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Fame & Fortune
Lorraine Bracco
'Sopranos' Lorraine Bracco
A bitter child custody battle threw her into bankruptcy
Celebrity interview

Fame & Fortune: 'Sopranos' Lorraine Bracco

Talk about getting into character.

For her role as Delores del Ruby, the tough-talking, whip-cracking leader of the cowgirl rebellion in Gus Van Sant's "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues," Lorraine Bracco took bullwhipping lessons in her backyard.

As Dr. Jennifer Melfi, the psychiatrist who listens and counsels mob leader Tony Soprano weekly on "The Sopranos," Bracco took a lot of characteristics from her own sessions of "talk therapy" and incorporated them into Melfi. In her tumultuous past, which includes three failed marriages and a custody battle that led to personal bankruptcy and depression, Bracco could have used some time with Dr. Melfi herself. The very public divorce and custody battle with actor Harvey Keitel finally gave Bracco sole custody of their daughter, Stella.

Life was on the upswing but suddenly everything hit her like a ton of bricks when she was later diagnosed with clinical depression.  That was 1999. Now, the 52-year-old actress -- who chronicles her story in the candid, best-selling book "On the Couch" -- feels alive again and passionate. Reveling in the last season of "The Sopranos," the Brooklyn-born actress is beaming with determined optimism.

Despite a career spanning more than two decades, including an Oscar nomination for "Goodfellas," Bracco is not your stereotypical star. But her "Goodfellas" role led "Sopranos'" creator, David Chase, to remember Bracco for his HBO mobster hit. Along with her breakout role on "The Sopranos," Bracco has her own wine company. The bumps seem to have smoothed out in her life, though she still shows some true grit. 

Bankrate: It was 1999 that you noticed your life was joyless and you were diagnosed with depression?

Lorraine Bracco: Yes, it was when "Sopranos" came out and was a huge success, my daughter had graduated NYU and it was then when I said, "Oh my God, I'm not really jumping for joy and why is that?"

Bankrate: Do you know what triggered the depression or was it an accumulation of circumstances? 

Lorraine Bracco: We feel it was an accumulation of fighting and flight mode, so that when everything kind of settled down and was good, that's when I realized something was wrong. I do think I had depression before this point, though. I always said I lost a year in denial, basically, not believing my friend who said, "Lorraine, I think you should go talk to somebody."

Bankrate: You've said that going through all this actually helped you form the character of Dr. Melfi. How do you think your depression mirrors that of Tony Soprano? 

Lorraine Bracco: I think it's different but I think a lot of the things that Dr. Melfi says to Tony are very amusing to me because I will be saying to myself. "Oh my God, this is so good." I get a good kick out of it. When I first started "talk therapy" with my therapist, I basically said I don't want my problems to lead my life -- I want my dreams to lead my life. I want that to happen for myself.  I deserve that. 

Next: "I've aged, I've mellowed and I think my core is very strong."
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