Philly Homemaker Makes 'Sopranos'

Thursday, August 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Marie Donato beat out 28,000 would-be actors vying to appear in ``The Sopranos,'' and she doesn't even have any acting experience.

Donato, a 50-year-old homemaker and grandmother of three, tagged along with a friend to the auditions that created a, well, mob scene last month in Harrison, N.J. She mainly hoped to get a glimpse of one of the cast members from the popular HBO series about a fictional New Jersey Mafia family.

The cast wasn't there and Donato never had an interview, but she did throw her photograph into a box, HBO said. About a week later, she received a call back from the casting company and went to New York to meet the show's executive producer, David Chase.

Her lack of experience — unless you count an elementary school Christmas play — didn't stand in the way.

``I'm an Italian-looking person,'' Donato said. ``Honest and sincere. Very straightforward. If anybody knows me, they know I'll say what I think, right off.''

Donato shot one episode of the show last week, and had some dialogue. She may appear on more episodes, depending on how future scripts are written, according to HBO.

``After meeting Marie, the casting directors thought she had talent,'' Chase said in a statement. ``They brought her in to audition for a role that was already written, and she turned out to be the best actress for the part.''

Under an agreement with the show, Donato wasn't allowed to say what character she portrayed.

HBO said Donato was the first person from the New Jersey casting call to get a role, but she probably won't be the only one.

``I'm still in shock,'' Donato said. ``I feel I'm just Marie and always will be Marie. I'm not the kind of person who's a dreamer. This was a miracle.''