With a long list of solid roles under her belt (The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives and Sons of Anarchy, to name a few), a popular podcast and an anticipated new series, Paradise City, hitting Amazon Prime Video March 25, 49-year-old Drea de Matteo may seem Hollywood, but, as the mom-of-two chatted with us from her home in “The Canyon,” it’s evident she’s about as real—and rock and roll—as it gets.
Why this project?
Well, normally when a project like this comes in the inbox from the agency, they’re like, “This is a pass.” There was no studio attached. There was no network attached. There was nothing. It was just this guy [Paradise City creator, Ash Avildsen] who said, “I can make a show on my own and I don’t need anybody so here I go.” I was intrigued by that. I was like, “Wait a minute. Let me check it out.” It was all about the music industry, which I love because I love music and I’ve always dated musicians [laughs], so I kind of grew up in that world. It was shooting in L.A., and nothing shoots in L.A., so that was a plus. More than anything, I wanted to know how this guy thought he could do this. I wanted to witness someone having such great ambition and seeing it through. Was it going to be a train wreck or was it going to be good? It was like an experiment for me.
Then, I found out one of my peers from Sons of Anarchy was thinking about doing it and it sort of just played out from there. I loved watching Ash do his thing. It was really fun. It was probably one of the more fun experiences I’ve had since The Sopranos, I would say. It was really, really a good time. I felt like they were family immediately, but I had no idea what it would look like and how it would come out to be honest. I just started watching the first episode and I was hooked like it was a reality show. It feels like a high-end reality-show—I know people are going to go crazy over watching it.
Are you anything like your character?
I think Ash came to me with the role because he knew how involved I am in music. I mean, I’m not involved with the music industry, but I’ve always been involved with musicians. He knew it was a good fit. Am I like her? She’s definitely a lot bitchier than I am and a lot more confident. Normally, I play a victim in everything I do—it’s kind of my specialty and it’s kind of my favorite thing to play—but, every once in a while, I get called for these tough girl roles. She’s a pretty tough girl and I really enjoyed playing it because I get to explore that side of myself. In life, you always wish you said what you wanted to say in a certain situation. In the film, those situations actually happen. Now that I’m playing a tough bitch, I get to say all those things.
You grew up in New York and now you’re in LA. What is the big difference that you see with the beauty ideals?
When I was a young girl in New York, to me, New York had the most beautiful women, because everybody was so diverse and off-kilter. Even the people who were considered beautiful by beauty standards were a little more off-the-mark in New York. I used to work in bars, so I would see all the models come in and a lot of them were strange-looking—as opposed to out here in L.A., where it’s a very kind of homogenized look. Everyone starts looking like they morphed into each other.
But New York and L.A. are definitely different. New York is more on the edge—always. I can only compare it to the industry I’m in, but people in New York seem to care more about the actual art than the actual celebrity. But a lot of people from New York end up out here because of the weather and a million other reasons. As far as the beauty thing goes, I think here [in L.A.] I probably stand out more than I do back at home. Back at home, I’m just a regular New Yorker. Here, New Yorkers seem a little more foreign.
What I have noticed changing since I was younger—and this is across the board, on both coasts—is how we view body image, which is an amazing thing. Big is cool and being a super thin model—that type of aspiration all these girls used to look up to, myself included—is now kind of yuck. Man, I used to hate having a big ass! Now, it’s like, “Oh, God. I wish my ass was bigger!” You have J.Lo and then the Kardashians…I mean, they changed the look. Say what you want, but they really did. But whatever makes you feel beautiful, man, just do it. If it makes you feel good, then you should do it.
Your daughter just turned 13. Is she into beauty?
Oh my God. It’s all new with her! She’s still a baby in so many ways, but she’s changing every day. Her skin is changing, her hair is changing, everything is just changing so rapidly. I started to buy her a few products so she’s not using her “baby stuff” anymore—she’s very into her Florence By Mills and I got her some Kiehl’s stuff…nothing too crazy. I prefer to use stuff that’s natural on my kids and for myself and I’ve also been using this brand called Hello Mello as well. You have to use it quicker than most stuff because there’s no preservatives and it really, really absorbs into your skin. So that’s what we use as far as applying creams on her body.
You’re kind of known for your hair. What’s the secret?
I do my hair myself, but the real secret is Tracey Cunningham and Priscilla Valles. Priscilla gives me my hair—they’re extensions—and helps me copy what my hair used to look like when I was in my 20s. Then Tracy keeps that color up. They’ve been doing my hair for 16 or 17 years. Priscilla doesn’t have enough time for me anymore now because she does so much of the Kardashians’ hair. She’s busy! So, I might have to look for a new, wonderful extension lady.
You’ve been part of some really iconic shows, do you have any beauty secrets from the sets?
I don’t know anything about beauty! I only know what I know from what products they use on me on the set, and then I go home and I use the same product. For hair, I use all Oribe products because that’s what Tracy prefers for me. I use the Dry Texturing Spray and the Anti-Humidity Spray—those were the fixes when I was on Shades of Blue and on Anarchy, because we have to keep those curls in my hair. Always with the Oribe product.
As far as skin goes, I tend not to flatter my face with overly expensive, crazy creams. I like SkinCeuticals and their vitamin C. I use Barbara Sturm’s stuff and and I really like her Lifting Serum. It is miraculous. My friend turned me on to Sunday Riley. It’s amazing. That cream is awesome. It is my new favorite thing. The makeup I would use on-set—which I now bring to set and I make them buy for the set—is Clé de Peau all the time. Whenever they know I’m coming, they ask me what kind of face makeup I like to use and it’s always got to be Clé de Peau—the concealer, the face makeup, it’s the best.