As 'Nurse Jackie,' Falco Bristles, Snarls, Conceals

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Edie Falco i

Uneasy Lies The Head: Edie Falco plays Jackie O'Hurley, an emergency room nurse who relies on off-label doses of painkillers to help her get through grueling shifts. Ken Regan/Showtime hide caption

itoggle caption Ken Regan/Showtime
Edie Falco

Uneasy Lies The Head: Edie Falco plays Jackie O'Hurley, an emergency room nurse who relies on off-label doses of painkillers to help her get through grueling shifts.

Ken Regan/Showtime
Nurse Jackie i

A Teaching Hospital: Falco's character is responsible for training Zoey (Merritt Wever), a bubbly novice whose personality could not be more different from Jackie's. Ken Regan/Showtime hide caption

itoggle caption Ken Regan/Showtime
Nurse Jackie

A Teaching Hospital: Falco's character is responsible for training Zoey (Merritt Wever), a bubbly novice whose personality could not be more different from Jackie's.

Ken Regan/Showtime

If you were a fan of The Sopranos, you've no doubt been eagerly waiting for Edie Falco's next television debut. Nurse Jackie is not just the name of her character, it's the name of the show — a new hospital drama that debuts Monday on Showtime. And as the name suggests — Edie Falco is center stage.

Jackie's life is complicated, Falco says. "There are many aspects of it that are mutually exclusive." Like being a nurse and popping many, many little red pills.

"I've discovered people who have lots of things in their lives that don't really fit together have to find some way to kind of deny that it's happening," she says.

Falco's own experience with addiction gives her special insight into Jackie's character. "If you've ever struggled with addiction, you're always struggling with addiction. It's a personality trait, really," she says.

"It is a mindset I understand deeply, and I'm sure that went into my portrayal of Jackie," Falco says. "I never really know specifically, but I'm sure that's in there."

As you might expect from the actress who played opposite James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano, Falco's new character is also a strong woman. "I think the situation with Jackie would be similar no matter what she did for a living," Falco says. "Wherever she ended up in her life, she would end up being the best at doing it."

"I think she doesn't want anyone to get in the way of her getting done what needs to get done, because she knows how it needs to get done." Falco says she respects that in any person, "a man, or a woman — or a kid, for heaven's sake."

Jackie's been a nurse forever and ever, Falco thinks, and the character's weariness is clear. Falco's not afraid to let her age show. "I've spent a lot of years getting those frown lines, you know, and I've enjoyed every second of it.

"I have no desire to portray people looking a way that they don't look naturally," she says. "I just don't understand that impulse.

"I've also never gotten anything in my life because of the way I look, and I've never not gotten anything important to me because of the way that I look, so it's irrelevant to me."

Falco credits her success instead to hard work, and is thrilled to have a show where she's the main character. "It got embarrassing on Sopranos," she says, "because half the time I wanted to be there even if I wasn't working — just because I like to be around what's going on."

"I felt sad that I missed all sorts of stuff on Sopranos because I wasn't working that day, and here, I'm working — I'm working all the time," she says.

"I just love it. I just really have never felt so intrinsically connected to the action — it suits me."

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