘Silly girl, you had a talent for that. You should have maximised on that accent, being from Queens, being a New Yorker.’ But instead I wanted to work against it and it didn’t work in my favour. If you want to see Christopher Walken, you wanna see Christopher Walken, you know what I mean? You don’t wanna watch him do Shakespeare.”

Drea De Matteo
With Courtney Love at a ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ launch event. CREDIT: Alamy

After Joey, you went onto Sons Of Anarchy where you worked with Courtney Love…

“I have a good rock and roll Courtney story… We were out one night partying at the Sunset Marquis Hotel [in Los Angeles] – I can’t remember [specifics], that’s what nights were like back in those days before I had kids. Anyway, my house was an after-hours hang and I told everyone to head back [for the after-party]. When I got there, my housekeeper told me that Courtney Love and [Alice In Chains guitarist] Jerry Cantrell had been there – they played piano and made bologna sandwiches.  They’d arrived super early before everybody else and left before the party started.”

Wait, Courtney Love left a party early?

“Well, the party probably didn’t start until 3am. We were all coming back after-hours. They probably got there at like 2am…”

Marilyn Manson also starred on Sons Of Anarchy – how did you react to the recent abuse allegations against him?

“I don’t really know much about the allegations to be honest…  I stay away from the news these days. That may sound very irresponsible of me but sometimes with my anxiety level I just sort of have to stay away from it all.”

Would the allegations make you think twice about associating with him?

“I haven’t seen him in many years, but he and I used to be buddies and we had some super crazy fun times together… I don’t live in a world where anybody gives a fuck about what I’m doing, honestly. Even though I realise about social media and that whole aspect of this industry – it’s become a circus. But no one’s gonna tell me what to do or who to associate with or stuff like that – I can’t play that game and live in fear so that doesn’t apply to me.”

‘Paradise City’ is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

Advertisement
Advertisement