SONS OF ANARCHY continues to have an amazing cast and Drea de Matteo as Wendy has returned to make her mark. Matteo has been in some amazing television shows such as JOEY, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and THE SOPRANOS as well as the cable show CALIFORNICATION.
Drea de Matteo who plays Wendy Case, Jax’s ex-wife and ex-junkie who recently cleaned up her act and is looking to be part of her son’s young life. Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. only on FX.
I recently got a chance to ask a few questions of Drea about her role of Wendy and where she goes from here.
So lets ask you straight out, do you think Wendy has ulterior motives for trying to get back in Jax’s life?
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.
How do you think Wendy got to be where she is now to your way of thinking?
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 having children in my life. 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.
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?
Jax said in this past episode that he doesn’t want Wendy anywhere near Able or in Able’s life.
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.
So you don’t know how this is all going to play out?
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.
What keeps you coming back to play Wendy?
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.
Coming in and out of the show do you feel there is less of a connection with the cast that way?
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 stuff up.
How did you originally become involved in SONS OF ANARCHY?
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.
There is such a dramatic change in Wendy.
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.
We noticed you weren’t at Opie’s funeral scene?
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.
Now that Wendy is clean and sober, do you think she is grateful to have missed all the drama from the group?
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. I’m sorry. I’m hearing my baby screaming and yelling downstairs. Okay. 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.
Do you think Wendy just wants to take Abel and get away from the Sons?
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.
You’ve said originally that your character was suppose to be written off, did you know your character was going to get so involved?
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.
Do you get noticed more from being on the SOPRANOS or SONS OF ANARCHY?
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.
SOPRANOS and SONS OF ANARCHY, are they similar in the way they are shot?
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.
So taking time to have a family you said you were just a tad 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.
You have been on some amazing shows, how does that feel?
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, Adrian 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.
You wanted to be a director starting out, as an actress now do you still want to direct?
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.
You are also working on another show is that right?
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 about two main characters are a DA and a cop. I’m the cop. They basically come together to try and figure out ways to prevent all the stalking that goes on because there really were no laws in place to protect women or anybody, not just women from that. So it’s a pretty dicey situation.
Thanks Drea for your time and fans will be tuning in to SONS OF ANARCHY, Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. on FX!!