As 'Nurse Jackie,' Falco Bristles, Snarls, Conceals The Sopranos star debuts as the star of Nurse Jackie Monday on Showtime and says her character's life is complicated. "There are many aspects of it that are mutually exclusive," she says. Like being a nurse and popping many, many little red pills.
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As 'Nurse Jackie,' Falco Bristles, Snarls, Conceals

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

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

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If you were a fan of The Sopranos, you've no doubt been eagerly waiting for Edie Falco's next TV debut. But people, be cool because she might not want to hear it.

(Soundbite of television program, "Nurse Jackie")

Ms. EDIE FALCO (Actor): (As Nurse Jackie) I don't like chatty, okay? I don't do chatty. I like quiet, quiet and mean. Those are my people.

LYDEN: That's Edie Falco in her new role as Nurse Jackie, a name I particularly like. Nurse Jackie is not just the name of her character, it's the name of the show, a new hospital drama that debuts tomorrow on Showtime, and as the name suggests, Edie Falco is center stage, and you're center stage with us now. Thanks so much for joining us.

Ms. FALCO: A pleasure.

LYDEN: From the opening sequence, we see that Nurse Jackie is addicted to some little red pills, and oops. So, why introduce this? It's a compelling element, but making her an addict is also unusual.

Ms. FALCO: I think that her life is very complicated. There are many aspects of it that are mutually exclusive. And in my worldly experience, I have discovered that 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, and she lives in a place where lots of pills can be found. So, it seemed to make a perfect match to me.

LYDEN: Edie Falco, can I ask you something about your own worldly experience…

Ms. FALCO: Go on.

LYDEN: …that you bring to this? You know, I read in preparing for this that you had, at one time, struggled with addiction. Is there a correspondence between your struggle and what you're bringing to this character?

Ms. FALCO: I'm sure there must be. My experience is that if you have ever struggled with addiction, you're always struggling with addiction. It's a personality trait, really. You learn how to kind of, you know, keep it at bay through many years of whatever your journey may be, therapy or 12-step programs or whatever. So, it is a mindset I understand deeply, and I'm sure that went into my portrayal of Jackie. I never really know specifically, but I'm sure that's in there.

LYDEN: You know, I also felt that she was just fascinatingly complex. Besides admiring her name, which I hope the writers went through a lot before…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FALCO: Well, that's why we did it, just so you know. Go on.

LYDEN: She's in a secondary role to the doctors often, as nurses can be. Let's listen to a scene where she shows that she's not just going to accept everything that comes along.

(Soundbite of television program, "Nurse Jackie")

Ms. FALCO: (As Nurse Jackie) Dr. Cooper?

Mr. PETER FACINELLI (Actor): (As Dr. Fitch Cooper) Coop. Call me Coop.

Ms. FALCO: (As Nurse Jackie) Dr. Cooper.

Mr. FACINELLI: (As Dr. Cooper) Nurse Jackie. So, what's up? What can I do for you?

Ms. FALCO: (As Nurse Jackie) What you can do for me is this. You can stay the (BEEP) out of my way. That's what you can do to me.

Mr. FACINELLI: (As Dr. Cooper) You need to use the sink?

Ms. FALCO: (As Nurse Jackie) No. What I need is for you to know that I know you. I have seen hundreds of you blow through these doors. You've graduated, what, the top 10, top five percent of your class? Right? Test scores through the roof, but a total (BEEP) retard when it comes to actual patients? I know you. I just had to sit there and look that kid's mother in the eye and tell her that we did everything we could you dumb (BEEP). That was my patient. I told you he was slipping, and he was. When I tell you to order a scan, you order a (BEEP) scan because if you don't do it, I'll just go to the next doctor and the next doctor after that. In the meantime, that kid died, and it is all on you.

LYDEN: This is a really strong woman. And while I don't know you personally, I get the feeling that was important to you personally.

Ms. FALCO: Well, I think the situation with Jackie would be similar no matter what she did for a living. I think she's passionate and smart, and wherever she ended up in her life, she would end up being probably the best at doing it, and she sticks to it for a long time so that she can be the best at doing it. I think she's been a nurse forever and ever.

So, I think had that doctor been a woman, her reaction would have been the same. 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. So, I respect that in any person, a man or a woman or a kid, for heaven's sake. You know, if there's someone who may be, status-wise in a higher place, it's irrelevant because the work that needs to get done is of primary importance.

LYDEN: You know, the other thing that really comes through that I thought accurate is the incredible weariness that people have undergoing that, the kind of almost out-of-body tiredness. And you let the character's weariness really show. And I just had to ask, did you have any qualms about that, letting the frownies appear, letting the lines begin to show?

Ms. FALCO: No, you know, I'm - I've spent a lot of years getting those frown lines, you know, and I've enjoyed every second of it, and I'm very attached to myself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FALCO: Let me rephrase that. I'm very attached to my face. You know, I mean, we've been together a long time. I wouldn't want to change anything about it. And I have no desire to portray people looking a way that they don't look naturally. I just don't understand that impulse.

So, 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. You know, I am who I am, and I'm not being holier than thou about it. I genuinely feel that way.

LYDEN: Edie Falco, what is it like to have an entire show centered on you? This is a half-hour show, as opposed to an hour, but it is - you know, you are front, center and the theme line.

Ms. FALCO: I like it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FALCO: Very fancy. No, I actually do like it, though. I'm a very hard worker. And I - you know, it got embarrassing on "Sopranos" 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 like to be involved in my work, you know, in lots of aspects of it.

I felt sad that I missed all kinds of stuff on "Sopranos" because I wasn't working that day. And here, I'm working. I'm there all the time. I'm there from, you know, when people are saying hello in the morning until they're, you know, wearily walking out the door 13 hours later. I just love it. I really have never felt so intrinsically connected to the action, you know, it suits me.

LYDEN: Edie Falco, she joined us from our New York bureau. "Nurse Jackie" airs Monday, June 8 on Showtime. It has been a real pleasure.

Ms. FALCO: Thank you, thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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