On the hit FX drama series Sons of Anarchy, currently in its fifth season, special guest star Drea de Matteo is back as Wendy Case, Jax Teller’s (Charlie Hunnam) ex-wife. Now clean and sober, she is looking to be part of their son Abel’s life, but she will have to get passed his wife, Tara (Maggie Siff), first.
During this recent interview to promote her involvement with the show, actress Drea de Matteo (The Sopranos) talked about how she feels about her character now, whether she has any ulterior motives, the relationship between Wendy and Gemma (Katey Sagal), how much she’s enjoyed returning to the show, that her character was originally supposed to die in the pilot, and how she would be open to returning again, in future seasons. She also talked about the Lifetime movie, Stalkers, that she’ll be shooting in November, with hopes that it will turn into a TV show. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Note: Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: Wendy seems to have mellowed out and her intentions seem to be good, in that it’s just about her son. What is your take on how she is now?
DREA DE MATTEO: I 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. I don’t think that she’s holier than thou either. She still recognizes her flaws, but at the same time, she knows that she is somewhat entitled to be in this child’s life. But, she doesn’t want any drama.
As an actress, what did you do to bring her to that place?
DE MATTEO: Well, I know from some of my own experience, and many of my friends’ experiences, when going through that sort of program. The whole addiction game really forces you to focus on what brings you there and accept the only way out. So once you really put this focus on getting better and figuring out what your flaws are, that’s what brings you back. I think she could’ve been more reckless and shown up earlier, but I wasn’t really available to come back.
What were you doing?
DE MATTEO: I was making babies. And I was on another show. So, 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, and getting to a place where she likes herself. Once she can feel confident in who she is, she’ll be free to love somebody again.
As a mother, can you relate to what Wendy is going through?
DE MATTEO: Definitely, yes! Had I screwed up like that, wild horses couldn’t keep me away from my kids.
Do you think Wendy has any ulterior motives, now that she is clean and sober?
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. She’d like to make amends with all of them, but mostly to her son, so that she can be in his life. Even if it meant she couldn’t say, “I’m your mom,” she wants to 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, you will see a side of her that’s unsavory. 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. You can’t keep a mom away from their baby, for too long.
Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Wendy are far from being best friends, but because Gemma and Tara are clashing, she seems to be turning to Wendy. Is there going to be a blossoming friendship or alliance there?
DE MATTEO: I have not watched what’s gone on, and we shot it a little bit ago. I’m still not caught up with the end of last season, so I’m behind and I refuse to read the scripts because I’m a fan of the show, myself. But, I will say that there are a lot of things that I obviously can’t say. On any TV show, everything twists and turns, and especially on Sons of Anarchy. The least expected thing to happen, will happen. Where it’s been left is that Gemma is cozying up to me. Obviously, Wendy is trying to find a way in, but she wants to find the cleanest way in, so 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, but whoever is 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.
Jax has said that he definitely does not want Wendy in Abel’s life, so is she going to have to fight even harder?
DE MATTEO: I definitely think that Jax operates from a place of wanting to protect Tara, a lot of the time. In protecting Tara, he would probably try to keep Wendy away, and anything else that might threaten her. There is his son that they have invested their lives in raising and now, all of a sudden, here comes Wendy, a time bomb. God only knows if Wendy is going to be sober or not, the next day. But, as of now, I am the sanest member of the family.
Wendy didn’t get to attend Opie’s wake, but were you, personally, happy that you didn’t have to be there for the shooting of that scene, since it was really emotional?
DE MATTEO: I’ll be totally, 100% honest with you about that. I’ve been in so many funeral scenes from The Sopranos, and I think I’ve even been in one on Sons of Anarchy. Those scenes, as a human being, are the most tedious scenes, of all time. You’re waiting, all day, in the blistering hot heat. So, I didn’t need to be there. I don’t think my character would’ve been there, anyway. She would not have been welcomed. I would’ve loved to have been there, but to just be there and stand there all day, those are the worst days. But, those days are also fun because all of the actors get to hang out together and socialize and have a great time being at a funeral.
What makes Wendy a character that you want to keep coming back to play?
DE MATTEO: First of all, I would shoot myself if I ever had to play straight-forward characters that really don’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. Having all those demons makes it interesting, for me. Coming back now and being completely sober is okay, but I do like going back into the messy area. It’s an empowering thing to play now, but at the same time, I do like to play the dirty side more. So, we’ll see if she slips, or something. Wendy is always on the edge.
