Edie Falco Kicks Off The Year Of The Complicated Nurse

by | June 6, 2009 at 11:40 AM | Watch This Way

Call this the year of the complicated nurse

Coming to TNT in a few weeks, Jada Pinkett Smith will star in “HawthoRNe,” a show about a chief nurse whose job dedication sometimes challenges her personal life. In the fall, NBC’s “Mercy” offers up a similar logline, with Taylor Schilling playing a personally troubled Iraqi War vet also devotedly taking on the U.S. dysfunctional medical-care system.

Watch a preview of ‘Mercy’

But in what appears to be a growing sub-genre, it’s Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” starring Edie Falco that will hit the air first, making its premiere Monday, June 8, following “Weeds.”

In the acerbic anti-heroine, Jackie O’Hurley, Falco seems to have found a kind of anti-Carmela Soprano, a philandering pill-popper, liberated from things like sex-role subservience, as well as long hair and nails.

See ‘Nurse Jackie’ photo gallery.

“We wanted to create a character who happens to be a nurse, but as you watch her, you get a glimpse of a functioning addict,” says series executive producer Liz Brixius. “She’s the Howard Beale of the healthcare system,” Brixius adds, referring to the off-kilter rebel rouser in the 1976 classic “Network.” “She has spent lots of years working inside the hospital, and she’s just slightly off her nut.”

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Like her creative partner on the show, exec producer Linda Wallem, as well as Falco herself, Brixius says she’s been in recovery for several decades. Interested in exploring the topic of addiction, she teamed three years ago with Wallem, a former “That ’70s Show” producer, on another Showtime pilot called “Insatiable,” which tracked the lives of group of high-functioning Midwesterners as they dealt with one bad habit or another.

The show never made the Showtime schedule, but Bob Greenblatt, president of the pay cable network, liked the work. At around the same time, Falco had already become interested in the “Nurse Jackie” pilot script that was written by “CSI” scribe Evan Dunsky.

“The property was just sitting there, just dead,” Brixius says, “and Bob said, ‘I just had these girls do ‘Insatiable,’ and it was great. Let’s have them do it.’”

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Living by the code “those capable of doing the most good are also capable of the most evil,” we see the gamut from Falco’s character in the pilot – everything from forging donor consent documents to boinking doctors to carefully rationing herself out illicit doses of pain medication.

And, of course, there’s a rather severe haircut to show off.

“We’re talking about a women in her forties,” Wallem notes. “There’s something very liberating about getting to this age. She gets to cut off the hair and nails, and there’s no more bullshit. Not many women could pull this off, but Jackie is raw, she’s right there.

“I think she looks beautiful this way,” adds Brixius “She’s stripped down – she’s got a great face, and she doesn’t need to spend hours in makeup.