Drea de Matteo took the time to chat about Sons of Anarchy and what is going on with her character, Wendy. Did you miss Wendy while she was away? Don’t miss a single episode of Sons of Anarchy, Tuesday nights on FX. This season has been phenomenal.
Press Conference Call Interview Highlights:
Q: What is your take on what Wendy is coming back to do?
Drea de Matteo: I definitely don’t think she has any ulterior motives. I definitely don’t think she wants to come in there and screw anybody. After all of the treatment she’s been through and now becoming a counselor herself, she’s probably the healthiest of the bunch. Pretty crazy. This ex-junkie comes back. I don’t think that she’s holier than thou either. She still recognizes her flaws but at the same time knows that she is somewhat entitled to be in this child’s life. She doesn’t want any drama.
Q: What brought her back to that place, being away from it, did she go to treatment in your mind or how did she get there into this most peaceful place?
Drea de Matteo: Well, I know from some of my own experience and many of my friends’ experiences, going through that sort of program. The whole addiction game, it really forces you to focus on what brings you there and accept the only way out, sort of. So I think once you really put this focus on getting better and figuring out what your flaws are that’s what brings her back. I don’t think that she would’ve come back. I think she could’ve been more reckless and shown up earlier, but then again, I wasn’t really available to come back. I was on another show and stuff. So anyway, yes. I definitely think that it’s perfect timing. She’s been away a long time. She’s been focusing on herself, taking care of herself, getting to a place where she likes herself. Once she can feel confident in who she is and she’s free to love somebody again, I guess.
Q: Is there going to be a blossoming alliance between Gemma and Wendy? Will there be a better understanding between Wendy and Tara as far as Abel is concerned?
Drea de Matteo: I have not watched, yet, what’s gone on and we shot it a little bit ago. I’m still not caught up with the end of the last season. So I’m behind and I refuse to read the scripts because I’m a fan of the show myself. So I’m a little behind. I will say what I can say and there are a lot of things that I obviously can’t say. As you guys know, on any TV show everything twists and turns and especially on Sons of Anarchy. The least expected thing to happen will happen. I think where it’s been left Gemma is cozying up to me. Obviously, Wendy is trying to find a way in but she wants to find the cleanest way in but she considers all aspects. She can’t take the high road. She may take the low road. I think she’s going to do everything in her power not to.
So whoever’s going to provide the cleanest path for her is going to be where she may end up. But it’s drama. So who knows what could possibly happen, guys?
Q: The drama, could it possibly be how on this last episode Jax was saying how he definitely did not want Wendy in Abel’s life? Is she going to fight harder in order to be in his life?
Drea de Matteo: I definitely think that Jax operates from a place of wanting to protect “Tara” a lot of the time. I think in protecting “Tara” he would probably try to keep me away, anything that might threaten her. Also, there’s his son that they have invested their lives in raising and now all of a sudden here I come, a time bomb. God only knows if I’m going to be sober or not the next day. But as of now, I am the sanest member of the family.
Q: Do you know how many episodes you’re going to be in this season?
Drea de Matteo: I think—we’re almost done shooting, I’m not positive, but I want to say maybe four. We’re still; I think we’re almost about to wind down.
Q: If you’re not reading the script ahead of time you don’t actually know how the whole thing is going to end yet?
Drea de Matteo: No. I’m not on the show very much. I just kind of pop in and out. I’m such a huge fan that I just try to leave it open. I read my scenes. I show up. I say my words. I don’t even want to know what’s going on.
Q: Do you have anything planned for after the show?
Drea de Matteo: I’m actually starting another show. We’re not sure if it’s going to go to series, but a show for Lifetime that is about stalkers. It’s actually called Stalkers. It’s actually based on this woman Rhonda Saunders’ book about how she tried to change the laws for stalkers because there really are not any great set laws for it. They’ve kind of gone back and forth. She got these things put in place but people only want to deal with a stalker once the person who’s been stalked is dead. There’s no prevention for it, really. It’s pretty cool and I’m playing a cop.
Q: What makes your character one that you want to keep coming back to play?
Drea de Matteo: Well, first of all, I think I would shoot myself if I ever had to play straightforward characters that really didn’t have much of a past. Maybe it’s just that I’m not a good enough actor to have to embellish. But I like having these really, really rich roles to play where—anything where being a drug addict, number one. Having all those demons makes it interesting for me.
