Drea de Matteo is a little sad. She’s finally become a regular cast member on Sons of Anarchy as Wendy, Jax’s ex-junkie baby mama, and the show is riding off the air at the end of its current seventh season. “Now that I’m in there, I want to keep going!” de Matteo says. At least she’s getting lots of juicy scenes as she helps Jax (Charlie Hunnam) raise their son, Abel, as well as Thomas, his infant boy with now-dead old lady Tara (Maggie Siff). The Queens, New York, native talked to Vulture about Wendy’s life expectancy, The Sopranos’ still-controversial finale, and why she’s “too much of a whore for network TV!”
Wendy busted herself out of rehab after 9 of 90 days. Is it possible she’s cleaned up her act or will this turn out to be a bad decision?
Well, I don’t know. That would be giving away the story! But so far, I feel like her purpose for leaving was to be with her son, not to rush out and get high again. She’s never looking to get high again — it kind of creeps up on her. So she’s trying to do the right thing now because she sees how damaged everyone else is. There’s not much anybody else can do to take care of those boys. She’s gotta step up.
Paris Barclay recently told Vulture that Wendy has become “the voice of sanity and reason” on the show. Is that a surprise to you?
Oh, yes, the irony! I am the most stable character. I’m probably the only character who’s done so much work on herself spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically, in order to get rid of that big monkey on my back. She’s learned how to deal with her demons. She’s a lot like Adriana on The Sopranos: She’s a victim of circumstance, she’s innocent, and she’s fragile. People made her out to be a villain at the beginning of the show, but she was the most fragile character, and now her fragility is the thing that gives her strength.
Does she still have romantic feelings for Jax?
How could she not?
That’s true. He is Charlie Hunnam.
I have romantic feelings for Jax! I’m just kidding. She’s been spending a lot of time with women in the past few seasons, so maybe she’ll become gay. A lot of sisters have gone that way when they’ve decided there’s nothing really left to be had from an old man. She was very much in love with Jax, but she couldn’t do the right thing. She knows he’s in love with Tara. He will always love Tara. Wendy’s relationship with Jax now is all about the love of those children. And their protection.
She seems to have struck an uneasy truce with Jax’s murderous mom, Gemma (Katey Sagal). Why does Wendy trust her?
I do believe Wendy’s very trusting. She’s complicated, but at the same time, one of the more simple characters on the show. She’s not out to betray anybody. She doesn’t have a master plan, which is why she’s one of the innocent ones. With Gemma or Tara, whichever one of those women would be able to give her entrée to her son, she would learn to maneuver within those confines. Gemma has been genuine with her up until this season. And we’ll see what happens this season.
Does she feel like a stepmom to Thomas, Jax’s son with Tara?
She’s trying to make up for lost time with her own son. In doing that, she’s also proving herself. And they’re innocent little babies. Wendy, in the end, really had respect for Tara and the fact that she’s gone, that she was killed, is just a fucking atrocity to Wendy. It doesn’t matter what her feelings for Jax are, what her feelings of jealousy might have been, it’s just insanity. Nothing else matters except making sure those boys are taken care of, and that’s where she comes from.
You’re a single mom of two kids, with your ex-boyfriend Shooter Jennings. Do you identify with Wendy’s maternal instincts?
Oh, yeah! I could not identify with harming my child or giving up my child. But I could identify with giving up my child if it were going to be ultimately in his best interest. She recognized that and left. But there would also be a side of me that would not stop fighting for my child.
You’re still shooting the final season. Do you know if you’ll survive?
I don’t even know if I’m alive right now! Nobody’s safe, man.
Does it feel like The Sopranos all over again?
Yeah, but you know what’s funny? With Sons of Anarchy, I had to leave a couple of times — I got another show, and I had a baby — so they sent me off to rehab. If I hadn’t left, they probably would’ve killed me off by now.
How upset were you when Adriana was killed off The Sopranos?
It was upsetting to the fans, and it was just as upsetting to me. It really, truly is sad when it’s over, man. To not have that regularness, that familiarity. I love working in television because of that. It’s like going to see your family every day. Not being part of The Sopranos artistically anymore was shitty, but I knew we were about to end. Whenever these shows end, it’s tough. Everybody’s gonna feel it.
