After taking a lengthy hiatus from the outlaw biker series to start a family, 'The Sopranos' alumn is back on 'SOA' as Wendy Chase, a former junkie who is now clean sober and ready to be a mom. Drea theorizes on her character's return & her intentions.
"I'm really happy to be back on Sons Of Anarchy, because it's like a big happy family that I'm coming back home to," Drea de Matteo says about her character's (Wendy Case) recent return to Season Five of the hit FX series. "Everyone is really close and tight, from the actors to the crew, and I love them all. You know, I came from that kind of atmosphere when I was on The Sopranos. I understand that dynamic. At Sons, they're always so welcoming and happy that I am there for a brief moment. I'm so happy to be there. I hope they're okay with having me there every now and then to shake some things up."
Just take a quick glance at the official online Sons Of Anarchy community app and you quickly discover that fans of the Kurt Sutter-created series -- about the ruthless world of outlaw bikers who live, ride and die for brotherhood in the small town of Charming, California -- are extremely excited that de Matteo has returned to the fold. As of this moment, Drea (pronounced "dray") has only been on SOA for ten episodes over its five seasons. She appeared in the pilot and several Season One episodes as the pregnant, drug-addicted old lady of the, then, second-in-command member of SAMCRO, Jax (Charlie Hunnam). The actress didn't reappear until last year for two episodes, but now her character, Wendy, is back -- clean and sober -- and ready to get to know her son with Jax, Abel, who has been adopted by Jax's wife and mother of his second child, Tara (Maggie Siff). Initially, Jax's mom, Gemma (Katey Sagal) -- who has always been one of Wendy's greatest nemesis -- talks her into confronting Tara and threatening her with the possibility of taking the happy couple to court to get her son back. However, with Jax now in the president's seat of the biker club, Tara feels even more protective of her two sons and calls Wendy on her bluff. While Wendy now seems to be waving the white flag, fans of the show are wondering what her real intentions are.
"I definitely don't think she has any ulterior motives," de Matteo says of Wendy's return to Charming. "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. It's 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.
Wendy (Drea de Matteo) confronts Tara (Maggie Siff) on 'Sons Of Anarchy'
"She's not 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," the 40-year-old actress continues. "I think she'd like to just get along with everybody. Having gone through the program, I think she'd like to be 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 do think that if she's pushed, 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. 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.
"But anyone who watches television shows knows that they all have twists and turns -- especially on Sons Of Anarchy -- where the least expected thing to happen will happen," she adds. "Even with Gemma (Sagal) trying to cozy up to her, for her own twisted reasons, 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. So, 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."
Tara (Maggie Siff), Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Jax (Charlie Hunnam) with a newborn Abel in Season 1 of 'Sons of Anarchy'
While Tara has stood up to Wendy, her biggest obstacle in becoming a part of her son's life is Abel's dad, Jax (Hunnam). While Tara understands Wendy's maternal feelings and has softened up a bit towards her, it may not be as easy convincing Jax to let her share in her son's daily activities. "Jax operates from a place of wanting to protect Tara a lot of the time," says de Matteo, the mother of two children with singer/songwriter Shooter Jennings. "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. But it's a drama, so who knows what could possibly happen?"
If there is one person who really doesn't know what Wendy is going to do next, it's de Matteo. When asked to ante up a few hints about what fans can expect in future episodes, the former star of The Sopranos doesn't have a clue, and it's not because she doesn't want to let out any SOA state secrets -- she just simply doesn't read past the script for the episode she's appearing in. "To be honest, I haven't seen any other episodes than you have seen, so I don't know what's going to happen, because we only shot it a little bit ago -- I'm still not caught up with the end of the last season," she admits. "I refuse to read the scripts because I'm a fan of the show myself. Look, I'm not on the show very much. I just kind of pop in and out. I'm such a huge fan, so 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. 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."
Charlie Hunnam as Jax on 'Sons Of Anarchy'
It's surprising that de Matteo is even back on Sons Of Anarchy. According to Drea, Wendy wasn't even supposed to be alive today. "Originally, the character was going to die in the pilot," she reveals. "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 I became a huge fan of the show while I was off of it. Then I just started writing Kurt and Katey (Sagal, Sutter's real-life wife) and saying, 'Oh my God, I can't believe what's going on. When does the next season air?' I was like, 'I want to come back!"
Having played Adriana La Carva for over seven years on the classic mob series The Sopranos, de Matteo followed that up by doing a one season stint on Joey, the ill-fated Friends spin-off with Matt LeBlanc, before agreeing to be a part of Sons Of Anarchy. But, as abovementioned, de Matteo couldn't commit full-time to SOA, because she wanted to concentrate on something closer to her own heart. "I wanted to make babies," she says softly, when asked about her three season absence from Sons Of Anarchy. "I had been working almost non-stop, and I wasn't getting any younger, so I wanted to raise children with Shooter. I have a son that is nineteen months, and my daughter is going to be five. I love being a mom. So, I can kind of understand where Wendy is coming from with her need to be a part of Abel's life, because wild horses couldn't keep me away from my kids."
Drea de Matteo on 'Desperate Housewives'
If there was any drawback for de Matteo in having children, it was the side effects that usually accompanies most pregnancies. "I was 200 pounds overweight after having my kids," she jokingly admits. Two hundred pounds sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. “Well, okay, I was 70 pounds overweight, so one recognized me when I did Californication (this past season), because I was giant on Californication,” she adds. “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' or 'Drea de Matteo weight gain.' It's the funniest thing, but I don't even care because I know that I have this most smoking body of all time -- my whole life.”