I mean, coming back now and being completely sober is okay for me but I do like going back into the messy area. Coming back confident and healthy, and being able to sort of, I don’t know. I don’t really know what to say about how to take control of my life and possibly my son and all of that. It’s an empowering thing to play, but at the same time I do like to play the dirty side more. So we’ll see if she slips or something. I’m always on the edge.
Q: Has it been a challenge for you to fit in with the cast coming in and going out, or do you feel like you’ve clicked with them at this point?
Drea de Matteo: No. I don’t feel like it’s been a challenge. They are a family there. I came from that on Sopranos and stuff. I understand that dynamic. They’re always so welcoming and happy that I am there for a brief moment. I absolutely love working with Maggie, Maggie Siff, because I’m such a huge, huge fan of her work. So I don’t know. I’m so happy to be there. I hope they’re okay with having me there every now and then to shake some … up.
Can you tell us how you originally got involved with the show in getting cast for the role of Wendy?
Drea de Matteo: Originally, I came with John Linson before the show was even–I don’t know if it was written or if it was–I don’t know what was going on. I know that I came with John and he introduced me to Kurt. Originally, the character was going to die in the pilot. Then when I decided to do it they kept her alive and I’ve been there ever since but back and forth because I couldn’t fully commit to being on the show at the time. So I was off the show for a while and became a huge fan of the show while I was off of it. Then I just started writing Kurt and Katey [Sagal] and thinking, oh my God, I can’t believe what’s going on. When does the next season air? I was like, and I want to come back. You guys have to figure out “Wendy’s” turn. So I came originally with John. Then, once it became Kurt’s show they wove me in and out when possible.
Q: Being that you’ve been back and forth, on and off the show, what’s been the most difficult part of playing Wendy because when we do see her it’s always a dramatic change from the last time we saw her?
Drea de Matteo: Well she’s been in recovery. So it’s like it’s watching a child grow up to a certain degree. I think in the very beginning of the series she was extremely, extremely vulnerable. At first she was a mess. Then she was sober and a raw nerve. Now she comes back with her confidence intact and not wanting to stir any … up except for being a responsible party. It seems that the whole entire world has imploded and she’s going to have a hard time maneuvering within it because nobody’s stable over there. She’s now become the face of stability, which is kind of funny.
Q: Who do you think is the more powerful couple: Christopher and Adriana or Jax and Wendy?
Drea de Matteo: Oh boy. Jax and Wendy? I would probably compare Adriana and Christopher to Jax and Tara maybe, because Wendy is not around enough. Oh boy, the more powerful couple? I’m going to have to go with Jax and Tara only because, I mean, after all Christopher had Adriana killed, you know. It doesn’t get worse than that. Adriana was very weak. Tara; she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Q: When people recognize you on the street do they see you now from the Sopranos or do they say, “Oh, you’re the gal from Sons of Anarchy,” or is it a combination of both?
Drea de Matteo: You know, it’s shocking to me, I’ll be totally honest with you. Sopranos has been off the air for so, so long. I’ve been off the air for longer than the show’s been off the air for Sopranos. It’s still Sopranos and it never ends and it never stops. Although, when I was 200 pounds overweight after having my kids no one had a clue who I was, period. Well, okay, I was 70 pounds overweight. No one recognized me from Californication because I was giant on Californication. But recently, we got pulled over for not having an updated registration on the car in New York. New York is only Sopranos territory, that’s good. We had the kids in the car and the cop was so mean. I have never experienced–it was abuse, basically. Then he took my license. Then he went back and did his work and came back. A, I should’ve gotten a ticket cause the registration was so overdue. B, he was like—and I was like oh, he totally recognized me from the Sopranos, for sure. He hands me back my license and he goes, “Sons, right?” And I was like … You’re not even going to give me a ticket and you just abused me in front of my children and everything? Sons, I was like thank you Sons of Anarchy. That was my first one.
Q: You’ve gotten some really choice roles; not just on television but in film. Do you ever think how did I do this or do you just not even think about it just keep on trucking?
Drea de Matteo: Well, I’m going to be totally honest with you and totally humble about it. I definitely play roles that are close to my persona. I think that growing up I was dying to be an actor my whole life. I just always wanted to be someone else. Then once I decided that I really thought I was pretty cool I kind of wanted to see myself. So, Adriana was not myself; that was the complete opposite of me. But that will always be my favorite, favorite role of all time. Now I play people who are a little more comfortable with themselves. “Adriana” was not, and it was perfect at that time because I was not. Yes, I do feel really lucky that I get to play really strong women. I think that’s mainly what the common denominator is that I’m always playing a really strong person with a giant vulnerable streak because that’s who I am.
