What a long, strange drip it’s been. Over Nurse Jackie’s seven seasons, countless IV bags have been sidled up alongside seizing patients, an incalculable number of gaping wounds have been sutured, and, yes, hundreds of little pills have been crushed and snorted. At the center of it all has been Edie Falco as All Saints Hospital head nurse Jackie Peyton, an addict, mother, and caretaker constantly teetering between total control and the absolute lack of it. Through the series’ many melodramatic narrative twists, Falco has centered the medical dramedy with a performance committed enough to her alter ego’s literal highs and lows to make you ask, “Carmela, who?”
And as the series finale nears this Sunday at 9 p.m., we caught up with Ms. Falco one last time and asked her to reflect on Jackie’s most memorable scenes since debuting on our screens in 2009, from busting a move with Zoey to Coop awkwardly grabbing her boob.
Coop Gets the Breast of Jackie (Season 1, Episode 1)
[Laughs.] Peter [Facinelli] just kind of went for it, and what the hell did I expect? He’s a mature professional, and let’s do this. Doing the job that I do, it never stops being weird, the stuff that goes on between me and people I don’t really know. But if you’re doing your job, it should be as weird as it is to the character. I don’t remember during rehearsals if he actually grabbed my boob, but he definitely went for it. It’s just weird. No way of getting around it.
Jackie and Kevin Have It Out (Season 2, Episode 7)
I don’t love to talk about stuff too much [with co-actors], given the option. I prefer to run stuff and see how it goes. Talking about stuff tends to diffuse what natural tension there might be. It’s like the screaming scenes I’ve had to do many times over the years, even with Jim Gandolfini. You just run it, and then you run it again until it starts to hook into some sort of a momentum that feels natural. And then you’re very happy to walk away from it, because it usually feels like crap.
Tap-Dancing Sam’s Blues Away (Season 2, Episode 12)
Mr. [Stephen] Wallem choreographed that lovely little piece for us, as he had taken tap dance as a child. We were laughing so hard. Especially with Stephen, and with Merritt [Wever], the three of us had a hard time keeping a straight face for so much of the time we spent together. We’d just lose it. People would wait, try to be polite, and we could not stop laughing. [Arjun Gupta, a.k.a. Sam] was very brave. [Laughs.]
Charlie’s DOA (Season 4, Episode 10)
It’s lovely if you have the support of everyone around you, but also I think it’s our job as actors to do whatever you need to do to prepare for a scene, if that means taking a walk or sitting by yourself or asking people to be quiet. But once the actor is taking it seriously and giving it the legitimate life it deserves, everyone else follows suit, and Bobby [Cannavale] was so good and so focused during those scenes that, out of respect for what he was able to do, everybody got quiet. It helped everybody take the scene more seriously, which isn’t always the case.
Jackie and Gabe’s Go-Down Hoedown (Season 6, Episode 2)
There’s all kinds of tricks, as far as camera angles and stuff like that. And I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I’ve learned many of the tricks. I don’t know what Michael [Esper]’s experience was. He and I have had a couple of scenes like that. I was more concerned about him being comfortable, so I was careful to let him know, “This is fine, we’ll get through this, anything you want changed,” and be very technical about it: “If you come here, and I move my leg like this.” It’s crazy how many people I’ve been introduced to and then had to have sex with. It’s like being a porn star, in a way. [Laughs.]
RIP, Candyman (Season 6 Episode 9)
It’s written exactly as it played: “And then they start to sing, and this one joins in.” And you read it and you’re like, Alright, I don’t know how this one’s gonna be pulled off. But it always is. And Peter [Facinelli] was so perfect at not really knowing why it was funny or that it was funny and inappropriate. He really just got the balance down.
Jackie and Zoey Tango to tUnE-yArDs (Season 7, Episode 9)
We just danced around like a couple of kooks, but as is so often the case with Merritt [Wever], that girl can dance. She always seems so shy about it, and then I say, “Wow, look at her go.” If you ask anybody who was there that day, the most fun was on the very last take. They had planned to have every person who was on the set come in and join the dance, and a couple of people actually videotaped it, which I have yet to get a hold of. So the entire crew started dancing their butts off to this blasting music in the night. Inside the hospital there were extras waiting to go in, and they started dancing. It was just crazy. There was a lot of that kind of just celebratory fun with all of us together.
Assorted Patient-Emergency Scenes (All Seasons)
I feel like a real ER nurse,' cause after a while, they all blur together. There’s so many injuries, so much blood, albeit fake. I prefer to see it when it’s finished. I get a kick out of falling for the makeup. I like to be like an audience member, like, “Oh my God, that looks awful.” Whatever part of an ER nurse might feel that way is also helpful for me rather than say[ing], “Oh, this is all pretend.” I like being shocked as someone might actually be.