By Whitney Baker Johnson and Sarah Ribeiro

Drea de Matteo best known for her role as “Adriana” on HBO’s critically acclaimed show The Sopranos, and “Angie” on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, returns to the small screen playing detective Diane Harkin in the Lifetime Original Movie Stalkers, premiering Saturday, April 13th at 8/7 c.

“There haven’t been many great roles out there lately,” the actress says. But for de Matteo it seems like she was drawn to this script and her character. In the upcoming movie, she is a hotheaded detective who is investigating unsolved stalking cases while on the run from her ex-husband. “I’ve never played a cop, and I’ve always wanted to,” she says. “I’m always sort of the “victim” in my roles. In this film, I get to be a victim and a tough woman at the same time. This character has a past, and she’s breakable, but she’s on a mission to conquer her fears. She can’t afford to be afraid.”

As a mother of two, the Sopranos-alum says Stalkers reminded her of how important it is to keep her children safe. “I don’t know if I have the strength to figure stuff out like my chacter, Diane can. As far as teaching my kids to protect themselves, playing a role like this definitely reminds me that there are a lot of crazy people in this world.” de Matteo was filming the movie when the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred, and she couldn’t let herself hear anything that was going on “because of the pain and fear that set in” and the thought of that happening to one of her children.

de Matteo has played a mom since she was in her twenties, but being a mom to five-year-old daughter Alabama Gypsy Rose and two-year-old son Waylon Albert “Blackjack,” her kids with fiancé Shooter Jennings, is quite different. “Oh my gosh, my life has changed so much since I’ve had babies. Now, I know what it’s like to be a mom in real life, and I can really play the part,” she shares. “At this point, I don’t even have to think about anything to get upset on camera. All I have to do is see an image of something harmful happening to my children in my head.”

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She adds, “I am so madly in love with my children, and they affect everything I do and any role I play.”

Shooting Stalkers was the first time she was away from her family, but she made the best of a tough situation by traveling back and forth between California, where her daughter is in school, and Vancouver, where the movie was filmed. “That part of it was awful, but luckily, the experience of making the film was so great that it definitely helped to overshadow how painful it was to leave my kids.”

Like any parent, de Matteo’s still learning what it means to be a mother. “No one ever really gave me advice on parenting,” she shares. “I feel like my daughter is my teacher to a certain degree, and I let her guide me. On the other side, I am here to guide her, and I am going to catch her every time she falls.”

It’s no surprise that de Matteo’s children are her number one priority. Still, her work is important too. We can’t help but wonder: Can women really have it all? de Matteo say, “I think we can. We just have to work harder than any man has ever worked in his entire life.”

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To keep her life in balance, after filming, de Matteo focuses on spending time with her family. “When I come home, all I want to do is hug on my kids. We like simple things,” she says. “I love going to the park and walking down the street, holding hands with my babies and my boyfriend.”

Stalkers premieres on Lifetime Saturday, April 13, at 8:00pm ET/PT.