A chat with Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler interview, Beneath the Dark, The Sopranos
Jamie-Lynn Sigler

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Jamie-Lynn Sigler may still be best known for playing Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow, on the long-running and critically-acclaimed HBO series “The Sopranos,” but, really, there are a lot worse credits to hang your career on. Besides, it’s not as though Sigler hasn’t continued to get high profile gigs, including the fun opportunity to play herself on “Entourage,” a short stint on “Ugly Betty,” and even an uncredited appearance in a “Saturday Night Live” Digital Short. Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Sigler in conjunction with the DVD release of the thriller “Beneath the Dark,” and after quizzing her on this latest dramatic role, we asked about all of the above projects…and, yes, in addition to asking her what she thought about the way “The Sopranos” ended, we also found out what she’s heard (or hasn’t) about the status of the forever-discussed “Sopranos” movie.

Bullz-Eye: Well, I had a chance to check out “Beneath the Dark,” and it’s…well, dark. (Laughs) But not in a bad way! So how did you find your way into the film in the first place? Had you had been actively looking for a project like this?

Jamie-Lynn Sigler: I was filming “Entourage” at the time, and I definitely was…you know, as an actress, I was looking for something different, a change of pace. Something to flex a little bit of different muscles. (Laughs) And the script came my way, and I sat and had a meeting with Chad (Feehan), our writer / director, and I wanted some reassurance from him that it wasn’t going to be…that it wouldn’t fall into the typical cliches of the genre. Like, they’re driving down the road, they’re stranded, someone’s chasing them. How was he going to steer away from that? But he had a really clear vision of what he wanted, and he was really smart and interesting, and I just thought it would be a really good change for me. Something different. And I was a big fan of Josh (Stewart). And I did have a really great time doing it and definitely got a lot from the experience.

BE: As I was watching it, I thought there was occasionally a bit of a David Lynch feel to it.

"The script (for 'Beneath the Dark') came my way, and I sat and had a meeting with Chad (Feehan), our writer / director, and I wanted some reassurance from him that it wouldn’t fall into the typical cliches of the genre. Like, they’re driving down the road, they’re stranded, someone’s chasing them. How was he going to steer away from that? But he had a really clear vision of what he wanted, and he was really smart and interesting, and I just thought it would be a really good change for me. Something different."

JLS: Absolutely. You know, Chad has many influences that are obvious to those who are fans of cinema, and there are homages to Hitchcock and directors like that. He definitely has his influences, and a couple of movies that he wanted me to watch and appreciate tonally were things like “Sling Blade” and “In the Bedroom,” and there’s this British film with Andrew Garfield called “Boy A” which is amazing. So, yeah, those were what he was going for.

BE: So when you first read the script, were you taken by it immediately? Or did it take a couple of reads to really get the feel of it? Because it’s kind of dense when you first watch it.

JLS: Yeah, it definitely took a couple of reads. And then after you read it a couple of times as an audience, you sort of see what you as an actor and as a character are going to bring to the story. Adrienne (Sigler’s character) is sort of the light of everything, and she’s sort of the representation of the different paths that Josh’s character wanted to go down. Can we ever sort of move on and choose different paths in our lives, or are we always at some point going to be responsible for our sins and our actions? That’s sort of the meaning of the movie. And she just sort of represents that other choice.

BE: I know you said that Chad had a vision for the film well in advance, but were you able to bring anything to the character yourself? Were you able to flesh out her back story or what have you?

JLS: For sure. I always do that. But I think a lot of the working with Josh…I mean, he’s a very honest actor, and we were very much in tune with each other, making sure that everything was authentic. We hit it off right away. For me, I was just conscious of being very in the moment. Obviously, she’s very unaware of everything that’s going on around her. She’s just in love with him, and that was my main focus. She’s just a very present character, and that’s something that’s good to play, to remind yourself of what your own life could be. That’s where my focus really was with her.

BE: You were talking about working with Josh. Did you meet prior to filming to try and build up your onscreen chemistry?

