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Exclusive: Why everyone calls The Sopranos’ and Hallmark star Lorraine Bracco ‘Mama’ on and off the screen

Scene from Hallmark movie
Melanie Scrofano and Lorraine Bracco in a scene from Hallmark’s Welcome to Mama’s. Pic Credit: Hallmark

We all know Lorraine Bracco from the hit HBO series The Sopranos and from the hit movie Goodfellas and many other films, but the self-described nurturing mother and foodie is now gladly serving up love and romance in the new Hallmark movie, Welcome to Mama’s.
 
As part of the networks February “Loveuary” programming event, the new original movie is about Amy (Melanie Scrofano), best known for her work in Wynonna Earp, who inherits a beloved Brooklyn family Italian restaurant from her dear friend – best known as Mama, (Lorraine Bracco), after she passes away.
 
Amy, a restaurant manager, teams up with Frank, the charming and egotistical master chef (Daniel di Tomasso), whose cooking has become a little stale, and he is looking for his second chance. They hope to honor Mama’s rich legacy by relaunching the restaurant for the community that loves it and loved her many culinary delights – from her homemade pasta sauce — better known as gravy — to her Tiramisu.
 
Through flashbacks, we see the love and devotion that built the restaurant and sustained it for decades. We are witnesses to the lofty dream of a young couple opening Mama’s Trattoria in Brooklyn, how love and faith sustained them in the early days, and how family, food, and love kept her delighted customers coming back for more for decades.

Despite Amy and Frank’s differences, both personally and professionally, they discover that the most important ingredient for any recipe is always love.
 
“It was just a lovely story. I thought it was charming, and I’m really all in to have some nice, feel-good movies and TV,” Bracco exclusively tells Monsters & Critics. “The fact that I can have some kind of movies in my lifetime to show my two grandchildren makes me very happy because I have a lot of movies that I can’t show them.”

Read on for Monsters & Critics exclusive interview with Lorraine Bracco on The Sopranos, family, cooking, and many life lessons.

Monsters & Critics: Lorraine, how did you find out about this beautiful love story, Welcome to Mama’s?

Lorraine Bracco:  They sent me the script, and I thought it was a lovely story. I really appreciated it.

M&C: How much cooking and eating was going on while you made this movie?

Lorraine Bracco: A lot of both! You know what was fun, our director [Allan Harmon] is a big foodie. So, he would be like, “You, you know how Lidia Bastianich makes her steaks?” And, “You know how Bobby Flay makes this or that?” It was a great deal of fun because we all loved the director. He was somebody who really loved this material, and I think we all felt that from him.

M&C: Speaking of the culinary arts, what are your favorite things to cook?

Lorraine Bracco:  Oh, any kind of veggie. I’m a big roaster of vegetables and proteins – chicken, steak, or fish. Yeah, I enjoy cooking. I don’t bake as much because the kids don’t live with me anymore, which is probably a good thing.

M&C: What did you think the messages or themes of the movie were?

Lorraine Bracco: The generations of family. The fact that she didn’t have children of her own and took on this young little girl who had lost her mom. And always said to the dad, ‘There’s always welcome here.’ I loved the fact that people still can really care about other people.

M&C: What did it feel like when they were calling you “Mama?”  You were everybody’s Mama.

Lorraine Bracco: All the kids call me mom or mama. They all, call me ‘mom this, mom that. ‘Let’s go to Mama Bracco’s’ I hear it all the time. Yes, I think that it’s funny that in life, sometimes your DNA shines through.

M&C: Do actors come up to you on different projects and ask you how you’ve stayed viable for so long in a difficult career and what advice you have for them?

Lorraine Bracco: You know, it was funny the other day when we were doing this movie, I didn’t feel great, I was sick. I had the tail end of bronchitis and I asked to get some soup. The actress who plays the young Amy says to me, “What!? You got soup!?” And I looked at her, and I said, “Yep, I’ve earned it.” So, we had a good laugh out of that.

Lorraine Bracco in Hallmark’s Welcome to Mama’s. Pic Credit: Hallmark.

M&C: Since you didn’t know anyone in the cast before the filming, how long did it take to feel comfortable with one another?

Lorraine Bracco: I wasn’t up there in Vancouver for a long time. I was up there for maybe a week. But everybody was so, so lovely. The crew was great, I loved the director. I loved the little girl. I loved my husband in this. He made me giggle, that’s how funny he was. I’d never really been there before, so it was a great little experience.

M&C: Did you have time that week to try any local fair, like the restaurants or shopping?

Lorraine Bracco: I had just one day to walk around, and the weather was beautiful. It wasn’t cold; all of it was really quite charming.

M&C: Would you do a Hallmark movie again?

