In an Internet age where relevancy disappears in the blink of an eye, Drea de Matteo still remains as popular as ever thanks to her iconic role on The Sopranos. De Matteo starred as Adriana La Cerva, the fiery girlfriend of Christopher Moltisanti known for her ambition and unique sense of fashion. Despite being off the air for over 15 years, de Matteo is still best-known for the role that snagged her an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2004.
Now, de Matteo is making a name for herself on the indie scene as she stars in Collide, a thrilling story that intertwines the lives of three couples over the course of one night at a Los Angeles restaurant. De Matteo plays Angie, an ambitious woman who is having an affair with the restaurant’s manager. In conversation with Digital Trends, the veteran actress speaks about the challenges of filming in one location, her newfound love for villains, and how playing Adriana became a blessing in her life.
Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: You read the script for Collide. What’s your initial reaction?
Drea de Matteo: Mukunda (Michael Dewil), the writer and director, wrote the most incredible script that takes place in one location. All of these post-COVID projects, people were trying to do stuff quickly for a little bit of money. All these directors have had to work during the pandemic. All these people want to get together and work no matter what. This was a great opportunity. All the projects that I did in the last couple of years all took place in one location, which is interesting.
It’s like a Broadway play.
Yeah. But also, even when you’re doing a sitcom, it’s all in that one [place]. But at least it’s pretending to change locations. This really took place in one location, and his script was so high-concept. Normally, you would think you need millions of dollars to shoot something like this because of all the excitement towards the end and all the overlapping. It’s a really great script.
Your character, Angie, is the wife of Jim Gaffigan’s character, Peter. You’re having an affair with the restaurant manager. Because it’s set in one place, there’s not a lot of backstory to each character. Did you have to make up more of a backstory for your character, or were there enough details in the script to build upon?
Well, there was some stuff in the script that I could build on that didn’t make it to the [final] cut because we were in a time crunch. We were shooting nights, not days. So Mukunda had me like dancing by the bar, trying to get attention from people. She’s in her 50s, trying to get attention, doesn’t feel like a young woman anymore. So she’s definitely feeling that midlife crisis vibe. We didn’t shoot those scenes, thank God. I might’ve had a heart attack if I had to do that [laughing].
But I gave myself the backstory that Jim took care of me. I might have been a broken young lady, and he kind of gave me my wings to fly, and I probably took advantage of him. I was like a spoiled kid in his world, to a large degree, and now I’m trying to live on the edge a little. The grass is greener and having this affair, I’ve taken advantage of his love for me. I think a lot of the theme of this film has to do with how we live in fear and how we find our safety, whether it’s emotional, financial, spiritual, [or] physical. There’s a lot of that going on in all the storylines.
You spend little time with Jim on camera. Was it a challenge to build a relationship because you have so few scenes with him?
Yes. Well, we hung out a lot in the kitchen area, talking about what snacks we were going to eat [laughing]. But we didn’t really talk about the part; we talked about what was happening in the world. We talked about ourselves, our kids. But the thing about Jim was that we would do these heavy scenes. We didn’t have that many scenes together. Mostly me and David Cade had a lot of scenes together, and then he [Jim] had most of the scenes by himself in the car.
We had a couple of scenes where we came together. When they said, “Cut,” it depends on who you’re working with. I’m always trying to be respectful, but he [Jim] would just go start going in for the jokes, and I was like, “Yes!” Actors can be a drag, man. You’re just not fun half the time. They take themselves so seriously and so precious. I’ve just been doing this for too long. It’s not fun. Go home [laughing].
I’m sure you’re not working with method actors then.
I don’t love that. I mean I appreciate it. I really do … I was like that when I was young, too, to a large degree. But, I never wanted anybody to think I was stuck up or snotty, so I always made sure to break character and make someone laugh or smile.
I have been doing nothing but villain roles since the pandemic. It’s so weird. And they all are set in one place like I said. One of them, I played a psychopath [in] Safe Room, [which] came out already. And now in One Way, I’m not much different. I play Machine Gun Kelly’s lover, but I was Kevin Bacon’s lover first, so I was his father’s lover. There’s a lot going on. And I’m also the antagonist. I play a full-on gangster.
But yeah, it was fun to play it [a villain]. Actually, it’s my new favorite thing because you don’t care. It’s nice to not care about the characters and not to care about your emotional life because these people don’t have emotional lives. They’re just out for blood.
Switching gears, it’s been 23 years since The Sopranos first aired, and the show still has such a strong presence in pop culture. It’s remarkable, to be honest. Could you have ever imagined that the show would stand the test of time this many years later?
To be honest with you, I never knew that I would stand the test of time this many years later. The show? Yes, the show was so great to me that I get it. I guess a lot of people age. I got my picture in the attic of Dorian Gray, so I haven’t aged as much. I get fucking thoroughly harassed still, so it never stops.
Is that a blessing or a curse? Or maybe a little of both?
My kids are always like, “So how do you feel about this,” and I’m just like, “You know what, man? It feels like yesterday. I feel blessed.” I loved the show so much. Sometimes people are crazy and they just want to sit at your table while you’re eating, or while you’re crying, or while you’re having a moment. Everyone’s like, “Hey! Can I talk to you?” But I’m still shocked that it literally is like it was on yesterday. I think it’s also that so many 20-year-olds are watching the show right now.
So many people during the pandemic watched The Sopranos. I’m guilty of that, too. I went back to it, and the show stands the test of time.
I cannot believe how many people watched it. It’s just too bad that we don’t get residuals on that show [laughing].
I can’t help you there. I’m sorry.
I know. All of us are like, “Jesus.” I remember Jim Gandolfini’s wife sent me an article from GQ and she’s like, “It’s up to 200%, the viewership.” I’m like, “Well, that’s cool.”
I read in an interview that you regretted not maximizing on playing Adriana. Between the accent and the strong New York character, was it hard for you to shake that character, and how long did it take you to accept it in the long run?
I think there’s a few things with that. I think that I did maximize that. I went and did Joey right after, but I didn’t want to take that job. I got pushed into it, and I was afraid to not take it because I do know what playing that accent will do. Once you play that accent, you’re stuck in that accent. But even before I started acting, when I was first starting out, all my managers that I had met at that time were like, “We’re changing your name. We don’t want you to have an Italian last name because you’ll get pigeonholed, and that’ll be it. You’re stereotyped.” I thought, “Wow. That’s like racist. How messed up.”
First of all, being a chick is already hard enough, and then you’re Italian, and now automatically, they assume you’re dumb, which is crazy. I had forgotten all of those things. Now we’re living in the psycho age of equity and stuff, which is a whole other thing. But back in those days, there was just so much stuff attached to it. If you play a character that goes into everyone’s home, a TV show, then forget about the accent, now you’re just that character. They love that character. You live in their living room so they don’t want to see you as anybody else.
But I never felt bad that I didn’t maximize it. I think I did as much as I could, but I definitely was precious about it as a young woman because I wanted people to know that I didn’t have to speak with that accent. I don’t really have the accent, but I could turn it on and off whenever I want to. It’s part of what I do.
But now that I’m older, I wish that I had been playing that role for my entire life because it was my favorite role. A lot of the other roles I played, they were great. They were huge TV shows, and I’m very grateful for them, but I never felt the visceral connection to playing somebody like [Adrianna]. But it’s also David Chase’s writing. I mean, he’s just so fantastic. But I love playing a New Yorker. I love playing that accent. The accent is my number one favorite thing to do. So, yes, in my old age, I’m going back there if I can.
Collide is currently in theaters and is available on demand Aug. 12.
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