The Doctor Is In
Q: As the actress who plays Dr. Jennifer Melfi on "The Sopranos," might you be willing to spill a few details about the plot of the season finale?
Don't you know better? "The Sopranos" people don't reveal any of the story plots.
Just checking to see if you can keep a secret, which is certainly a professional requirement for any psychiatrist.
I'm an actor. Hello! Hello! I missed out on those 10 years of Yale University.
But viewers do project a certain wisdom onto you, and you have even been honored by the American Psychoanalytic Association.
When they called me, my first words were, "What, are they crazy?" They gave me a nice little plaque for portraying a therapist in a fair way.
As opposed to playing a tight-lipped guy in a shadowy room?
Most of the time when you see a film with a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist turns into the psycho killer, the sex fiend. I don't know how many movies you can think of where the psychiatrist turns crazy.
I can't think of one.
What's the movie with Michael Caine? "Dressed to Kill." That is what people remember about therapists.
>You've just published a memoir, "On the Couch." Why would you write with such bitterness about Harvey Keitel, the father of one of your two daughters, when most any psychiatrist could tell you that children should be spared such details?
I was very truthful. And the truth of the matter is that Harvey let Stella in on all of that information as a very young girl. I did not.
But that's different from branding Keitel before all the world as an enraged and self-pitying drug user. I thought you were tough on him.
I find it stunning that you say I am hard on Harvey. You don't think Harvey robbed the children and myself of a life?
Have you shown the book to your daughters?
And what did they say?
That's my mother!
And did you show the book to Keitel?
No, I did not. At this point in my life, I am the boss of me.
Why, on "The Sopranos," did you choose to play a psychiatrist of the Jungian school in particular?
It's what I wanted to be. I like that psychiatry better. I identify with it better.
What's wrong with Freud?
You know, I don't really know enough about it to discuss it on a bigger level, but I went the Jungian way in the show.
When you play a role, aren't you supposed to do a little research to enrich your understanding of a character?
I think I have done pretty good so far.
Indeed. More American men have begun seeking therapy as a direct result of your sensitive portrayal of Dr. Melfi, or so it has been reported.
I pray that is true. I pray.
How do you feel about playing a role that requires you to sit down most of the time?
I need a lot of glue. I'm very different from Dr. Melfi. I'm fairly animated, and I always have to calm myself down. Velcro would have been a good thing to put on my costumes and chair.
After Dr. Melfi, you are probably best known for playing a mobster's wife in "Goodfellas." What sort of roles would you like to play in the future?
I would like to be able to be funny. I am funny. No one else thinks I am funny. But I am funny.
Have you ever been cast in a comic role?
No. I am always that serious, troubled, hard-edged wife-lawyer-Indian-chief.
Did you actually write your book yourself?
No. I had help.
Why didn't you give the writer credit?
She's in my acknowledgments. Catherine Whitney is her name. She wrote it. I don't want to say that I wrote it. I am not a writer. I'm a talker.
In that case, perhaps it was narcissistic of you to leave her name off the title page?
O.K., Dr. Melfi. I don't think I am narcissistic. I think I have low self-esteem.