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Interview with Drea de Matteo

From "Assault on Precinct 13"


Drea de Matteo Brian Dennehy

Drea de Matteo and Brian Dennehy in "Assault on Precinct 13"

© Rogue Pictures
Page 4

What is it about this girl’s writing that sets her apart? What makes this particular story special?
It was the first play I’d ever done. We turned it into a screenplay. I sat on her while she turned it into a screenplay. “I’m not letting you move until you turn it into a screenplay.” It’s sort of set in the way that “Smoke” was set. It’s a pharmacy where a bunch of very broken people hang out. It’s about two twins and one of the twins – it opens where one of the twins had just died, and they both have muscular dystrophy. And it’s progressing in the one who’s alive. It just kind of…all these different characters are there. One of the guys is autistic.

It sounds insanely dramatic, but it’s not. It happens to be really, really funny but at the same time very tragic, and then hopeful also at the end. It’s really kind of a romance between my character and the boy with muscular dystrophy. And she’s a drug addict.

You’re going to direct and act in it?
Yeah. We’re going to direct it together because I’m in it so much. She’s never directed so we’re going to do it together. It’s going to be fun. (Laughing) And then I won’t have to act anymore. I can just act in my own projects and I won’t be talking like this [lays on the heavy Queens accent] in any of them, unless they’re really great like “The Sopranos.”

What is your background?
I’m Italian. Italian-American. I was born in Queens, which I hammed up to the nth degree when I started “Sopranos” because I really wanted it to be truthful. I didn’t want anybody to think I was faking an accent because the accent’s so huge, you know? I grew up on the Upper East Side.

How big a difference is it working on a sitcom from working on a drama like “The Sopranos?”
It’s night and day. It’s a whole different thing. I did it sort of because it was a huge challenge for me. The only thing that I could bring to the party was that I’d done a lot of theatre, and it’s very much like doing theatre. I think that when people watch sitcoms they say and think that this is the mediocre actors who are doing this. This is not the real acting. Jesus Christ, it might be more real than anything there is. It’s the most difficult thing there is to do.

People who are doing sitcoms deserve the most respect. I understand why they get a million dollars an episode, because they work you to the bone. And having to make people laugh is probably 10 times harder than ever having to make anybody cry. It’s definitely very intense and you’re onstage. It’s theatre. You’re a comedian and you’re there to entertain people for seven hours in that audience. So it’s very hard and I have a lot of respect for people who have been doing it for a long time.

Do you enjoy doing comedy?
I’m learning how to do comedy right now. It’s all a learning process for me. I enjoy learning but more than anything, I have so much fun with Matt LeBlanc that whether I love it or not really makes no difference to me because I just really have that much fun with him and playing with him. Being onstage with him is great. We all have a lot of fun together.

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