"No nails, no makeup, minimal jewelry -- low maintenance!" Edie Falco says as she cheers her wardrobe for Nurse Jackie. "We're working long, long hours, but it's not because I'm in hair and makeup. That's only like 15 minutes -- very freeing."
Equally as freeing, if not more, is the opportunity to play such a conflicted character: Nurse Jackie is a functioning drug addict who's having an affair with the hospital pharmacist. But she's also the nurse you want around when your ticker stops -- because red tape and rules of conduct won't stop her.
"I have great admiration for people who are volitional in that way," Falco says. "They're going to get done what they're going to get done, no matter what it takes. They don't have so much concern of what other think of them and aren't all that concerned with rules. It's fascinating, and they're heroes in their own right. I myself am so different from that, so I welcomed the opportunity to be that ballistic."
Of course, "ballistic" doesn't equal nice, and the character herself says, "Make me good, Godâ€¦ but not yet." Nurse Jackie can be more than a bit tough on her coworkers and, as she measures out her next dose of Percocet or flushes a bad guy's ear down the toilet instead of replacing it, she doesn't seem very concerned with getting caught.
"If she were to get caught, she might be able to explain what the hell was going on or what the genesis of her action was," Falco considers. "I'm discovering a lot about this woman as we go along. I don't understand her from an intellectual place yet. I may never, but she's got a great heart. She's always got good in mind, though her venues may not always be orthodox."
No one gets addiction like an addict, and fans can expect an interesting perspective from Nurse Jackie, who was created by a team of sober women, including writers Linda Wallem, Liz Brixius and Falco herself.
"I'm sober 17 years, so I understand addiction and that kind of craziness," Falco shares. "Anyone who's struggled with any kind of addiction lives on that fine line until they're done -- until they die from it or get help. I know it firsthand, but I am like her in other ways, too. I think I take a little more time trying to be nice than she does, but we're both hard workers, we're very passionate, and we care about the things we're doing no matter what stands in our way."
While the ladies behind the character got the help they needed with their addictions, don't expect to see Jackie go clean anytime soon. That's part of what makes her so interesting to watch.
"As a recovering person, you know what the danger signs and zones are," Falco says. "You steer clear of them, in your real life. To play someone who doesn't, who actually gives into those things, is fun and exciting -- and feels very familiar."
Falco's area of expertise does not, however, flow over into nursing, so another set of experts was called in.
"If you are doing a show about something technical, and technically it looks stupid, you've lost half of the viewers immediately," Falco relates. "It's important to me that we don't go there, so we have consultants on the set who are walking us through every single piece of business that has to be done; they've been remarkable. Maybe someday, I'll cop to the embarrassing takes we've had of us trying to do these things and make them look like we are not trying!"
Jackie is a hardworking woman, but Falco may be working even harder these days, especially considering she's in just about every scene.
"I love it. I'm built for this," she raves. "When I was looking for something to do [after Sopranos], I wanted to be a big part of it. It was hard sometimes on Sopranos because days would go by and I wasn't on the set. Then I'd come and they'd say, 'This person did the funniest thing!' or 'That scene went really well.' I hated that I wasn't there for all of it. That's the kind of person I am.
"I've also been given more opportunities to contribute to dialogue, casting..." she continues. "I came in at the last minute at Sopranos. It had been cast, and they'd been looking for Carmela for a long time, so I was thrown into the mix and was on this boat with all these people who were already on it. But I was involved in Nurse Jackie very early on. Unfortunately, there aren't enough hours in the day to do all of the things that I want to do, but these guys have been incredibly gracious about letting me put my two cents in."
And even after being on a hit like The Sopranos, Falco knows TV can be a crapshoot these days, so she and the creators have done their best to assemble a winning team. The cast includes the likes of Twilight star Peter Facinelli as a cocky doc, Paul Schulze as the pharmacist Jackie loves to visit, Tony-nominated Eve Best as her best friend, and Merritt Wever as a first-year nursing student with a very different energy than Jackie's.
Guest stars like Eli Wallach coming through the hospital as patients make for an entertaining group, but Wever earns the credit for being the best at getting Falco to break character.
"I don't know that she means to crack me up," Falco says, laughing. "She is the most spectacular, endearing, talented spirit. I am a huge fan of hers and very careful not to make that too obvious, except the time I went over and gave her a kiss on her mouth. She looked at me like I was out of my mind, but I think she's such a gift. She's so spectacularly funny and lovely, and I know people watching her will feel the same way."
With such fantastic support onscreen, Falco and the producers also paid attention to the artists behind the scenes. "We spent a long time not just casting, but choosing the crew members," she relates. "I've been doing this a long time, and there's almost nobody in New York I haven't worked with or heard about. We handpicked every single person according to how well they did their jobs -- and what it's like to be around them for 18-hour days. We did a fantastic job. From second to second, I don't know what the hell's going on in my life, but at this moment, I could do this job for a very long time."
Nurse Jackie premieres Monday, June 8 at 10:30 pm, after the return of Weeds. If you don't have Showtime or can't wait till tonight, you can watch the premiere below!
Subsequent episodes will be available at sho.com.
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