Jamie-Lynn SiglerJLS: No, we met once when we read together, and other than that, our first day of work was all our love scenes… (Laughs) …and that had some method behind the madness. I think it made them sort of awkward and not perfect and…real. It was definitely a way for the two of us to sort of break in our chemistry and our relationship! And after that, it was smooth sailing, so I think that was great.

BE: Yeah, I was going to ask you just in general about love scenes, if they’re something that you approach with dread or if it’s just a case of, “Let’s get this over with.”

JLS: Yeah, I mean, it’s just awkward ‘cause it’s technical, you know? With film, everything you do, on top of the layers of acting, you have to just be mindful of so many things. So when that sort of stuff, when you’re supposed to be the least inhibited and feel free, you’re not. But I can understand why most people say…and I agree with them… it’s a little bit more difficult.

BE: I’ve heard it said repeatedly that the least sexy thing in the world is filming a sex scene.

JLS: Absolutely! (Laughs)

BE: I know you said you hadn’t worked with Josh before, but had you worked with anyone else in the cast?

JLS: No, it was all new…and we were literally in the middle of nowhere, and our cast and crew were all that took up this city called Amboy. It was a trip, though, because although it kind of helped the feel of movie tonally and everything, it was bizarre. It was strange and creepy, especially when we filmed at night. There was an abandoned graveyard. The building where we built most of our sets was an abandoned school. It was definitely helpful for what we needed to be feeling, that’s for sure!

BE: How long was the shoot?

JLS: Six weeks. No, wait, four weeks.

BE: Are there any particular anecdotes from filming that stand out? I feel like there’s a graveyard story somewhere.

"('Entourage') was actually just supposed to be a one-off cameo. I had actually spoken to Doug Ellin a couple of years prior about doing a cameo, because I was such a fan of the show, but while I was doing 'The Sopranos,' it didn’t really work to do a crossover at the time. But once we finished filming, Doug had said, 'You know, I’d love to bring you on, I have this idea.' And I said, 'Great.'"

JLS: Well, we lost our power a couple of times, and there’s one man that is the sheriff, the electrician, the plumber… (Laughs) It’s one man who does everything in this town, and he drives around on a go-kart with a shotgun. I’m blanking on his name, but it was an experience. And no one had cell service. There were, like, two A.D.’s who happened to have cell phones that worked, and we would all pay them to let us use their phones, because we were literally cut off from the outside world.

BE: Which has got to be absolutely insane for you Hollywood types!

JLS: It was! (Laughs) But after awhile, to be honest, it was very refreshing. It was nice to sort of be disconnected. If you needed anything, it was there, and if there was an emergency, we had someone who could get in touch with someone, but it was refreshing to be so far away from everything like that.

BE: I was curious about your career and how you’re splitting it between TV and film. Obviously, you did the stint on “Ugly Betty,” you’ve done a few TV movies as well, but then you’ve done a couple of indie films as well. Is it your preference to split it between the two?

JLS: Not really. I’ve just been really fortunate to be able to play in a lot of different arenas! But I wouldn’t say it’s a preference. I mean, I really like the world of indie film. I just like the world of film in general. I haven’t done a ton of them. I want to do more, though, because it’s an isolated period of time, and you can work really hard and just sort of leave it. With TV, it’s much easier to get into a character and stay there and have a consistency in your life, but you also get a lot more free time, I think, when you can balance film and television. It’s a longer period of time where you can’t schedule much for yourself.

BE: To start working my way back through your projects, what was the “Ugly Betty” experience like?

JLS: “Ugly Betty” was great. I mean, I loved working in New York again, I had been a fan of the show for a long time, and the opportunity sort of came up out of nowhere. Obviously, physically I was playing such a different character, look-wise. I was wearing a Mohawk and goth make-up, and…it really does sort of help you transform and play a character when you’ve got a different mask on. When you wear different clothing, you find yourself carrying yourself a little bit differently, moving a little bit differently, and it was really fun to get to play in that way. And everyone in the cast was so great. I worked manly with Eric Mabius, who’s really talented and fun. They have a really warm, welcoming set, and, like I said, just to be working in New York again was, in and of itself, just such a treat.