Q: Wendy didn’t get to attend Opie’s wake. Were you happy that you didn’t have to be there for the shooting of that scene which was really emotional, or if, as an actress and as a fan, you would’ve loved to have actually been in that scene?
Drea de Matteo: I’ll be totally 100% honest with you about that. I’ve been in so many funerals scenes I think from Sopranos and I think I’ve even been in one on Sons of Anarchy. Those scenes as just a human being, forget as an actor, they’re the most tedious scenes of all time. You’re waiting all day in the blistering hot heat and with this heat wave–well, actually they shot that a while back. Yes, it’s okay that I didn’t need to be there. I don’t think my character would’ve been there anyway. She would not have been welcomed. Unless there was going to be some major drama and reason for me to be there, then I would’ve loved to have been there but to just be there and stand there all day. I think if you ask any actor on the show if they would’ve wanted to have been there and those are the worst days. But those days are also fun because all the actors get to hang out together and socialize and have a great time being at a funeral.
Q: About the story you were talking about the New York cop, which is so funny. So he ended up not giving you the ticket?
Drea de Matteo: No. I thought for sure that I was going to jail. Forget the ticket. He didn’t want us to drive the car anymore. I had two children in the car and an old lady and he wanted us to get out of the car. It was amazing. I’m glad I get to expose them right now.
Q: When do you start filming Stalkers?
Drea de Matteo: I think we’re going to start shooting in November. We’re still casting.
Q: As an actress have you developed a more critical eye and business sense as you’ve gone along or are you more hands-off when it comes to production and other areas of the business?
Drea de Matteo: I went to NYU for acting for six years. I ended up acting–and I know this is going to be a terrible thing. Actors will think I’m an … for saying this but, for me, it was the easy way out or in because I didn’t put in enough effort in school being a crazy kid in college. I was good at it. So that was the other side of it. I would love to direct. I think what I’ve learned mostly from being on set is more how to deal with actors than even the visual part of it all. The visual stuff just kind of lives inside of you. As far as really being able to take care of an actor on a set, how to talk to an actor, and how to get what you need out of a scene is probably where I might know a thing or two. Although, in TV the actors are pretty much left alone. It’s really the writer’s medium more than anything. Did I answer your question?
Q: So now that Wendy is clean and sober do think that she’s happy that she avoided that past?
Drea de Matteo: I think, yes. No doubt. I also think that she’s walking into a situation where everybody’s a mess. She’s the only one who’s not a mess. Not that she has this superiority thing. I think she’s very clear about where she’s come from. Yes, I think that she’s happy that she’s no longer in that world and that’ll unfold even more as the season goes on when we see just how screwed up the world has gotten. You know, I never expected Tara to unravel. So I love it.
Q: Shooter has had music on the show before. Will that happen again?
Drea de Matteo: I wasn’t sure. I haven’t watched the season yet. I thought his song was supposed to be in last night’s episode. He has a new song and it was going to be in one of the episodes coming up. It’s on his new album called “The Other Life” which is coming out I think in March or something. He has a song with Patty Griffin that’s going to be on the show.
Q: Would it be possible for Wendy to be around a little bit more, maybe have a different love interest? Or do you just not see the role…?
Drea de Matteo: Well, I’m going to have to say that’s totally 100% up to Kurt. I’m back now. I’m open and willing and ready to do whatever they want me to do. I took off for a long time there but I did a couple of episodes this season. I’m open to doing as many as Kurt thinks would benefit his story, the story he wants to tell, for sure.
Q: Drea, you said before that they were originally going to kill off Wendy in the pilot. With them deciding to keep the character were you allowed to kind of develop it from that point, or were the scripts just given to you and you kind of went on what they told you?
Drea de Matteo: Well, Kurt’s a great writer, so they don’t need me. They didn’t me to say, “Well, this is what I want to happen to ‘Wendy.’” When you go into a series like this I’m sure Kurt had the entire season, the first season, outlined for himself and where it was going to go. My character was never a part of where it was going. It was all about “Tara” and “Jax.” So, I guess, once they kept me alive the goal was to just sort of have me there as like this thorn on everybody’s side. Then I couldn’t stay on. So they just put that story to rest which was perfect because I went away to treatment anyway. So, yes, I didn’t really develop. The writer’s tend to write around the actor and their style to a certain degree as long as it’s keeping with what they’re writing about. So I know with “Adriana,” when I did “Adriana,” David Chase would do that with me a lot. I don’t know that Kurt did that with “Wendy,” but I think bringing her back as a strong character and it’s also very much who I am in real life. So I wouldn’t say that I was involved in development. I mean, TV is a writer’s medium 100%, and the writer’s king. We all just need to understand that. It’s not a director’s place. It’s not for the actors. It’s really all about those writers.