Has it been a challenge for you to fit in with the cast, coming in and out like you have?
DE MATTEO: No, I don’t feel like it’s been a challenge. They are a family there. I came from that on The Sopranos. I understand that dynamic. But, they’re always so welcoming and happy that I am there, even for a brief moment. I absolutely love working with Maggie Siff because I’m such a huge fan of her work. I’m so happy to be there. I hope they’re okay with having me there, every now and then, to shake stuff up.
How did you originally get involved with Sons of Anarchy?
DE MATTEO: 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. I wrote Kurt [Sutter] and Katey [Sagal] and said, “Oh, my god, I can’t believe what’s going on! When does the next season air? I want to come back! You guys have to figure out Wendy’s turn.”
When they decided to keep Wendy alive, were you allowed to develop it from that point, or were the scripts just given to you and you did what they told you?
DE MATTEO: Kurt is a great writer, so they don’t need me. When you go into a series like this, I’m sure Kurt had the entire first season outlined for himself, and knew 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, once they kept me alive, the goal was to have me there as this thorn in everybody’s side. Then, I couldn’t stay on , so they just put that story to rest, which was perfect because Wendy went away for treatment. So, I didn’t really develop anything. 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. With Adriana, David Chase would do that with me a lot. I think bringing Wendy back as a strong character is also very much who I am, in real life, but I wouldn’t say that I was involved in development. TV is a writer’s medium, 100%. The writer is 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 find that there’s a big difference in shooting for FX and shooting for HBO?
DE MATTEO: Yes, you can’t say fuck. That’s difficult for me. It’s difficult for a biker show. You say, “Get the hell out of here!,” but you really just want to say, “Get the fuck out of here!” But, the shooting is very similar. The Sopranos was a whole different ball game. It was the first of its kind. We set the structure for it. It was long shooting weeks, and tons of money went into the show. That was brand new, man. Now, you’ve got Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me and all of these great shows. No one ever knew a TV show would be treated like a small film, every week, with big budgets.
When it comes to fans, do you get recognized more for The Sopranos or Sons of Anarchy?
DE MATTEO: It’s shocking to me, I’ll be totally honest with you. The Sopranos has been off the air for so, so long. But, it’s still The Sopranos, and it never stops. Although, when I was 200 pounds, after having my kids, no one had a clue who I was, period. I was 70 pounds overweight. No one recognized me from Californication because I was giant on Californication. But, we recently got pulled over for not having updated registration on the car in New York, and New York is Sopranos territory,. We had the kids in the car and the cop was so mean. I have never experienced anything like that. It was abuse, basically. Then, he took my license and went back and did his work, and came back. I should’ve gotten a ticket ‘cause the registration was so overdue. But, he handed me back my license and said, “Sons of Anarchy, 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?” So, I was like, “Thank you, Sons of Anarchy!”
When you look at your career and the roles you’ve done, do you ever just pinch yourself?
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 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 wanted to see myself. Adriana was not myself. That was the complete opposite of me. But, that will always be my 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. I’m always playing a really strong person with a giant vulnerable streak because that’s who I am.
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?
DE MATTEO: I went to NYU for acting, for six years. I thought acting was the easy way out or in because I didn’t put in enough effort in school, being a crazy kid in college. But, I was good at it, so that was the other side of it. I would love to direct. What I’ve learned from being on set is more how to deal with actors than even the visual part of it all. The visual stuff just 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.
Do you think Wendy will be back, in future seasons?
DE MATTEO: I’m going to have to say that’s totally 100% up to Kurt [Sutter]. 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 the story he wants to tell.
Has Kurt Sutter ever spoken to you about maybe doing flashbacks about what happened with Wendy and Jax, in the past?
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. I was talking with Charlie [Hunnam] on the set, the other day, and we were trying to figure out what we were doing together, as a couple, before Tara came back to town. We were joking around that 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 took care of her. I don’t know. Maybe it was just one of those, “Love the one you’re with, if you can’t be with the one you love,” situations. She was there, and she was easy because she was such a mess and vulnerable and a drug addict. I would love to see what that was all about.
Do you have anything planned for after the show is done this season?
DE MATTEO: I’m actually starting another show. We’re not sure if it’s going to go to series, but it’s a show for Lifetime that is about stalkers. It’s actually called Stalkers. It’s 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. 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 a pretty cool show, and I’m playing a cop.
When do you start shooting that?
DE MATTEO: I think we’re going to start shooting in November. We’re still casting.
Sons of Anarchy airs on Tuesday nights on FX.