BE: Obviously, you’d done a bit of comedy before, what with having played a version of yourself on “Entourage.” How did that role come about? Did they just approach you and ask, “Hey, are you up for poking a bit of fun at yourself,” or what?

JLS: It was actually just supposed to be a one-off cameo. I had actually spoken to Doug Ellin a couple of years prior about doing a cameo, because I was such a fan of the show, but while I was doing “The Sopranos,” it just wasn’t…it didn’t really work to do a crossover at the time. But once we finished filming, Doug had said, “You know, I’d love to bring you on, I have this idea.” And I said, “Great,” because on “Entourage,” whenever anyone plays themselves, it’s always going to poke fun at an idea of you. You’re never really going to be playing your true self. So when I did that one episode, he said, “Hey, I have an idea where maybe we could do a couple more episodes, if you’d be interested!” And I said, “Sure,” ‘cause I’d had such a great time, so I did even more…and then he had the idea to bring me back for the full season, and he had this idea of Turtle finally getting a girlfriend and sort of being the only one out of the guys who doesn’t have lady trouble. And I thought it was really funny and a good idea, and, again, I had such a good time. Plus, I’d just moved to L.A., so it was a perfect opportunity for me to be living here and getting to know here and working on a show that’s all about Hollywood. It felt like the perfect way to kind of break me in as well, and I had a blast on the show.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler

BE: Has there been any talk of you returning for the final season?

JLS: There has been, but, you know, I think he’s got so many other storylines to wrap up. There’s talk of a movie, too, though, so we’ll see. But not right now. I think he’s got a lot going on with all the boys. (Laughs)

BE: How did you come to appear in the Digital Short for “Jizz In My Pants” on “Saturday Night Live”?

JLS: (Laughs) That was completely random. I was actually in New York for the “Entourage” premiere as well as a friend’s wedding, and I got a call from a mutual friend of Andy Samberg’s, and she said, “Andy’s doing this Digital Short, he has a group called The Lonely Island,” and it was one of the first videos they’d ever done. I think maybe they’d done “Dick in a Box” before that, but that was it. But she’s, like, “I know it sounds crazy, but it’s called ‘Jizz in My Pants,’ and you just film it tomorrow for a couple of hours. The boys are really cool.” I said, “Sure, it sounds like fun!” And it was literally just like that. It happened that quickly. And we didn’t know if it was ever going to get aired or not, because of the content, but one Saturday night, I got an email from Andy that was, like, “Hey, guess what? It’s going to be on ‘SNL’ tonight! We just found out during dress rehearsal, so set your DVR!” And I have to say that I get recognized more for that than a lot of other things. (Laughs) People love that video. And I don’t blame them. It’s hilarious!

BE: Now, I may be wrong, but I think you may be the only person to appear on both “The Sopranos” and “Higglytown Heroes.”

JLS: (Bursts out laughing) I bet I am the only one. I bet I am.

BE: How did you find your way into the voice roster of that show?

JLS: That was just another random thing… (Laughs) …where they called and asked if, because they knew I sang, I wanted to play a teacher, and I thought it was adorable. I guess they were getting a bunch of people to do guest voices, so I did it for a couple of different episodes, and it was very fun.

BE: And so we come to “The Sopranos.” Can I presume that you can no longer listen to Journey in the same way after the final episode?

"I never anticipated where I thought ('The Sopranos') was going to go or anything, because I think I learned early on that I would always be wrong. So it was just more fun to just experience it and be excited from script to script about what was going to happen. Honestly, I really feel like, throughout the entire thing, I never envisioned a plot line or thought about what might come. It was just exciting to let it unfold on its own."

JLS: Well, I’m a huge Journey fan, and I always have been. Journey is literally my favorite band of all time, and I’ve even gone to see them with their new Filipino singer (Arnel Pineda) who sounds just like Steve Perry. But, yeah, I have to be a little more aware when I rock out to “Don’t Stop Believin’,” that’s for sure. (Laughs) But Journey has been and always will be my favorite band.