Q: We know Wendy’s goal is to be in Abel’s life. Do you think there are any ulterior motives there now that she is clean, sober and seeing for the first time really with clear eyes a vision how the club’s working. Does she still want to be a part of that?
Drea de Matteo: I don’t think she’s looking to be a part of a club or to be part of that community. I definitely think that she’s looking to be a part of his life and to do it in a way where she’s not causing drama. I think she’d like to just get along with everybody. I think that–and anybody in the program would… I think she’d like to able to make amends to all of them, mostly to her son, and to be in his life. Even if it meant she couldn’t say, “I’m your mom,” but to just be in his life. Eventually, when he’s older he’s going to want to know who his real mom is. More than anything, I think that she’s looking for stability, not drama. I don’t think she has ulterior motives. I do think that if she’s pushed and manipulated and blocked out that you will see a side of her that…it’s not even so much that it’s an unstable, unsavory side. It’s she’s a mama and that’s her baby. She went and took care of herself in order to be able to come back and reclaim what was hers. So you can’t keep a mom away from their baby for too long.
Q: Do you find that there’s a big difference in shooting between what’s done on FX being a cable channel than your HBO, your Pay-Per-View channel, do you see that there’s a difference? Obviously, you can do a little bit more on HBO but shooting-wise, is there any difference or anything like that?
Drea de Matteo: Yes. You can’t say f… That’s difficult for me. It’s difficult for a biker show, I would imagine. When you say, “Get the hell out of here.” But you really just want to say, “Get the f… out of here.” The shooting is very similar. Sopranos, look, it was a whole different ball game. It was the first of its kind. We set the structure for it. Long shooting weeks, tons of money going into a show. That was brand new, man. Nobody knew what that was on cable yet.
So all of these shows, Breaking Bad, you’ve got Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me, like all of these are great shows. No one ever knew a TV show would be treated like a small film every week, big budgets and whatnot. Sopranos we shot 16-day weeks. Here we shoot 7-day weeks, 8-day weeks. I think that’s what they do. I don’t know.
Q: You were talking about coming back and having to do more. Has Kurt ever spoken to you about maybe doing flashbacks about what happened with Wendy and Jax?
Drea de Matteo: No. We’ve never discussed the possibility of flashbacks. I don’t know that he would think that anybody would even want to see that. That’s the first I’m hearing of that. You know, I was talking with Charlie [Hunnam] on the set the other day and we were kind of trying to figure out what the … we were doing together as a couple before Tara came back to town. We were joking around, it must have just been the sex maybe because he really doesn’t like me. He really isn’t into Wendy, but she did get pregnant. So it must have just been that. I don’t know what it was. I think maybe she was very vulnerable and he kind of took care of her. I don’t know. Maybe he was just, you know, one of those love the one you’re with if you can’t be with the one you love. Love the one you’re with and she was there and easy. I’m sure she was somewhat easy because she was such a mess and vulnerable and a drug addict. Yes, I would love to see what that was all about. Nobody minds being in a scene with Charlie Hunnam for too long.
Q: What did you do to take off the baby weight?
Drea de Matteo: Oh my God. You’re just kidding me. I gained 80 pounds with my daughter and then I gained 60 pounds with my son. I love it that someone showed me that when you Google my name it comes up Drea de Matteo fat, Drea de Matteo weight gain. The funniest thing and I don’t even care because I know that I have this most smoking body of all time my whole life. I never really went on a diet, to be honest with you, because I don’t care about that stuff as much as other people do. I was happy. So it took me two years to take the baby weight off. The difference between taking it off–well it’s different in Hollywood. People are so crazy about taking off that weight. You keep weight off when you do it that way. I didn’t starve myself. I ate my regular meals. Now I’m down to my last 15 pounds. I have a delivery food diet coming to me which is by Sun Fair, but that’s it. I don’t really stick to it to be honest with you. I am an eating fool. I try to cut out carbs and work out. That’s all I can do. We just did an exercise video called “F… You, I’m 40.”
Q: When does that come out?
Drea de Matteo: I don’t know. We’re editing now. But it’s ridiculous. It’s basically, my trainer training me and I’m behind her putting food in my mouth and doing everything wrong because that’s really who I am.