The former Maxim model tells us what it was like to get the role of a lifetime playing Meadow Soprano on The Sopranos, chats about her latest performance in the comedy flick Jewtopia, and answers the Same 10 Questions We Always Ask Everyone.
In your own words, tell us a little bit about your new movie, Jewtopia, and your role in it.
It’s about two childhood best friends that reconnect when one of them decides that his lifelong dream is to marry a Jewish girl, and the only Jewish boy he ever knew was his friend from childhood, so he comes to him to help teach him how to pose as a Jew. I play his friend’s obnoxious and overbearing fiancée. It’s a fantastic cast of amazing comedians and it was an honor to get to work alongside them, because comedy was fairly new to me at the time, and working with these greats and improvising and stuff was pretty awesome.
That cast includes Jennifer Love Hewitt, Tom Arnold, Jon Lovitz, Nicollette Sheridan, Rita Wilson, and others. Was there anyone who was especially amazing to work with, or who you’d want to work with again?
Honestly, I would work with that whole cast again. I’ve never laughed so much on a set in my entire life. I’ve never had so much fun. One of my first scenes that I did was a lunch scene with Tom Arnold, and it was a “this is crazy, pinch me” kind of thing. He’s so nice and he’s so funny, and sparring with him and improvising with him was pretty crazy.
You seem to have a natural knack for comedy, though most people probably associate you with dramatic roles. How comfortable was that transition for you?
I would say I was nervous but once the nerves went away I was actually pretty comfortable. Because I tend to be more silly in my real life; I’m somebody who likes to make people laugh or at least do my best to do that, so once I felt comfortable around these people and everything it was not so bad.
As a real-life Jewish girl from Long Island, were you able to identify with some of the themes or characters in this film?
Well, we’re obviously doing a bit of an exaggerated version; I’d like to think nobody exists like my character. But yeah, we’re playing on all the stereotypes of being Jewish for sure. But, you know, all in good fun, most of us [in the movie] are Jewish, so we don’t feel like were being politically incorrect. I think we’re just poking fun at all the different stereotypes they have about Jewish people. And I grew up with many of them, so I get it.
Photo Courtesy of HBO
How was getting the role of Meadow Soprano on The Sopranos a pivotal moment in your life?
I think for obvious reasons of how it changed my career, but I had never been in front of a camera before, I had never been on a set before, so everything was brand new. I came from doing community theater on Long Island to being on that show. So it was my acting school, it was my everything school. I felt very protected on that set, I think being one of the only two kids on the set, Jim [Gandolfini], everyone, the whole crew, really looked out for us and made sure we were comfortable and confident, so it gave me everything for my career and my craft, and also just as person. And to have trust in other actors and things like that…It was nothing but positive. I really can’t think of one negative thing from that entire 10-year experience. And that’s really lucky to say.
At the beginning, was it like you were being thrown into the deep end? Were you completely unprepared?
For sure. I’d say my first few days, yeah. I think my first day on set I woke up early and blew out my hair because I thought I had to do my own hair. I didn’t realize I would have people do my hair and makeup. So for sure the first few days it was a little intimidating. But I was a teenager, and being 16-years-old you just kind of try and pretend like you know what you’re doing, or at least that was the kind of teenager I was. So you kind of fake it ‘til you make it. Had that experience come when I was 26 instead of 16 I think it would have been entirely different. It was probably better that I was a kid. When you’re young you’re less afraid of consequence, and I think that helped me.
Did you ever know any, um, families like that growing up?
I didn’t. There were always rumors about one kid in our school. But it’s because my school was like 90 percent Jewish, so with the one Italian kid we were like, “He’s in the mafia!”
And are you still close with a lot of the cast?
Yes, Robert Iler, who played my little brother [A.J.] on the show, and I are still super, super close. We just went on a vacation together a couple months ago. Aida Turturro [Janice Soprano] I still speak to, I email [Carmela Soprano actress] Edie [Falco] every once in a while, so yes, of course. And a lot of the crew I still speak to, too. And Drea [de Matteo, who played Christopher's fiancee, Adriana] came over to see my baby when he was born. So yeah, we do all have a nice relationship, and keep tabs on each other. I mean, everyone has different lives, and we all live in different places, but I think that family and that core support will forever be there.
How did you interpret the controversial series finale? Did you think it was a good ending?
I didn’t know it was going to end so abruptly – like cut to black. In the script it says “Meadow comes in, fade to black.” So that’s sort of how I thought it was ending – like a nice, sweet, happy ending. So then I think seeing the way it did end made it a whole other thing. And in my eyes what I saw when I watched it was that here we are, seeing the family in seemingly a simple, happy moment: Tony and Carmella are back together, the kids seem to be in a good place, having a family dinner. Yet through Tony’s eyes, we see all these potential threats, all these people that could pose a threat to ending his life at any moment, and the whole family is oblivious to it, or making themselves oblivious to it. And I think the show could have been edited that way from Season 1, and I think whether his life ended that night, whether it ended a week from then, or a year from then, it seems inevitable that it’s going to end ugly. And so I think it was saying this is their reality, this is their life, and it’s going to end at some point. That was my interpretation.
You are currently engaged to Cutter Dykstra, the son of Mets legend Lenny Dykstra, but, growing up, were you a Mets or a Yankees fan?
I’m a Yankees fan, although my family is split down the middle, and my soon-to-be father in law is [Lenny Dykstra]. So, I don’t not like the Mets, but I’ve rooted for the Yankees in my life.
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
Yelling at my husband for something that didn’t merit any yelling - I was just getting my period. And I said I was sorry later.
What is your favorite curse word or phrase?
Fuck. Everything has a fuck in it. I use it way too much in my life.
What’s the worst hangover you ever had?
When I was 17 - the first time I ever drank. And I didn’t drink again until I was legal. So it was a bad one.
What was your first car?
My first car was a BMW. A white BMW.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have a scar on my forehead. I was three years old, jumping on the bed with my brothers, and I fell off and hit my head on the dresser and cut it open, went to the hospital, got stitches, came home, went back on the bed, jumped with my brothers, fell again, and reopened the stitches.
Do you have a party trick?
I can loop my tongue into multiple rolls.
What is the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
One of those large jaw breakers.
What’s the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
Who was the last person to see you naked?
Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day I would…
Sleep for 24 hours, because I’m heavily sleep deprived.
Jewtopia is out on Blu-ray and DVD February 11.
Also on Maxim.com: