For the first three tense seasons of Nurse Jackie, Edie Falco’s Jackie Peyton was a woman on a high wire. The supremely capable ER nurse spent her life snorting painkillers, subverting hospital rules and saving lives.
In the new season of the Showtime series (airing Sundays), for the first time in many years, Jackie Peyton has to face life and work stone-cold sober.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. At the New Yorker Festival last October, you said you felt bad about how much Jackie had gotten away with so far, because you’re a mom. What was it about Jackie that made you want her to get her comeuppance for the sake of your kids?
A. Not just for my kids; for the sake of people in general. Addiction has had such an impact on my life and the people I love, and there really is not a lot about it that is funny. So the last thing I wanted was to give the impression that it’s all fun and games, and isn’t it funny what she gets away with. It’s important that we are accurate as far as showing the ramifications of this kind of behavior.
Q. You’ve mentioned in interviews over the years that you’ve been sober for 20 years. I know Nurse Jackie’s two showrunners, Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem, are also in recovery. Was that what attracted you to the show?
A. I think it was the woman rather than her behavior. She’s a bit of a vigilante. She’s always working around the rules to get whatever she needs. She wants to be a good nurse. That was what attracted me to the role.
Q. Change is the big theme of this new season. After rehab, when Jackie gets in touch with her feelings, she’s crying, she’s hurt. In the past, your acting style has always been very subtle. This season, you’re moving from very slight facial gestures to a much more open style of acting. Was that a different kind of challenge?
A. It was different for this show. I wanted to get to show that what’s underneath a lot of the hardness in everybody is tremendous softness and a fear that they’ll be hurt and taken advantage of. I think it’s important to show that there’s a person under there – a woman, and a vulnerable one. I was pleased that we get to see more of that this year.