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Illustration: Rob Kelly

The Hot Seat: Edie Falco

Television health-care reform is better than none at all.


It's been more than ten years since Brooklyn native Edie Falco began working on the acclaimed HBO Mafia show that made her famous. And while the 45-year-old actor keeps in touch with many of her Sopranos castmates, Falco appears ready to reenter the world of full-time television with a new Showtime series called Nurse Jackie. The story of a take-no-shit Manhattan hospital employee struggling to balance work and a home life without sacrificing her sanity, it's a nice departure for Falco. ("I love it," she says of the character's tough edge. "I think that's among the things about her that appealed to me when I read the script.") But we have to wonder how the lack of weekly whackings and guys communicating through effusive hand gestures will affect her attitude.

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It must be nice to arrive at work every day and not have to worry about which of your coworkers is going to be rubbed out.
Well, I can't say that that is true, first of all.

Really? It's a hospital drama!
I don't know. You never know with these shows. Whatever the scripts are, I'll do it. So far that hasn't presented itself as a story line.

Manhattan ERs look quite a bit different now from when you were a kid here. Stabbings and gunshots have been replaced with Prada-handbag-clasp finger injuries. Will that be reflected in Nurse Jackie?
Well, we're dealing mainly on the show with the modern-day hospital. There isn't much reference to the way things used to be in Manhattan. Lot of drugs, though. I guess there's more of that now than there was 30 years ago. More types, anyway. I can't say for sure.

Nurse Jackie has a bit of a drug dependency. What're you really snorting during those scenes?
That's my secret. For me to know and you to find out. A little movie magic. [Maniacal laughter] Actually, it's nothing. There is no snorting going on, if you must know.

You really sold it.
There you go. That's my job.

Ever run into those guys in the alleyways who would cut you open and sell your organs?
Um, no.

You never saw anything like that growing up in the city?
I saw a pile of dog poop in an alleyway. I don't know if that's the same thing or relevant. I'm just trying to think of my last trip to the alley.

Are you excited for the moment when you get to grab the paddles and shout, "Don't you give up on me!"?
[Laughs] I'm hoping we get to do a second season for that reason alone, actually.

Seems like the coolest part of being in a hospital show.
That's right. The paddles. That's fucking funny. We had to use them in our show, and the actor takes them and puts them on the other actor's body and would jolt his own hands to make it look like electricity. If you saw the shit that went on, it's so hard not to laugh. And it's not funny. Not supposed to be funny. A bunch of actors trying to do medical stuff. There's a show in itself right there.

Do you think we'll be seeing any cameos of wounded Mafia types coming through your ER?
Yeah, right after we jump the shark. All of a sudden Paulie Walnuts: "What the fuck is goin' on here? I need some attention over here! I cut my finger."

There is a scene in which you flush an ear down the toilet. Now, you know that when you flush something down the toilet in New York, whatever it is will grow to enormous size and prowl the sewers.
Grow to enormous size and do what?

Prowl the sewers. You know, alligators or goldfish or ears.
Oh, right! I don't think she was concerned about that at the moment. I think it was more just disposing of it.

You're not worried about a giant mutant ear terrorizing the city?
No! She was not thinking about that at the time.

Well, I think it's something people should think about.
You're totally right. I'll e-mail the writers as soon as I get off the phone with you. Consider it done.

Nurse Jackie premieres Mon 8.

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