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Nurse Jackie's Edie Falco on Her New Roles

The Emmy-winning actress opens up about beating her alcohol addiction, her new play, and her favorite part of all: mother.
By Jenna Bergen
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Edie Falco may spend her days tending to trauma victims and juggling the hectic demands of a Lower Manhattan hospital on the set of Showtime's dark comedy Nurse Jackie, but playing Jackie Peyton -- a top-notch ER nurse and quick-tongued, functioning drug addict with a penchant for Percocet -- is as close as the Emmy-winning actress gets to living on the edge. The only thing this mother of two craves, she says, is popcorn and curling up on the couch for cartoon movie marathons with her kids.

"The greatest thing I've ever learned is acceptance," says Falco, 47, who, in addition to gearing up for the third season of Nurse Jackie, returned to Broadway in April, starring alongside Ben Stiller in the revival of John Guare's comedy, The House of Blue Leaves. "To just take life as it occurs, learn from it, and make it as enjoyable as possible. That's what life is. And it's often spectacular."

"Spectacular" is also a fitting word for Falco's career, which started on the stage and in indie films, then built momentum in the early '90s with recurring roles on Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, and a much-talked-about role on HBO's prison drama, Oz. Finally, in 1999, Falco skyrocketed to household-name fame when she was cast as Carmela, the outspoken, home décor-obsessed wife of New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, on another HBO hit series, The Sopranos -- a role that garnered her three Emmys and two Golden Globes as dramatic lead actress. In 2003, she became the first actress to ever claim Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actor's Guild awards in the same year. She also has appeared in the hit comedy 30 Rock, as Alec Baldwin's love interest, and has kept up her film work, working with Harrison Ford, Julianne Moore, and other stars.

Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie

With Nurse Jackie, which debuted in 2009 on Showtime, the drama queen proves she has a knack for comedy, too. In 2010, she took home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for the show, a success Falco credits largely to her past personal struggle with addiction. Though you'd never think it by looking at the Long Island native now, she says her life closely mirrored her current character's struggles for many years. The only major difference: Nurse Jackie pops painkillers and Falco struggled with alcohol.

"I think having gone through alcoholism really helps me understand how Nurse Jackie functions," says Falco, who's been sober since she was 29. "It's hard for people who aren't addicts to understand the nature of [addiction] -- how irrational it is and, at the same time, how deeply powerful. If you're an ex-addict, you understand it completely because you have to. You drink because your body tells you that is what you need."

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