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Nurse Jackie’s Merritt Wever on Filming Season Two and Her Murderous Law & Order Past

As Zoey, the nurse-in-training on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie (which premieres its second season next Monday), Merritt Wever has turned what could be a medical-show cliché — the puppyish newbie, all apologies and panicked gushing — into a way richer figure. She’s nosy and worshipful. She’s clueless and observant. Wever spoke with Vulture about attending a leftist summer camp, moving to Brooklyn, and the weirdness of watching herself on TV.

I’m talking to you on Skype.
You can’t see me, can you?

No, but I love the idea that there are cameras coming at you from the sky.
I was momentarily terrified. I was going to button my pants or something.

Do you look stuff up online? IMDb tells me you like to eat steak, have a little wine, walk in the snow, and talk to Canadians.
Yeah, I like all those things!

The Internet also informs me you were raised as “an active member of the leftist party.”
Well, there’s no such thing as a leftist party, but the person who wrote that, they must know me pretty well. My mom was politically active: I went to the liberal Jewish summer camps, a place called Kinderland.

A red-diaper-baby place? What did you sing?
What didn’t we sing — that’s the question! We sang the Yiddish songs and all the pro-union, pro-labor songs.

You’re a Law & Order veteran. What did you play?
I did a Criminal Intent where I was a murderous nanny. I was an escaped abused cult member who was a little developmentally impaired, and I was a girlfriend of a would-be terrorist. I love Law and Order, but it took me awhile after I started doing them to be able to watch them again.

Once you have seen all the legal sausage being made …
Yeah, it would be hard to consume it so willingly.

Do you feel like you get typed?
When I was younger, I seemed to play the angry teenager. In recent years, there’s more of a sweetness — not a victim, but somebody who is undone by that quality. I was worried, honestly, that Zoey on Nurse Jackie would fall into that pattern, but she hasn’t and I have the writers to thank for that. They’ve let her be stranger, more multifaceted.

Have you watched the second-season episodes yet?
I haven’t. Last year when I watched the season, then went back to film season two, it took a couple of episodes for me to get comfortable, because it felt like I was doing an imitation of someone that I’d seen on TV. I never had the opportunity to watch myself act at length like that, like twelve episodes — it was a bit of a mindfuck.

Does your shy character get more gumption-filled?
I don’t even know that I would call her shy. I think she’s careful but not very good at being careful. She definitely comes into her own.

You live in New York, right?
I’m in the Village now. It’s kind of hectic: I never really wanted to live where people want to go to — living at the party — so I’m moving to Brooklyn. Even if price weren’t an issue, which it is, I can’t think of a neighborhood in Manhattan that I’d want to move to. I’d rather go someplace new.

Photo: Patrick McMullan