Meet Tony Soprano's feisty new girlfriend. Leslie Bega talks about her graphic sex scenes and the way ''Buffy'''s James Marsters helped with her audition
Leslie Bega
Credit: Leslie Bega: George Campos/London Features
James Gandolfini

There’s no rest for the wicked, at least when it comes to dating. It seems like only yesterday that Tony was mourning the suicide of his nutso ex-girlfriend Gloria, but on the latest episode of ”The Sopranos,” the Mafia kingpin got hot and heavy with a new flame. talked with Leslie Bega, who plays the fiery Valentina, about getting jiggy, life after ”Head of the Class,” and the Audition from Hell.

Tell us a little about Valentina.
Tony has definitely met his match, that’s for sure. She’s half-Italian, half-Cuban, and a spitfire. She’s kind of a mixture of Jersey and Upper West Side. She’s strong-willed, educated and fiercely loyal, but at the same time she can be a little kitten curled up in your lap. And she’s definitely got Tony curled around her finger.

So what’s this about James Gandolfini sending you roses?
It was my first day of shooting, and there they were when I walked into my dressing room. Actually, the New York Post got it wrong. I had three dozen, not two dozen. They were the most beautiful roses I’ve ever received in my life. No one had ever done this for me before. I was so blown away. And the note was funny: ”Dearest Valentina, Welcome to Jersey. With much love to you, Tony Soprano.”

Did that make it easier to get down and dirty in front of the cameras?
I’ve done nudity once before, but not to this extent. David [Chase] likes to keep things real. You have to be thoroughly convinced that these people are in the heat of a passionate moment, or it might as well be soft porn. So you’re going to see glimpses of body parts — but it’s not gratuitous. James is so professional that I immediately fell into it. It’s actually fun, because there are no inhibitions. I think I get more sex on screen than I do in my real life.

How did you land this role? The competition must have been fierce.
They had been looking for Valentina for a long time. And because they’d been looking for so long, they got into a time crunch. So my manager calls me and says, ”Are you willing to get on a plane to New York and go into their office tomorrow?” And I had the worst flu of my life. Green phlegm, fever, you name it. There was no way I was flying. So they asked me to put my audition on tape in one day and sent me 25 pages of the script. It was crazy! I asked my friend whose boyfriend is a cameraman to help me. But then we couldn’t get the VCR to work to transfer the audition onto tape.

What did you do?
James Marsters, who plays Spike on ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” lives across the street, and I told him how I was sick and I’d poured my heart into this audition tape and now we couldn’t use it. He said, ”No problem! I’m always taping ‘Buffy’ for my mom. We can do it on my VCR!” Then it was off to FedEx in the nick of time. I got the job and started a few days later. And I haven’t gotten sick since, knock on wood.

James Gandolfini
The Sopranos
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