Drea de Matteo





Actress

Born Andrea Donna de Matteo, January 19, 1973, in New York, NY; daughter of Albert (a furniture manufacturer) and Donna (a playwright) de Matteo. Education: Graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, B.F.A. (film production).

Addresses: Agent —United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., 5th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Contact —Filth Mart, 531 E. 13th St., New York, NY 10009. Management —Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, 9150 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 350, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist —PMK/HBH New York, 650 Fifth Ave., 33rd Flr., New York, NY 10019.

Career

Actress in films, including: "M" Word, 1996; Meet Prince Charming, 1999; Sleepwalk, 2000; 'R Xmas, 2001; Swordfish, 2001; Made (uncredited), 2001; The Perfect You, 2002; Deuces Wild, 2002; Love Rome, 2002; Prey for Rock & Roll, 2003; Beacon Hill, 2003; Assault on Precinct 13, 2005; Dirty Love, 2005, Go-Go Tales, 2005. Television appearances include: Swift Justice, 1996; The Sopranos, HBO, 1999-2004; Joey, NBC, 2004—. Owns a film and television production company, Great Dane Productions, as well as a New York City vintage-clothing store called Filth Mart.

Awards: Emmy Award for best supporting actress in a drama, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for The Sopranos, 2004.

Drea de Matteo

Sidelights

Drea de Matteo snared a devoted television fan base for her portrayal of hapless mob girlfriend Adriana La Cerva on the acclaimed HBO series The Sopranos. De Matteo's character was the street-savvy Jersey-girl fiancée of "Chris-tuh-fuh," as she called him, but through a series of judgment errors was forced to become an informant for the Feds. The story arc's predictable outcome won de Matteo a well-deserved Emmy Award in 2004. She went on to take a lead role in a new NBC sitcom and Friends spin-off, Joey.

De Matteo was born in 1973 and originally grew up in a gated community in Queens, the New York borough. Her mother was a playwright, and her father ran a successful furniture company whose improving fortunes prompted a move to Manhattan's posh Upper East Side when de Matteo was seven. The upheaval traumatized her because she disliked the city, the prissiness of her new Roman Catholic school for girls, and even the home they lived in—a brownstone once owned by singer Aretha Franklin and thought to be haunted. De Matteo's way of coping with the changes was to return to visit her beloved Italian-American grandmother in Queens as often as possible, and to retreat into herself. She became terrifically shy, she told Esquire 's Reed Tucker. "I played sick a lot. I missed more school than I attended. I couldn't read out loud in the classroom, and get really shaky and break out in hives."

By her account de Matteo led a turbulent lifestyle during her teens and early-adult years before settling down and earning a degree in film from New York University. She made her film debut in a 1996 project called "M" Word, and appeared in two other little-seen films before winning a bit part in the new HBO drama series The Sopranos in 1999. She was cast as a restaurant hostess in the pilot episode, but returned as the girlfriend of junior mobster Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli). The Moltisanti character was originally written as a player, a guy with lots of girlfriends, but series creator David Chase liked de Matteo's performance so much he decided to write her into the series as a regular.

De Matteo's Adriana is a working-class New Jerseyite with ambition and a taste for the good life. She works as a restaurant hostess, but later Christopher sets her up with her own nightclub to run. One day, while shopping, she is befriended by another gumsnapping, high-heeled Jersey girl, but the woman is an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent. They become fast friends, and de Matteo's incautious statements force her to become a rat. When the agents bring her in for questioning for the first time, the always-excitable and now paralyzed-by-fear Adriana memorably vomits across the conference table.

De Matteo said that her Adriana character resonated back home more than she expected. "My mother loves Adriana because she understands that a life like hers does exist," she told Deborah Sontag in a New York Times. interview. "She grew up in that world, where the women cook and clean and get a black eye now and again, and she totally broke out." Adriana spends the rest of the series trying to come to terms with her increasingly untenable position. Her tragic end came near the end of Season Five for The Sopranos in 2004, but there were already rumors that her end was imminent, for de Matteo had just signed on for a new NBC sitcom. Still, her final moments—in a series known for its regular episodes of casual, bone-crunching violence—were one of the most heartbreaking in the show's history. Despite the rumors de Matteo was jumping ship, viewers were stunned and her demise incited newspaper articles and a record number of comments on HBO message boards for the show the next day.

Later that year, de Matteo debuted in Joey, the new Matt LeBlanc sitcom spun off from the hugely successful Friends after it wrapped. She was cast as Gina Tribbiani, the hairdresser sister of LeBlanc's character. In the first episode, Joey moves from New York to Los Angeles to jump-start his acting career, and settles into an apartment with his nephew, Gina's teen-genius son.

Joey debuted as the leader for the fall NBC line-up in 2004, and scored both high ratings and excellent reviews. A few weeks later, both de Matteo and Imperioli picked up Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actors in a drama. She still takes the occasional film role, when her schedule permits. She was a lead in Prey for Rock & Roll, a 2003 film with Gina Gershon and Lori Petty. In 2005, she made her action-film debut alongside Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke in Assault on Precinct 13, a remake of John Carpenter's 1976 thriller. She was also cast in what would be her second film with noted director Abel Ferrara, 2005's Go-Go Tales, a strip-club tale that would also star Harvey Keitel and model Eva Herzigova. De Matteo had already appeared in Ferrara's 'R Xmas in 2001 about an upscale Manhattan couple involved in the heroin trade. She was also developing the feature film The Waylon Jennings Tribute, which she will also direct and produce; the film will focus on a large concert.

Over time, de Matteo came to terms with living in the city, and even came to like it. She runs an East Village vintage-clothing store called Filth Mart, which she started with her boyfriend at the time. The relationship ended, but the business was still thriving several years later. She relocated to California for the Joey job with the help of her boyfriend Shooter Jennings, son of country singers Jessi Colter and the late Waylon Jennings. Her household also includes the elderly Nicaraguan woman who took care of her when she was a child and her mother was at work. After Joey wraps production this year, de Matteo planned to head to New York to star in a play her mother wrote called The Heart Transplant.

She finds it somewhat ironic that her greatest professional success has come from portraying a certain kind of woman that lurks in her background back in the more working-class quarters of Queens. "My mother wanted so badly to get me out of that world," de Matteo told Sontag in the New York Times. "And now I'm earning a living back in that world!"

Sources

Books

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, vol. 53, Gale Group, 2004.

Periodicals

Daily Variety, September 12, 2002, p. 7.

Esquire, September 2004, p. 184.

InStyle, March 1, 2001, p. 313.

Interview, September 2004, p. 186.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, September 20, 2004.

New York Times, April 4, 2004, p. AR29.

People, October 14, 2002, p. 85.

Time, September 13, 2004, p. 82.

—Carol Brennan



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