Now that she is back on Sons Of Anarchy, de Matteo looks as slim and gorgeous as she did in Season One. What happened to restore Drea back to her sexy self? "Oh my God, you're just kidding me, right,” she responds when I mention how stunning she looks these days. “Thanks for saying that, though. Look, 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**k You, I'm 40.'"
While there hasn’t been a date set for the release of her new “F-bomb” titled work-out DVD, de Matteo says it should be out soon. “We're editing it now,” she explains. “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."
Drea de Matteo as Adriana and Michael Imperioli as Christopher on 'The Sopranos'
Drea de Matteo, despite her temporary weight gain, is also one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. Because of her tenures on The Sopranos, Joey, Desperate Housewives and Sons Of Anarchy, in addition to her starring roles in such hit films as Assault on Precinct 13, Beacon Hill and Deuces Wild, people are continually stopping her on the street to ask for autographs. Their requests almost always include her devotees mentioning how they loved her as Adriana on The Sopranos -- until just recently.
"I'll be totally honest with you, The Sopranos has been off the air for so long, it's shocking to me that people even remember me," she confesses. "But, I guess, it's still The 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. But recently, we got pulled over for not having an updated registration on the car in New York. Now, New York is only Sopranos territory -- that's good. But, this cop was so mean. I have never experienced anything like it before, it was abuse, basically. 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. But, then he took my license. He went back and did his work and came back. A: I should've gotten a ticket cause the registration was so overdue, and B: I was thinking, 'Oh, he totally recognized me from The Sopranos, for sure.' He hands me back my license and he goes, 'Sons Of Anarchy, right?' And I was thinking, 'You're not even going to give me a ticket and you just abused me in front of my children and you walk to talk about Sons...?' But I didn’t say anything. Luckily, he didn't give me a ticket after all, so I was like, 'Thank you Sons Of Anarchy.' That was my first time having someone recognize me from Sons..., and I'm so glad they came to my rescue at just the right time."
Drea de Matteo as Adriana on 'The Sopranos'
Needless to say, fans are happy that Drea de Matteo has returned to Sons Of Anarchy, but is she back for good? Or will she stage another disappearance? "I'm going to have to say that's totally, one hundred percent up to (executive producer, writer and creator) Kurt (Sutter)," de Matteo admits. "I'm back now. I'm open, 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."
She goes on to say that she and Sutter have never really discussed where Wendy will end up when Sons of Anarchy goes off the air after Season Seven. "Kurt has never said to me, 'Well, this is what I want to happen to Wendy,'" she explains. "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 decided to keep 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, I didn't really develop as a character. 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. When I did Adriana, (The Sopranos creator) 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 works, because it's also very much who I am in real life. We'll see."
Tara (Siff) and Jax (Hunnam) on 'Sons of Anarchy'
Could Sutter possibly have flashbacks in mind to revisit the genesis of the early relationship between Jax and Wendy, that fans know almost nothing about? "We've never discussed the possibility of flashbacks, because I don't know that he would think that anybody would even want to see that," says de Matteo, who begins filming the Lifetime Channel movie Stalkers in November. "I was talking with Charlie (Hunnam) on the set, the other day, and we were kind of trying to figure out what Jax and Wendy were doing together as a couple before Tara came back to town. We were joking around, and we decided it must have just been the sex, 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. Maybe he was just 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. Of course, I would love to see what that was all about. But, Kurt hasn't mentioned it. That would be cool, though. Plus, nobody minds being in a scene with Charlie Hunnam for too long.”
At the moment, de Matteo is just happy to be back. She's also glad that her old man, Shooter Jennings, is continuing to get his songs played on Sons Of Anarchy. However, de Matteo isn't sure on which episodes fans will get to hear more of Jennings music. "I thought his song was supposed to be in last night's (October 2) episode, but I don't think it made it," she says. "Shooter 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 Griffith that's going to be on the show."
Drea de Matteo with her longtime beau + the father of her two children, musician Shooter Jennings in 2005
Drea is just taking it day-by-day on the set of Sons Of Anarchy and keeping her fingers crossed that Wendy gets more screen time. Surprisingly, while she is hoping for more scenes to appear in, de Matteo admits that she was glad that Wendy didn't have to show up for Opie's wake or funeral. "I'll be totally, one hundred percent, honest with you -- I've been in so many funerals scenes from The Sopranos, and I think I've even been in one on Sons Of Anarchy, that I've had me fill of them," she says. "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 if it's heat wave it's the worst. Plus, it was okay that Wendy didn't need to be there. I don't think she 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 not just to 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, they would have told you 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."
Hopefully, the next funeral isn't Wendy's. "If she dies, I would have still had a great time doing the show, I will always remember it as a high point in my life," de Matteo admits. "I loved, and I continue to love, playing Wendy. 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 being a drug addict is 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... As Wendy, 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."
Season 5 episodes of Sons Of Anarchy air Tuesday nights at 10:00pmET/9:00pmCT on the FX Network. (Check local listings)
Sons Of Anarchy: Season 4 is now available on Blu-ray & DVD!Sons Of Anatchy: Season 4 Blu-ray Bonus Features:SOA Gear; Deleted Scenes; "Dorylus" - Extended Scenes; "Brick" - Extended Scenes; Commentary on "Out"; "Family Recipe" - Extended Scenes; "Kiss" - Extended Scenes; Commentary on "Hands" with Peter Weller; Commentary on "Hands" with Kurt Sutter, Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff; Gag-Reel; Pineys Farewell; The Fans of Anarchy; "Anarchy at House of Blues"; Commentary on "To Be - Act 1" and Commentary on "To Be - Act 2."