'Nurse Jackie' mysteries please Edie Falco

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PASADENA, Calif. -- Showtime's "Nurse Jackie" ends its first season tomorrow as it puts the title character's infidelity front and center.

Jackie (Edie Falco) has been cheating on her nice-guy bar owner husband (Dominic Fumusa) with a co-worker, hospital pharmacist Eddie (Paul Schulze, who also played Father Phil to Falco's Carmela on "The Sopranos"). Eddie provides Jackie with intellectual conversation and drugs for her narcotic pill habit borne out of chronic back pain.

Until recent episodes, only Jackie's best friend at work, Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best), knew Jackie had a family. Eddie learned the truth after following Jackie to her husband's bar.

But why does Jackie cheat? It's something "Nurse Jackie" has not addressed.

"People do all kinds of crazy things that make absolutely no sense to anyone and often, consciously, not even to themselves," Falco said earlier this month. "But there is always a reason. Who knows how far back you'd have to go into her history to find what the reason is, but people are very, very complicated, and she is a particularly complicated person."

'Nurse Jackie'
  • When: 10:30 p.m. Monday, Showtime.
  • Starring: Edie Falco, below, and Merrritt Wever.

Falco said she's not sure whether viewers will learn anything more about Jackie's motivation in season two, which will air next spring.

"I also don't know if I want people to find out," she said. "The more things you leave as questions, the more interesting the show will be. The more it's spelled out, the more it feels like everything else you see on television. People talk about [why she cheats] and I love that. And if there is no cut and dried answer, the conversation will go on longer."

Of course, Jackie herself has mostly short conversations. She's compassionate toward patients but often speaks in clipped tones to co-workers, especially any she holds in contempt. Falco said she enjoys her character's blunt appraisals.

"She's a very straight talker," the actress said. "She's not that concerned about being polite or being liked. It's also fun to live in that place. She also doesn't have to feel the ramifications of behaving that way. When I am performing her, I get to go back to my own life and be nice."

Falco may be the star of "Nurse Jackie," but the show created a full, lived-in world from its start, thanks in large part to the supporting characters, played by actors viewers had not been exposed to that frequently.

"I think we were really careful about going for actors who maybe aren't famous. There's nothing cookie-cutter about their portrayals of these characters, and they wouldn't necessarily be the first person a network would choose to cast," Falco said. "But I'm the president of the fan club of all my co-stars. I never knew what their line reading would be or how different it would be each time we shot it."

Merritt Wever ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") co-stars in "Nurse Jackie" (10:30 p.m. Monday) as young, eager new nurse Zoey, who is prone to putting her foot in her mouth and other moments of social awkwardness.

"Hopefully it's not a run-of-the-mill new girl," Wever said. "They let her be a little off. They let her be, you know, freaky."

Wever said creating a realistic newbie often requires modulating her performance in different takes of a scene.

"I wonder sometimes where all the unused footage goes to die," she said, "because there are some really bad, fall-flat-on-your-face takes that are out there that I hope never see the light of day."

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.


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