Drea de Matteo
A cigarette-smoking, trash talking girl from Queens, Drea de Matteo looked the way her name sounded, hard hitting and full of Italian attitude. As a young girl, Drea (pronounced "Dray") often attended rehearsals with her playwright mother at New York City's prestigious HB Studio. But this early exposure to the world of theater served only to convince Drea that she did not want a career in acting. She kept this view through adolescence and applied to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts with the intention of becoming a director. A completed screenplay granted her admission to the elite film program. While at NYU, Drea took acting classes solely to gain perspective as a director. But she received overwhelmingly positive feedback in these classes and by the time she graduated, she had herself a manager. Drea had only appeared in a couple of guest spots on unmentionable TV shows when she landed the part of the hostess in David Chase's experimental, cutting-edge, modern day mob pilot, "The Sopranos" (HBO 99-). Originally, Drea was going for the role of an "Italian bimbo. " But David didn't think Drea seemed Italian enough so he stuck her in the tiny role of the hostess at the Italian restaurant frequented by the mobsters and their families. As the hostess, she performed her two lines sans the now famous gritty Jersey/New York accent. To her surprise, Drea was called back to take the role of Adriana La Cerva, the uber-moll girlfriend of young mobster Christopher Molesanti. The role was meant to not last more than a few episodes but Drea played the part with such memorable flair that she was soon written in as a fixture on the show. In the following seasons, her influence as Christopher's fiancée continued to grow. Drea also continued to gain fans and secured a bit of a cult following as the quintessential straight-talking, long-nailed tough girl. While garnering praise and ever increasing notoriety for her role as Adriana on "The Sopranos," Drea also made some impressive ventures into the film world. She appeared in several indie films in 1999 and 2000 including "The Gentleman from Boston" and in 2001 landed the role of a Puerto Rican drug lord in the film "R Xmas," directed by noted indie director Abel Ferrara, which premiered at Cannes. Drea's brief appearance as a New York club girl in the Jon Favreau's directorial debut "Made" was hailed as one of the film's best moments. Her brief role in 2001's "Swordfish" similarly showcased Drea's talents; she played the alcoholic ex-wife of a convicted computer hacker. She next appeared as a gang leader's girlfriend in "Deuces Wild," (2002) a 1950s mob drama featuring several noted actors such as Debbie Harry, Norman Reedus, Balthazhar Ghetty, Brad Renfro, Frankie Muniz and Fairuza Balk. She also received strong notices for her turn in 2003's "Prey for Rock & Roll," as the tough, self-destructive bassist Tracy, a trust-fund baby fighting a losing battle with drugs and alcohol, in Gina Gershon's all band the Clam Dandys. As her role in "The Sopranos" became increasingly pivitol to the mob drama in 2004--earning her an Emmy in the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama category during her final season on the show--she also landed the plum role of Matt Le Blanc's tough single-mom sister Gina in the highly anticipated "Friends" spin-off "Joey" (NBC, 2004-06). After that series ended, de Matteo began a recurring role on motorcycle drama "Sons of Anarchy" (FX 2008-14) and joined the cast of "Desperate Housewives" (ABC 2004-2012) in its later seasons. During this period, she also starred in romantic drama "Once More With Feeling" (2009) and Ally Walker's indie drama "Sex, Death and Bowling" (2015). De Matteo's next major TV role came in the Jennifer Lopez-starring police drama "Shades of Blue" (NBC 2014-18), as Detective Tess Nazario.