Did you keep watching The Sopranos after you were killed off?
Of course I watched it! I’m a huge fan. I’m a huge fan of this show, too. That’s why I came back. I was watching it, and I texted Kurt [Sutter] and Katey and said, “This show is so fucking amazing. Can I come back out of rehab and wreak some havoc?” And they said, “Shit yeah, come back!” I just got all hooked on the show, and that was that.
What did you think of The Sopranos finale?
With all of these shows, in a way, you never quite know how they’ll end. I heard about an article where David Chase supposedly said Tony lived at the end, then he retracted the statement. Is that true?
Yes, that actually happened.
All I know about is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse these days, so I’m clueless. But someone told me that yesterday. I don’t know what the hell the ending was, but what David Chase did was took a show that was the No. 1 water-cooler conversation of the week and turned it up to 11. People were saying on Monday morning, “What the fuck happened to my TV? Did something glitch out?” Or, “I can’t believe he ended it that way — it’s so cheap.” But if he’d killed Tony, the fans would’ve been outraged. Had he let him live, they also would have been enraged. It’s impossible to satisfy all those fans. So it’s best to leave an abstract painting and you decide for yourself what you want. I thought it was genius.
How do you think it will influence SOA’s finale?
Whether or not FX would do something like that, I’m not sure. FX is a different playground from HBO. They push the bar in a lot of ways with the violence, but they have to stick to a formula. The Sopranos had no boundaries whatsoever. FX is not a premium channel, so they have to adhere to some sort of guidelines. We still can’t say fuck. We can murderize people and pull people’s hearts out of their assholes, but we can’t say fuck.
You did a couple of runs on network TV with Joey and Desperate Housewives. Are you happy to be back on cable?
Oh my God, I don’t know if I could ever do network TV again. That was very, very difficult for me. In retrospect, I would go back and do Joey again. Strangely enough, because I had such animosity towards that whole experience at the time. I didn’t want to do it, and I kinda got pushed into it. But looking back on it, me and Matt [LeBlanc] had so much fun. And I had a blast with the crew. There was just so much pressure on the show, and I was so nervous because I hadn’t done anything like that before, that it was tough. I would go back and do it again, but only with Matt, because I love him.
What about Desperate Housewives?
That was not my cup of tea at the time. They didn’t know what they wanted to do with the character. If they had more of a sense, it might have worked better. But it was like trying to find her in six months’ time, and it just didn’t work out. It was tough. I prefer to be on cable TV. I’m too out there, man.
You’re too hot for network TV!
You can’t rein me in. I can’t be a fuckin’ cheerleader. I’m too fucking loudmouthed for network TV. I’m too much of a whore for network TV!
I wouldn’t say that! Can you tell us about the cable drama you’re developing with your mother, playwright Donna de Mateo?
We sold a show to HBO called Pleasant Avenue, and they were full-force developing us, but then Boardwalk Empire came along and trumped us. [CEO] Chris Albrecht got fired, I got pregnant, and the show folded. That was seven years ago. Now we’re going to revisit it. It’s about my great grandmother, who was a midwife in Harlem in the ’50s. She became in her own way like a Don. She wasn’t just delivering children, she was also getting people abortions on the side. She had her finger on every politician, every Hollywood star, people in Washington, Park Avenue. Her reach was so far because she was so reputable. It takes place in her townhouse, and it’s really about her family, which is my grandmother, my mother, and my grandfather — who brought heroin to this country before he was a made man in the Mafia …
Yeah! Now that everybody’s dead, my mother told me I’m allowed to say whatever I want.
Would you play your grandmother?
Yes, and I want Isabella Rossellini to play my great grandmother, who’s the main character. Isabella doesn’t know this yet.
She does now! Anything else coming up?
What I do have coming out now, which is not as exciting but it’s still fun, is a little web series I did called The #Muthaship. I’m not sure who’s putting it out, but it’s with Endemol. It’s six-minute episodes, once a week, examining the life of a single mom, and that’s me.
So it’s a reality show?
Yes! I decided, when I turned 42 and my dad died, [that] I would just say yes to things I’d never say yes to before. People drive me crazy to do reality shows all the time. I finally said yes to doing one with a group of my friends. I just did it for a good time. But Pleasant Avenue is my passion.