Binge watches and rewatches are increasingly popular, thanks to quarantine-related lockdowns. Sure, some of those restrictions are lifting in various states, but why risk it when you can race to finish Cheers before it leaves Netflix, or otherwise fill in some of the glaring omissions in your pop-culture diet?
Unsurprisingly, The Sopranos is among the top picks for a quarantine (re)watch, drawing fans old and new. And now David Chase’s quintessential prestige drama is being parsed by one of the very people who helped make it one of the greatest TV series on Made Women, a podcast hosted by Sopranos star Drea de Matteo and Chris Kushner. (Check out an exclusive preview of this week’s episode below.) de Matteo, who played Adriana La Cerva for five seasons (with an appearance in the sixth), says she never intended to host any podcast, let alone a retrospective on the acclaimed HBO series.
“I’ll be honest with you,” de Matteo tells The A.V. Club, “this thing kind of chose us. The thing with me and Chris is, no matter where we go, everybody that hangs around us says, “You guys should take this show on the road.” And we’re like, “This is not a show, asshole. This is what friendship looks like and smells like, and feels like.” [Chris] is the woman who made sure I didn’t sleep through the rest of this year, because I could have easily have just taken a rain check on 2020.”
Kushner’s learned a lot about her good friend’s work while watching the show with her, a discovery she shares with the Made Women audience. “We have lots of followers from the ages 13 to 18. I’m floored by this young whole generation coming in,” Kushner says. “Drea and I just assume when we do these podcasts that everyone has seen the show and they’re rewatching with us. But it’s not that. We’ve got a lot of new people who are like, “Oh, don’t say any spoilers.” So we’re really trying hard not to spoil some stuff, but you know... It’s hard.” de Matteo says her “20-year-old assistant has no idea” about Adriana’s fate. “And of course I just cavalierly continued talking about it and she’s like, ‘Shut up.’”
Guests on this season of Made Women include de Matteo’s former co-stars Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, as well as Bill Burr (“his wife is a Sopranos super-fan,” Kushner notes), and Juliette Lewis. Michael Imperioli also reunited with de Matteo on May 28—“the prince and the princess!,” Kushner dubs them. “Here’s the thing with us, with the guests,” de Matteo says. “When we first started out, we didn’t want guests. We didn’t want to do press. We didn’t want to do anything until we understood what we were doing. We really needed to find our stride and understand what a podcast was going to feel like. I was a nervous wreck, to be honest. We took a break from all that because Chris and I really wanted to find our voices within the the show.”
New episodes of Made Women are released every Monday and Thursday (for the most part), but despite their high productivity, de Matteo and Kushner didn’t set out to do a rewatch podcast—they had a different idea altogether, along with other joint ventures in the works. But once the erstwhile Adriana started watching old episodes, she realized The Sopranos “is so entrenched in people’s neurosis and psychology, world topics, existential topics. People trying to better themselves, continuously, even a mob boss. This show was so successful; it not only transcended TV, it transcended the mob genre and what a family show would look like.” But their banter is apparently just as prized as their analysis—de Matteo says “people wanted us to do an extra show. They loved our rewatch, but they love hearing our banter, they wanted more of it.” They were happy to expand to two episodes a week (schedules allowing), because “we’re in quarantine, after all.”
Kushner notes that she and de Matteo are only an episode or two ahead of audiences in their rewatch, but she already knows which episode she wants her co-host to dish on: “I cannot wait to get into the episode where Drea is offed.” de Matteo laughs, “We have a long time for that to happen.” But she seems just as eager to talk about “Long Term Parking,” the season-five episode that features Adriana’s off-screen death, a moment she believes represents a turning point for the show.
“It’s funny, Michael and I actually talked about it a little bit on Made Women,” de Matteo says. “Obviously I felt yes, there’s respect in not showing Adriana’s death, but more than anything, it was the scene between Christopher and Adriana, where she confessed to him. For me, that was the end of the line for me. I went from life to death within that scene as a character.” She believes “the way that scene was written was for me one of the most beautifully done scenes.... I felt like I had come full circle, and it was okay for me to exit at that point. I was never meant to be a series regular. I literally stepped in shit. I got so lucky. David loves my character and he developed that character and worked her into the life of the show.”
de Matteo has plenty of thoughts to share about the enduring appeal of the show—and the impression left by her character.
My son, who’s nine, sets me up today. He goes: “Why do people call you the rat?” [Laughs.] At the very beginning, people were really up my ass. “You’re a rat, you’re a rat.” We had so many different audiences, but I always knew who that audience was—the ones who only saw her as a rat were the ones that were watching because they were into the mob genre. But Adriana’s position, what she became... I realized it then, and I’ve seen it more now in retrospect, that she was like a sacrificial lamb on the show. She was pure innocence. I think she symbolized purity and innocence. And she symbolized all the things that all of those men were having their existential crisis over. She’s always trying to better. She never had an agenda. Even Carmela and Melfi were more calculating about their reasons for staying. Adriana was the innocence and when they killed her off, we all knew the show was going to take a really dark turn, and it did.
I’m so in love with the show again. I was such a super-fan when I was on it. I was the one actor who refused to read the script. So the other actors would make fun of me and say, “Oh, you’re that fucking asshole who doesn’t read the script, that only reads her own shit because you’re selfish.” I was like, “No, I am a massive super-fan. And you guys can’t fuck with my Sunday mojo. Sundays are mine and I’m going to watch the show with the rest of the world.”