First of all, get this: She's a huge fan of the show. "For some reason, the real prissy homemakers appeal to me the most," she says, singling out Marcia Cross' Bree and Dana Delany's Katherine. "I'm obsessed with their wardrobes."
Plus, she remembers a time when she considered giving up acting altogether and wished she could just get a gig on a long-running TV show, and specifically mentioned Housewives. Lastly, when her longtime boyfriend, musician Shooter Jennings, proposed to de Matteo recently, the marriage-averse actress replied, "You're not going to make a f---ing Desperate Housewife out of me." As Mary-Alice might say in a ghostly voiceover: The very next day came the call that executive producer Marc Cherry wanted to video-conference with her.
It's an interesting marriage of actor, character and show for sure, in that de Matteo has made her name as the go-to tough-tawkin' broad on The Sopranos and Joey, and Desperate Housewives has a certain suburban gentility to it. "You'd be surprised — she belongs there more than you'd think," de Matteo says, recalling that Cherry told her he was looking for someone to be "the complete opposite of all those girls."
De Matteo plays Angie Bolen, an outspoken Italian-American who moves to Wisteria Lane from New York City looking for a fresh start with her husband, Nick (24's Jeffrey Nordling), and their brooding, 19-year-old son, Danny (newcomer Beau Mirchoff). The season premiere includes a shocking development that may or may not involve the Bolens. One thing's for sure, though: They picked the wrong block if the goal was to keep a secret. Just ask Mary-Alice Young, Betty Applewhite, Orson Hodge, Katherine Mayfair and Dave Williams.
As we prepare for Housewives' sixth-season premiere (Sunday, 9/8c, ABC), TVGuide.com spoke to de Matteo about what exactly is Angie's requisite mysterious past, who might be her new Wisteria Lane buddy and whether she'd ever like to switch it up and star in, say, a romantic comedy. (Hint: Fuhgettaboutit.)
TVGuide.com: Tell us about Angie Bolen.
Drea de Matteo: Angie has no edit button. She's not the typical Italian-American housewife. She's similar to Adriana [de Matteo's Sopranos character] in that I use the same accent, but she's a lot smarter. She's a woman; Adriana was a kid. But she doesn't take any sh--, says exactly how she feels and definitely has a dark past, otherwise there'd be no reason to have her on the show.
TVGuide.com: Is she a flirt? Any chance she'll set her sights on another Desperate Husband?
de Matteo: No, I don't think that her main interest is in dealing with men. I think she's more interested in fitting in with the girls. Everyone keeps asking me if I'm coming on as the minx, but no. If they were looking for the Edie replacement, they would have cast someone way hotter. Way hotter.
TVGuide.com: How much do you know about the Bolens' backstory?
de Matteo: I know that they've never lived in the suburbs before, and that this is a fresh start. It changed a few times, but now I think we're saying they're from Manhattan. But in my own personal bio [of Angie], I would say she was born in Brooklyn or the Bronx — somewhere pretty tough, somewhere where she could learn a lot of street smarts. [Nick] is a landscaper, which always kind of surprised me since we were living in Manhattan.
TVGuide.com: Is this a witness-protection situation? Are they on the run?
de Matteo: Well, I don't fully know yet. It would be pretty funny if she was on the lam and then all of a sudden you find out that her real name is Adriana. The only place they could ever get away with a joke that big is on Desperate Housewives.
TVGuide.com: Tell us about Danny. Is Angie a protective mother?
de Matteo: Very. She loves her son like all Italian mothers love their sons: Their lives revolve around them.
TVGuide.com: So it's fair to say that she'd do anything to protect him?
de Matteo: Yes. My son definitely gets into a little bit of trouble in the beginning, but nothing major.
TVGuide.com: Who's Angie's buddy on the block going to be?
de Matteo: Well, she lives directly across the street from Susan and to the left of her is Gabrielle. I think that she and Bree would [clash]. Angie is the type of woman who doesn't see that she's outspoken or flashy. Even though she's a real broad and doesn't take any bullsh-- from anybody, she really just wants to have friends and fit in and be cool with everyone, but a lot of stuff happens that doesn't allow that to happen for her at times. So... who would she become friends with?
TVGuide.com: I imagine her and Katherine together for some reason.
de Matteo: I'm not sure who she's going to end up sticking with yet, but I definitely think it would be fun to play against the more prissy characters there. I see Angie getting along the best with Lee and Bob because they're liberal, the outcasts. All the other women are more on the Republican side, and my character is not.
TVGuide.com: Do you ever get sick of playing the brassy Italian chick?
de Matteo: I don't think anybody is ever going to call me to play someone who is mousy and demure. People like to see certain actors do certain things, and people like to see me play that role. I also have no interest in playing a normal girl in a romantic comedy in some cutesy thing. I'd be bored off my a--, I think, not doing some accent and some big character. Otherwise it's a f---ing snooze for me.