Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who is best known for playing Meadow Soprano for 10 years on the HBO hit “The Sopranos,” has had a pretty epic year so far. In January, she married professional baseball player Cutter Dykstra, with whom she has an adorable 2-year-old son, Beau. Shortly after their wedding, she made the stunning announcement that she’s been battling multiple sclerosis (MS) for the last 15 years. In fact, she shared that the last time she was able to run was in the final episode of the show. She also went back to work for the first time since her son was born. She recently wrapped filming on CBS’s hit show “CSI: Cyber,” and she is currently in production on Freeform’s “Baby Daddy.” Recently, our March guest editor took some time away from her busy schedule to chat about the show that launched her career, making the transition from SAHM to working mom, coping with her MS, having another baby, and more.
MT: What was it like to essentially grow up on the set of “The Sopranos”?
JLS: It was wonderful and difficult and all the things in between. I started ‘The Sopranos’ when I was 15, so I was at an awkward, very insecure stage in my life. I was figuring myself out. So, on one hand, ‘The Sopranos’ was a blessing because it gave me a job and something to be proud of and work hard on. On the other, it was kind of hard because the first three seasons of the show document my awkward teenage years, with my body changing and weight fluctuating. I wouldn’t trade it for the world though. The show was the star in my life. It’s still the most pivotal role I’ve ever had to play. Taking a character through a span of 10 years is something most people don’t get to do, and I don’t expect to ever get to do again.
MT: You’re currently in production on two episodes of “Baby Daddy.” How’s it going?
JLS: It’s fun. I always love performing in front of a live audience. They’re such a great group of people, they’re so talented. I’ve really been enjoying myself. It’s nice to laugh and it’s nice to poke fun and have a good time. Since Beau was born I’ve been a stay-at-home mom primarily, so it’s been really nice to have somewhere else that I’m needed.
MT: Was it difficult to make the switch from SAHM to working mom?
JLS: Yes. I was so used to being Beau’s everything all the time. But, I think it’s incredibly healthy for both of us to have some balance. He needs to develop trust with other people and understand that if I’m not there it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to come back. Now when I leave for work he says, “Bye, mommy. See you this afternoon!” That’s a huge step from the tears and having to tear him out of my arms situation that we had a month ago. I discovered that I need something for myself, in addition to being a mom. It can be really hard to give yourself that time, because it’s so easy to let the mommy guilt creep in. I learned the hard way that the saying, ‘It takes a village,’ is true when it comes to parenting.
MT: What happened?
JLS: I tried to be a hero and do everything myself. The whole first year of Beau’s life I didn’t work and didn’t hire any help. And I don’t live near my family. I really thought, ‘I’m not working, I should be doing everything myself.’ It was so hard on me emotionally and physically. It was hard on my relationship with him. When he was 9- or 10-months-old, I realized that a change needed to happen. I started having a nanny twice a week, so I could go out and get my nails done or have lunch with a friend. It was so hard for me to have anyone else take care of my son, but it was the best decision. My life started to really open up again.
MT: Does Beau understand yet what you do for a living?
JLS: I don’t think so. He knows he sees me on the TV sometimes but I don’t think it’s any different than him watching videos of himself on my iPhone.
MT: Do you think he’s going to be an actor then, since he already likes performing on screen?
JLS: Well, he’s dramatic, as most 2-year-olds are. But, if I had to guess what he’ll be, I’d say an athlete. His life is sports. That’s all he wants to do. By no means have we pushed it on him. I have fire trucks, I have play-doh, I have crayons, I have everything you can imagine — but all he wants to do is play football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. And he’s good! I’ll say to others, ‘This isn’t normal, right? What he’s doing, this is crazy?’ And they’re like, ‘No, he really has a natural ability.’ I support his interests, but I want him to be a well-rounded kid. He’s in school right now three days a week and I think that’s been really helpful for him to do something other than swing a bat.
MT: Did you always imagine that you’d be a boy mom?
JLS: No, I always thought I was going to have a little girl! I had a name picked out and everything. Then when I was about 4-months-pregnant I had this vision that a little boy put his arms around my neck. I looked at my husband and he was like, ‘What? What crazy pregnant thing are you going to tell me now?’ I was like ‘No! We’re having a boy, like I know it.’ And he was like, ‘Don’t tease me. You know I really want a boy.’ Three weeks later, we found out that it was a boy. Now that I have a little boy, of course, I’d love a little girl at some point, but there’s no love that I’ve ever felt like the love between a mom and a son. It’s so special and so amazing. The other day I came into his room after doing my hair and makeup for an event and he said, ‘Mommy, look at your eyes! Look at your lips! You’re so beautiful!’ There’s just nothing better.
MT: What’s his little personality like?
JLS: He’s definitely all boy, boy, boy, BOY. He’s also really sweet. He’s loving. He’s emotional. Cutter’s also very sensitive and very emotional, sometimes more than I am, so I think Beau is taking after his dad like that. And I’m really proud. His teacher told me the other day that he went up to her and said, ‘I love you.’ And I thought that was so great. I love that he can express himself like that, and not just to me.