BE: So what were your thoughts on Meadow’s character arc over the course of the series? I mean, you literally started out as a kid, you went to college, you were preparing to go to law school…

JLS: I just thought it was so real, the way they wrote her. I mean, she just really had an evolution, and she really grew as a person academically and personally and, really, in how she handled her family. She was a child and rebellious and was upset about it, and then we saw instances where she would defend them to the end. I think we sort of saw what becomes of all of them when they grow up in this world and eventually they come to accept, like it or not, that this is their life. They learn to live in this state of denial for as much as they need to, but they just sort of stop denying it and accept it and I think eventually will probably use it for whatever they need to, just because of where they’re from. By the end of it, I think Meadow really came to terms with it and really accepted who she was, and I think for a long time, at least for the first couple of seasons, she was really rejecting that and really upset about it. But I think she was a real example of people who really have to live that way.

BE: Who was the most disappointing character for you to lose from the show?

JLS: Oh, gosh, I could never choose. That would be too hard. We lost many along the way. (Laughs)

BE: Who was the most surprising loss?

JLS: I think Drea (de Matteo). Because, you know, there were so few women, and Adriana was such an innocent among the cast of characters. She was so great and interesting and rich, and Drea is such a talented actress. It was really surprising to see her go. But it had a profound effect on the viewers and the show and everything.

BE: Was there any plot development with Meadow that particularly surprised you? Or anything that disappointed you, that you’d hoped would go a different way?

JLS: Gosh. No, I never anticipated where I thought it was going to go or anything, because I think I learned early on that I would always be wrong. (Laughs) So it was just more fun to just experience it and be excited from script to script about what was going to happen. Honestly, I really feel like, throughout the entire thing, I never envisioned a plot line or thought about what might come. It was just exciting to let it unfold on its own.

BE: Did you receive a lot of criticism about your parallel parking ability after the final episode?

Jamie-Lynn SiglerJLS: (Sighs) I did. And I have to say that it’s much harder than anyone imagines to park poorly. It’s harder than parking well! It’s really hard to park and purposely try to hit a curb! But I’ve definitely had my share of jokes from people about my parallel parking, that’s for sure. I’m a much better parallel parker than that, I can guarantee you.

BE: So not that you haven’t been asked a million times, but what were your thoughts on the series finale?

JLS: Honestly, I was satisfied with it, because to me, whether his life ended there or a week later or years later, I think we just sort of saw their life, and it was edited in a way that maybe we had never experienced it before. We’re seeing them as they’re relaxed, they’re happy, they’re in a good place and meeting for a nice family dinner, but as we’re looking around, we’re seeing all of these potential threats. And I feel like any scene from any episode in any season could’ve been edited that way. I think it’s an example of their reality, their life, that it could end at any moment. Like, this is the way it’s going to be, so whether it ended there or later, I think it was inevitable that it was going to. But I think that half of the audience would’ve been satisfied if his life had ended there, and I think half would’ve been upset if it hadn’t, you know? I don’t think you can please anyone, so I thought it was a perfect ending that leaves it up to however you’d like to envision it.

BE: Are you sufficiently satisfied that you don’t need to see a “Sopranos” movie? And if there was one, would you be ready to be in it?

JLS: Yes, I would be ready to be in it. Of course. (Laughs) But, I mean, I think at this point I don’t see one coming anytime soon. But you never know. Enough time could pass, or too much time could pass. You never know where people’s feelings are for these things. But I think I can say pretty confidently that, if they do decide to do one, I’d say pretty much everyone would be on board, I’d think.

BE: So what is in the future for you, then?

JLS: Well, I shot a pilot not too long ago that we recently found out is not going to go… (Sighs) …and I did a play last year, but I’ve actually been taking some personal time and writing a lot, which is a new thing for me. When you focus on writing, you sort of need to just focus on that, so that’s where I’ve been out. I’m just figuring out my next gig and where I want to do. I think I want to go back to TV and find another home somewhere. Not just guest-starring. I think I’d like to find another show, because I miss episodic television, to be sure.

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