Lorraine Bracco: Absolutely. I loved it. I would really do any movie that crosses my path that I enjoy reading. I don’t care about things like where it is made  If I like a script, I genuinely want to make the movie. If I like the story and I like the role, I’m in.

M&C: We are all inspired and informed by childhood memories like my mom planning bridal showers and weddings for her friends and their grown children. That’s how I learned the way to throw a party.

Lorraine Bracco: Right. I get it. I know that. I used to laugh because my dad used to be this sous chef, which I thought was so cute. He used to sit at the table and chop, clean, and wash; it was very cute.

Walking down memory lane on The Sopranos

M&C: The last time we spoke was in the midst of The Sopranos pandemonium, and it was such a joy to talk to the devoted cast.

Lorraine Bracco: Oh, I love that. Well, I’ll have to say The Sopranos has been very good to me.

M&C: Do you keep in touch with your co-stars from The Sopranos?

Lorraine: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I’m close to Drea de Matteo, Steve Schirripa, and Michael Imperioli. We all stayed close.

M&C: What was it like being on Michael and Steve’s podcast? I read their recent book, Woke Up This Morning, cover to cover.

Lorraine: I have that book, and I loved it. In fact, I’m looking at it as we speak. Yeah, listen, I love those guys; they’re great. They’re down to earth. We have a lot of fun. That’s the key to the three of us. We have fun.

M&C: Do people come up to you and talk about Dr. Melfi and The Sopranos? And what do they say?

Lorraine Bracco: Absolutely. I even get people referencing Karen Hill from Goodfellas. I think the parents saw Goodfellas years ago, and the parents saw The Sopranos some 20 years ago and now have introduced their kids to it. So, people are like, ‘Oh my god, it’s the same actress.’

M&C: What did you think of the prequel The Many Saints of Newark? I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Gandolfini for the movie.

Lorraine Bracco:  Well, I’ve known Michael [Gandolfini] since before he was born. I know that [his father] Jimmy [Gandolfini] would have been very proud of him.

M&C: I witnessed the heightened love and adoration from the fans during the heyday of The Sopranos when I interviewed Aida Turturro, who played Tony’s sister Janice Soprano, and Michael Imperioli, who played Tony’s nephew Christopher.

Lorraine Bracco: I know this well.

M&C: Why has it held up so well?

Lorraine Bracco: I think David Chase was a master. A master at writing and at casting. He was a genius in this.

M&C: Was it a surprise that all of that happened?

Lorraine Bracco: I knew we had a great script, but none of us could have imagined that it was going to be the success it was.

M&C: What did you think of the Super Bowl commercial with Jamie Lynn Siegler and Robert Iler, who played Meadow and A.J. Soprano?

Lorraine Bracco: Yeah! I wanted to cry. The kids are so old and big now. They’re married, they have children. I can’t take it.

M&C: I saw you on Bobby Flay’s show, and I read about your time on Top Chef. Did you enjoy all of that?

Lorraine Bracco: Yeah, I love it. I love food. I love to learn how to do new tricks, and those chefs have great tricks.

M&C: Were there things that you’re doing now as COVID-19 is easing up a little bit that you couldn’t do two years ago?

Lorraine Bracco: Well, I’m going to LA tomorrow to be with the kids again. I hope that that little one does not give me bronchitis again. Yeah, those little kids are real germ wafers.

Life Lessons from ‘Mama Lorraine’

M&C: What life lessons do you want to share with your children and grandchildren?

Lorraine Bracco: You know, life is a ride. It’s not a linear line. You got to enjoy the ride.

M&C: What is your definition of success?

Lorraine Bracco: The simple pleasures in life. A roof over my head and enjoying a nice meal.

M&C: Do you ever come across Goodfellas when you are channel surfing?

Lorraine Bracco: I have come across it, and no I don’t watch it.

M&C: Why not?

Lorraine Bracco: I really don’t watch anything that I’m in.

M&C: Do you have another project coming up?

Lorraine Bracco: I just finished another movie called Boys of Summer. I did that in North Carolina in Southport, which was also a fantastic location. I made this movie with a bunch of kids and Mel Gibson.

Pic credit: Hallmark

M&C: Do you think that you personally and us as a society, gained any insight into ourselves and our values from being locked up for two years

Lorraine Bracco: I think some of us have, I don’t know about everybody. My daughter and grandchildren were in France, so I missed the year and a half out of my granddaughter, and that was very painful for me.

M&C: Lastly, why do you encourage my readers to watch Welcome to Mama’s?

Lorraine Bracco: Because it’s charming and it’s lovely, and I want people to feel good. I really do. I want people to start to feel good now that COVID[-19] is kind of lifting. I don’t know how much, but it is. I want to start to go back to feeling good. It’s a nice feel-good movie. I thoroughly liked the script.

Welcome to Mama’s will premiere Saturday, Feb. 28 at 8/7c on Hallmark.

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