Edie Falco: from mobster wife to pill-popping nurse

Thu Jun 4, 2009 5:24pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Edie Falco's latest career turn offers a lesson in how to follow up one of the most successful dramas on American television:

Take a two-year break from the small screen, cut your hair, scrub off the make-up, get rid of the long, mobster's wife fingernails and return to TV as a strong-willed, pill-popping nurse whose mantra is "I don't do chatty."

Falco's new, title role on "Nurse Jackie," a dark comedy series which premieres on the Showtime cable channel on June 8, could be just what the doctor ordered for the actress who spent eight years as Carmela Soprano in the award-winning Mafia series "The Sopranos."

Falco, 45, said she got plenty of offers for roles after "The Sopranos" ended its run in 2007, having brought the actress three Emmy awards for her ambiguity-filled portrayal of the wife of depressed mob boss Tony Soprano.

"But my standards are very high, so there was not all that much that was grabbing me," Falco told Reuters.

"(Nurse Jackie) is physically low maintenance -- that was a huge appeal. Very much like I am. I didn't want to spend a lot of time in makeup. On Sopranos, the nails, the hair, the makeup and the jewelry was very not who I am. It was fun, but after eight years I was ready to try something else."

Nurse Jackie Peyton is a working mother who gets through her long shifts in the emergency room of a New York City hospital by snorting painkillers, having extramarital sex in a supply closet, juggling ethical dilemmas and, in episode one, flushing a patient's detached ear down the toilet.

With the tagline "Life is full of little pricks," the series is as far removed from a long-running TV medical drama like "ER" as "The Sopranos" was from "The Godfather" movies.   Continued...

<p>Actress Edie Falco laughs at a question during the Showtime panel for "Nurse Jackie" at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles January 14, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>