MT: How would you describe your parenting style?
JLS: When you become a parent you reflect back to when you were a kid and how you were parented. I love my parents to death, but there are definitely a lot of things I want to do differently as a parent. I’m still figuring it out as I go. The main thing I’m working through with Beau right now is that when he’s going through something emotionally, I want to let him figure it out. I don’t tell him that he’s wrong for feeling what he’s feeling. I want him to feel understood. I want him to feel heard. I want him to feel like it’s OK to be mad sometimes and it’s OK to be sad sometimes and it’s OK to not get your way sometimes. I don’t want to punish him for how he feels.
MT: How is that different from the way you were parented as a child?
JLS: My parents were really strict, and I was afraid to say how I felt sometimes. I don’t want that for Beau. I just want him to feel OK telling me anything that he feels he wants to express.
MT: How has being a mom changed you?
JLS: Being a parent has made me more conscious about how I react to things. I can get easily frustrated when my computer isn’t working or a light went out, and instead of freaking out, I’m learning to take deep breaths and say, ‘OK, it’s all right. Things don’t work sometimes.’ I think being a parent is improving me as a person.
MT: After your MS diagnosis came out in the press in January, you said you felt “relief.” Do you still feel that way?
JLS: I do, but I still have to catch myself because there are moments when I’ll feel self-conscious. I’ll think, ‘Are people looking at me? Are people judging me? Are there people looking at me and just seeing someone who’s sick?’ But it’s my job to get past that. I have to release everyone else from my judgments so I do feel the relief. Because when you hold any type of secret, especially as long as I did, you start to harbor these feelings of guilt and shame – like you did something wrong. And I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t choose this. And it sucks. It sucks every single day. But I have a little 2-year-old who gets me out of bed and moving and he’s making me even more of a fighter. I want to be well not just for me but for my future children, as well.
MT: When you’ll have another baby has been discussed quite a bit in the media. Is it hard to see that?
JLS: Not really. We got pregnant very easily the first time, in fact it was a surprise. We weren’t trying. I know more than anyone how lucky we are that I was able to get pregnant so easily. I have a lot of friends who have struggled with infertility. I can imagine if two years down the line I’m not pregnant, it could be difficult because people will think, ‘Why aren’t you having more babies?’ But, I haven’t entered into that yet.
MT: You’ve said that your unable to run anymore, because of your MS. How do you handle it when Beau wants to run outdoors?
JLS: My number one thing is safety, which means I’ll only go to a park that’s enclosed so he can’t run into the street. Or I’ll go to an indoor playground and he’ll run around and do the slides and go in the balls. You find things that work. I’m still outside with him playing baseball. He just knows I can’t run the bases. On days when I have the nanny, I’ll tell her to take him to the zoo or the beach. Those are things that I want to do, but walking around the zoo by myself for three hours with him is going to be too hard. Or running around the sand with him is going to be too hard. So I‘ve had to surrender certain things like that. But I want him to have so much fun and have all of those experiences, so I’m willing to do that.
MT: What do you think Beau will learn from having a mom with MS?
JLS: I want him to be compassionate and I want him to be kind. Because his mom has MS, hopefully he’ll look at other people with more kindness and more love.
MT: Switching gears, you got married in January. Congrats! How’s married life?
JLS: It’s awesome. I can’t sit here and say it’s much different. We’ve been together for four and a half years and once you’ve had a child reality sets in really quick. We’re not on any newlywed high but it’s wonderful to have it official. It was the best day of my life, I had so much fun. My son was there, and he was a rock star in my ceremony. We love saying ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ We always said it before, but now it’s official.
MT: What’s your idea of the perfect date night?
JLS: We’ll put our phones away and have a nice dinner, then we’ll go to the movies. It’s fun to be intimate and close in a dark theater. I love going to the theater. I love the smell of popcorn. I love the whole experience. So that’s just our thing.
MT: How do you stay connected when you’re apart?
JLS: We do FaceTime and make videos and send texts. We’re so used to being apart. We started a long distance relationship three weeks after we met. So we’ve really kind of got the long distance thing down. It’s not any easier each year but we get it. It’s just part of our lives right now.
MT: What do you do when you have time to chill out alone?
JLS: I catch up on TV while Beau is napping. I’m so into “The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” right now. I’m hooked on all the “Housewives” shows and “The Bachelor.” When I have just a few minutes to myself, I zone out with Candy Crush. Usually every night I take a bath to sort of wind down. But sometimes when bedtime is pushing to 8:30 or 9, I’ll just throw Beau in the bath with me. I can’t fully decompress on those nights, but I’ve gotta kill two birds with one stone. I don’t feel like being up till midnight!
MT: OK, last Q before we let you go: You split your time between NYC and LA. If you had to choose just one city, which one would it be?
JLS: This is so hard. It’s like you’re asking me to pick my favorite child! My life is here in LA, but when I go to New York I still say that I’m going home. If pressed I would say LA, because my stuff is in LA and I hate moving!
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Photos: Getty (top); Jamie-Lynn Sigler/Instagram