Drea de Matteo, New Desperate Housewife

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Actress Drea de Matteo

Her accent will sound more than vaguely familiar. But when the new season of Desperate Housewives premieres on Sept. 27 — with Drea de Matteo as Angie Bolen, a transplanted New Yorker with a family and a secret — it'll be a far cry from Mob-filled New Jersey, where de Matteo drew raves as Adriana La Cerva in The Sopranos. That said, her chances of getting whacked might be about the same. De Matteo, 37, replaces the Housewife gap left by Nicollette Sheridan in a much heralded departure last season. She recently took time out from playing Wisteria Lane's new tough broad to talk with TIME.

So what's it like filling the Nicollette Sheridan void?
If they were actually trying to replace her, they would have hired someone 10 years younger and prettier than me. Even though she's older than me, she's way hotter. And I just had a baby, so I'm definitely not filling her hot, sexy wardrobe.

I'm not agreeing, but I'm moving on. Which Desperate Housewife team are you on?
I'm Team Bree. I've always loved the Bree character. Maybe it's because I play those huge characters. I love Bree's character because she's so overdone. I like the extremes.

From The Sopranos and Joey to this — I'm seeing an accent theme.
The one through line is the big accent and the in-your-face attitude. I'm definitely stereotyped, and I'm very O.K. with that. I get super bored playing bland, normal girls.

Have you been able to do what Teri Hatcher could never do — drop the phrase fuhgeddaboutit on Wisteria Lane?
Fuhgeddaboutit is always the subtext no matter what I'm saying. Even if I don't say, it's there.

What's this big mystery around your character?
O.K., I'll tell you. We're going to find out at the end of the season that her name is Adriana Le Cerva, and I've been on the lam. It's the only show that can probably get away with that giant sense of humor thing.

Actually we're only six episodes in shooting-wise, so I am completely in the dark. I know we've lived in New York, and we've never lived in the suburbs before. So we're trying something completely new. I don't think it's witness protection or any Mafia relationship. She's far from that world, but I can be totally wrong. But she's as tough as anyone in the Mafia.

I've seen pictures of you handling a baseball bat on the show. Is that your suburban weapon of choice?
Yes — fists, baseball bats, feet. She's a street girl for sure. A scrapper.

You've had to size them up — which one of the housewives is going to give the best fight in real life?
They're all pretty tough in their own way. Eva Longoria might be my toughest challenge. I don't know if I could take her. And Marcia's pretty tall. Teri wins triathlons. And they all seem to exercise pretty regularly. On the show, having Bree go to town on me would be my favorite thing ever. And another thing, Bree shoots guns.

Congratulations on your stunning concert-stage engagement with [country-star] Shooter Jennings in June.
Oh God. That was not stunning. I had my back turned toward him and the stage. I never knew that he was proposing. I heard him talking, but I thought he was doing his regular stage thing. And then he started getting mad at me from the stage because he had to get to the next song. When I got there, he was so nervous the ring was shaking in his hand.

Were you really mad at him?
Yes, he knows that I am antimarriage. So I said to him, "You're not going to make me a desperate housewife." And the next day, out of the blue, they called me from Desperate Housewives and asked me to be on the show. It was pretty funny.

There's Internet chatter about a Sopranos movie. What do you think?
I haven't heard anything, but they always said if they were going to do it, it was going to be a prequel because most of the characters are dead. It would do insane box office. I'd love to do a Sopranos sequel. Are you kiddin' me?